What Is The 120-Day Rule For A U.S. Visa?

By Published On: September 14, 2023Categories: Blog, Immigration

Have you heard about the 120-day Visa Rule, and you’re wondering what it means? I’m Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch, your friendly immigration lawyer in Texas, here to answer all of your immigration questions.

Demystifying The 120-day Rule: Your Guide To U.s. Visa TimelinesThe 120-day rule is a rule that applies to two types of Visas, F1 and M1, which are student Visas and vocational Visas. So, on a student Visa, you can come to the U.S and study, even if you’re in high school, for example, but all the way up through graduate and in university programs. With vocational schools, you can think about chef schools or even flying schools. You can do things that aren’t in a typical university setting, for example.

With both of these types of Visas, the embassy or the Consulate of the United States in the country where you are residing is where you will get the Visa. And the Visa can be issued to the student up to 120 days before the start date for the program. That’s the 120-day rule. So, that’s a timing thing about when you apply and get your Visa before the program.

But it’s also important to keep in mind that when you get a Visa to come to the United States, there are two points at which you get approved. One is at the consulate or the embassy, and the other is when you’re actually entering the United States, which is usually with border patrol at the airport and/or CBP.

So, when you are coming in, you want to come in no more than 30 days before the start of your program. That should give you enough time to get in and get settled.


The 120-day rule is a valuable guideline for individuals applying for F1 and M1 Visas. It allows you to obtain your Visas up to 120 days before your program’s start date. However, it’s equally important to adhere to the 30-day rule when planning your entry into the United States. This will ensure a hassle-free transition into your educational or vocational journey. If you have any doubts or questions about your situation, you should consult with an immigration lawyer.

About the Author: Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch

I am the managing partner of Lincoln-Goldfinch Law. Upon graduating from the University of Texas for college and law school, I received an Equal Justice Works Fellowship in 2008, completed at American Gateways. My project served the detained families seeking asylum. After my fellowship, I entered private immigration practice. My firm offers family-based immigration, such as greencards and naturalization, deportation defense, and humanitarian cases such as asylum, U Visa, and VAWA. Everyone at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law is bilingual, has a connection to our cause, and has demonstrated a history of activism for immigrants. To us, our work is not just a job. After the pandemic we began offering bankruptcy services in addition to immigration I realized how much lack of information there is in financial literacy resources in Spanish.

Share this story!

Contact a U.S. Immigration Attorney Today!

    How To Find Us

    Austin Office
    Lincoln-Goldfinch Law

    1005 E 40th St
    Austin, TX 78751

    Waco Office

    Lincoln-Goldfinch Law

    1616 Austin Avenue, Suite A
    Waco, TX 76701
    By Appointment Only

    Austin & Waco
    Call or Text: (855) 502-0555
    Fax: (512) 323-9351

    What Our Clients Say

    “This Lawfirm is great, very professional and helpful. I love that they are always in communication and always available for when you have questions . 100% recommended by me and my family. Thank you Lincoln-Goldfinch Law”