International students coming into the United States on a F1 student visa come with an intent to study at a reputed educational institution with the hopes that it will translate into a H1-B work visa and a potential career path. The US has been a popular destination with China and India leading the supply of these international students. However, lately the numbers have been receding, thanks to the US government’s concerted efforts in clamping down on these visas. The total number of students registered in universities decreased by 0.5% from 12,08,039 in March 2017 to 12,01,829 in March 2018. This also translated to a 17% decline in student visas issued compared to those issued in 2016.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued new missives that may become an encumbrance for an incoming international student on a F1, M visas. Some of the concerns the international students may face are –
Restrictions on OPT
The Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows students to engage in off-campus employment. However, if the student transfers to another school and changes the educational level, say from under-grad to a graduation program will automatically terminate their OPT.
When a student requests a change from F1 to H1-B after completion of his OPT, the change of status is at the discretion of USCIS. He may have to leave the country and apply at a State Department consulate before which it may be granted. These tactics cause delays and adds an extra layer of formalities like background checks, need for additional support documents, etc. This is specifically applicable to the students seeking a 24-month extension after a STEM course.
Drowning in Paperwork
The additional restrictions placed on students also indicates a barrage of additional paperwork expected of them thereby, causing delays. For instance, students have to create a training plan and fill out the Form I-983. This has to explicitly state that the employer “be the same entity who employs the student and provides the practical training experience.” Any deviation from this would mean immediate termination of the OPT.
Another mandate going forward indicates that the location of the OPT should be the primary worksite of the employer. This eliminates third-party client sites and remote work like online or distance learning arrangements. While students are looking for any kind of training programs after their studies, this restriction narrows the scope considerably. Not to mention, increases competition for the few existing employers. Staffing companies will be hardest hit from this as more of its workforce is based at client sites.
Stricter Deportation Rules
USCIS has set the date of August 9, 2018 after which any student who doesn’t remain within the valid visa status will begin to accrue unlawful presence the day after they stop pursuing their course-work or the authorized grace period. This would mean termination of the visa and/or barring future entry into the US
Consequent to such a hard stance taken by the US government to restrict incoming international students via the F1 or M visas the J-1 visa, which ensures that student leaves after the exchange program terminates has gained in popularity. The J-1 exchange visitor population increased by four per cent from 2,01,408 in March 2017 to 2,09,568 in March 2018. Moreover, the number of students applying to other international universities like Canada, Ireland, Australia and the UK has also increased. Stay tuned to this page for more updates on what the future holds for these international students.