Managers of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Projects (LIHTC) are sometimes faced with having to determine the eligibility of foreign students for occupancy at a Section 42 property. This is actually easier in most cases than determining the eligibility of U. S. citizens with regard to student status. There are only three types of student visas for foreign students in the United States:
- F1 Visa: An F1 visa is issued to students who are attending an academic program or English language program. F1 visas are by far the most common form of international student visa in the U.S. F1 students must maintain the minimum course load for full-time student status. F1 status allows for part-time, on-campus employment (fewer than 20-hours per week). Also, students can work on “optional practical training (OPT)” for up to one year after completion of their academic program, meaning it is possible to have a non-student on an F1 visa;
- J1 Visa: This visa is issued to students who need to obtain practical training that is not available in their home country to complete their academic program. J1 student status allows for similar employment as the F1 visa, with similar restrictions, as long as the exchange visitor program sponsor gives permission. It is possible for an M1 visa holder to be a part-time student, so this may need to be verified with the school; and
- M1 Visa: An M1 visa is issued to a student who is going to attend a non-academic or vocational school. M1 visa holders for technical and vocational programs are not permitted to work during the course of their studies. M1 students must provide evidence that sufficient funds are immediately available to pay all tuition and living costs for the entire period of the intended stay.
Unless a foreign student holds a J1 visa, they will always be considered a full-time student. However, depending on the circumstances, an M1 student could be considered to be in a job-training program (if funded by a government agency) so additional verification of the circumstances of their student status may be required.
If a foreign student lives in a LIHTC unit in which all household members are full-time students, unless the household meets one of the five Section 42 delineated exceptions, the household will not qualify as a low-income household for Section 42 purposes. Knowing the requirements relating to foreign students will assist LIHTC managers in determining household eligibility.