Many foreign nationals live in the US for extended periods of time on a variety of temporary work visas. Federal regulations provide for many different types of temporary work visas. The most common types of work visas are H-1, L-1, and TN but there are many more types.
Federal regulations permit such individuals to study "incidental" to their primary status. This means that as long as the individual continues to maintain their status, that is, continues their employment, they are permitted to attend school either full-time or part-time while they fulfill the primary obligations of their status.
Students in these categories are not required to show funding for their studies when applying to the university.
Applicants or already enrolled students who for any reason are about to discontinue their employment and thereby lose their work-visa status are eligible to apply for F-1 status in order to begin or continue their studies in the US. The International Office can provide instructions and facilitate the Change of Status process. It is not necessary to engage the services of an immigration attorney.
Study Options for Tourists
Tourists in the US are only permitted to enroll in recreational programs - cooking, gardening, personal finance, etc. Tourists are not permitted to enroll in full-time academic programs.
Enrollment of Dependents
Each of the various work statuses has a corresponding status category for the spouse and/or children of that individual. These dependent(s) are permitted to attend school. Elementary and secondary students are required by state law to attend school full-time. Dependents eligible for university education can attend either part-time or full-time.
Special Note About F-2 Dependents
Dependents of F-1 students have F-2 status. F-2 minor children (elementary and secondary school age) are permitted and in most states obligated to attend school. However, F-2 spouses and college age F-2 shildren are not permitted to attend academic programs in F-2 status. They must apply for a Change of Status to F-1 in order to attend an academic program. Recreational or avocational courses like those permitted to tourists is allowed.
Special Note About the Enrollment of Minor Children or Work Visa Parents
The dependent children of most (but not all) work visa parents are eligible for that dependent non-immigrant status only until their 21st birthday. Therefore dependent children "approaching" their 21st birthday should consider changing their status to F-1 in order to continue their studies in the US. The International Office can provide the necessary instructions and facilitate the processing of such Change of Status applications. It is not necessary to engage the services of an immigration attorney.