USCIS Releases New Guidance on F and M Visas to Provide Clarity for Int’l Students

United States North America Higher Education News International Studies by Erudera News Dec 21, 2023

United States

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued a new guidance on F and M student visas. The move comes in an effort to provide clarity to international students and US educational institutions.

According to a media release issued by USCIS on December 20, the guidance explains that international students on F and M visas must have a foreign residence that they don’t plan to abandon, but the same may also benefit from permanent labor certification applications or immigrant visa petitions.

Importantly, the guidance clarifies that students may still be able to leave the United States after a temporary stay, reports.

“This guidance consolidates existing policy. USCIS expects that this will provide welcome clarity to international students and US educational institutions on a wealth of topics, including eligibility requirements, school transfers, practical training, and on- and off-campus employment,” the press release reads.

Additionally, the new clarifications address work opportunities for international students in the US, especially for students on an F visa, seeking an extension of optional practical training (OPT) based on their degree in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field.

According to the policy, these students are permitted to work for start-up companies as long as their employers comply with the training plan requirements, remain in good standing with E-Verify, and offer a payment equal to that provided to US workers in the same situation.

An F-1 visa is issued to students who attend an accredited US university or college or pursue language /training programs.

“The nonimmigrant academic student (F-1) classification allows a noncitizen to enter the United States as a full-time student at a college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution, or in a language training program,” USCIS states.

On the other hand, the M1 visa is issued to individuals moving to the US for vocational studies.

According to VisaGuide.World, an online resource for global visa information, the application fee for the M1 visa is $185. At the same time, international students must pay an additional $200 for the SEVIS I-901 fee associated with this type of visa.

SEVP reported a 10 percent increase in active F-1 and M-1 students in 2022 compared to 2021, reaching almost 1.4 million – the highest number recorded since 2019.

According to a report by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, six US universities hosted more than 15,000 international students in 2022, with New York University leading with nearly 24,500 students.

NYU is followed by Northeastern University, Columbia University in the City of New York, University of Southern California, Arizona State University, and University of Illinois


>> US F-1 Student Visas Surge to Over 393,000 This Fiscal Year

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