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F-1 visa for students

The F-1 student visa is the most common visa for students and exchange visitors attending academic institutions in the United States.

Giselle Carson | Oct 16, 2019

Tips to Complete Form I-983 for the F-1 STEM OPT Extension

Background A STEM OPT student and their employer must complete and sign the Form I-983, training plan, as part of the documents required to apply for a STEM OPT extension. Only E-verified enrolled employers can participate in this program. The STEM OPT employer must be enrolled in and using the E-Verify program at the STEM OPT worksite. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun performing employer site visits to confirm the information reported on the student’s Form I-983. This guide is intended to provide general tips to facilitate the completion of this important form. Completing the Form When completing the Form I-983, it is important to remember that this form is intended to be a training plan and reflect the STEM OPT student’s learning objectives over the 24 month STEM period as it relates to their STEM degree. The form confirms the employer’s commitment and resources to helping the student achieve and evaluate those objectives. It is strongly recommended to type this form. Be sure that all sections are completed (if the field does not apply, fill in “N/A”; do not leave blank). Below are suggestions for answering key questions on the Form I-983, using an engineering student as an example. Student’s Role In this section, it is helpful to break the student’s training into simple phases and outline specific roles for each phase that will enhance the student’s knowledge of his/her STEM degree. The roles can include verbs, such as assisting, observing, learning, participating, coordinating, or reviewing. For example: “Phase 1: The student will assist his supervisor to analyze and develop plans, design calculations and cost estimations, and make recommendations to create holistic designs. Throughout this phase, the student will apply and expand his knowledge of theoretical concepts such as ____ and practical skills learned from his Engineering degree coursework.” Goals and Objectives For this section, you can briefly explain 2 main goals and objectives of the student’s role and how the training will facilitate the student’s learning about his/her STEM degree and the specific methods of achieving this, such as training seminars, on-the-job training, observation methods, research, and meetings with clients, governmental agencies, and staff. For example: Goal 1: “The student will understand and apply engineering rules to plan and design programs to create environmentally conscious plans, asrelated to his Engineering degree. This will be accomplished by attending training seminars, observation methods, guided research, and hands-on training.” Employer Oversight In this section, you can explain how the student will receive on-site supervision, such as through discussion and feedback from the supervisor and scheduled meetings with experienced experts in the field. If a related policy / program is already in place, a description of this program or policy may suffice to answer the question. Measures and Assessments In this section, you can explain how you will measure and confirm whether the student is acquiring new knowledge and skills, such as specific tests for the knowledge gained, assessment meetings with their supervisor, and written evaluations of performance after assignments of the training program. If a related policy / program is already in place, a description of this program or policy may suffice to answer the question.

Jacqueline Lentini McCullough | Sep 3, 2019

International Student Enrollment Is Tapering, But Not for the Reasons You May Think

How I Became An Immigration Attorney Unlike many lawyers I know, I did not go directly from my undergraduate studies to law school. In fact, when I graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and law was only on the back of my mind. After a stint as a circulation manager and a Master’s degree from Brown University in Italian Studies, I landed a job as an International Student Advisor at Purdue University in 1993. Finally, something that made my heart sing. My responsibilities included helping students remain in compliance with their F-1 and J-1 visas, and navigating approvals for practical training and travel. On the side I advised the Latin American and squash clubs, memberships which included mostly international students. Between those clubs and the relatively small size of the international student population, I got to know the students well. I enjoyed socializing with them and gained a large circle of Italian friends who were studying there. My frustration as an International Student Advisor came when a problem arose that I couldn’t fix and I had to send the student to an attorney. After two years working at Purdue, I decided I wanted to be that attorney and enrolled in law school. Trends Leading to Lower International Student Growth Since my time at Purdue, domestic student enrollment has dropped at many U.S. universities. They have responded by courting international students to fill the gap. International student enrollment in the U.S. soared from 564,800 in 2006 to 974,900 in 2015 according to the Institute of International Education (IIE). It has continued to grow since then but the growth has tapered. While the timing of the tapering happens to coincide with the election and tenure of the current U.S. President, there are larger trends and forces slowing international enrollment, and in some cases, decreasing it. The IIE reports that the top four senders of students to the U.S. for 2017/2018 were China, India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. All figures quoted in this section are from the IIE. China and India are by far the two largest sources of international students and accounted for 559,600 of the 1.1 million international students in the U.S. for the 2017/2018 school year. That’s just over half. Both countries are facing population growth slowdowns. There are now fewer four-and-under children in those countries than there are ten-and-over. Over time there will be fewer Chinese and Indian students looking to study abroad because there will be fewer Chinese and Indian students overall. South Korea’s college age population has been shrinking for decades. Enrollment of South Korean college students in U.S. universities began falling in 2012 and decreased by 25 percent in just six years (from 72,300 in 2012 to 54,600 in 2018). Internationals students from Saudi Arabia benefited from the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which President George W. Bush and the late King devised in 2005 to help the two countries reduce tensions caused by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Saudi Arabian student enrollment in U.S. colleges rose from 3,400 in 2006 to 61,300 in 2016. Falling oil prices caused budget short falls, however, and in 2016 Saudi Arabia made deep cuts in the program. In just two years, the number of Saudi Arabian students has decreased to 44,400. All of this is not to say that the current White House resident’s rhetoric, visa denials and delays aren’t affecting international student enrollment. They are. But so far, demographics and funding are playing a larger role in enrollment decreases. Implications of Lower International Student Enrollment for Universities Universities that have been enjoying the financial lift from international students paying full out-of-state tuition need to plan for the future to hedge the likely decreasing enrollment from that group. My former employer, Purdue, has already felt the effects. Purdue ranks fourth in international student enrollment among U.S. public institutions and first in those studying STEM disciplines. Purdue’s international enrollment has ballooned since I was there, totaling 8,936 students in fall 2018. While their overall international student count decreased by 197 from 2017 to 2018, the number of Chinese students fell by 383, from 3,696 to 3,313. That’s more than a 10 percent drop, and clearly one Purdue could not completely compensate for from other areas of the world. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I) also has a large Chinese student population and in 2015 began exploring ways to hedge a sudden loss of tuition should enrollment decrease. In 2017 U of I’s Gies College of Business and College of Education took a joint $60 million insurance policy to protect against a major shortfall in tuition income should Chinese enrollment plummet. The time is now to strategize on how to bridge the gap in enrollment and potential loss of tuition. Implications of Lower International Student Enrollment for Businesses U.S. universities won’t be the only sector of the U.S. economy affected by a significant decrease in international student enrollment. In addition to the estimated $45 billion that international students spend annually in the U.S., many of these students choose to stay and work after graduation, providing a major source of talent for U.S firms. Companies that rely on foreign national talent to round out their work forces may find greater competition for those graduates. And they may need to think about sourcing foreign national employees who went to school in a country other than the U.S. It is my hope by pointing out these demographic trends and funding issues that it will be easier for your organization to plan to address these potential student and employee gaps. Please call me if you have any questions: 630.262.1435.

Carl Michael Shusterman | Jun 19, 2019

Does President Trump Support An Employment-Based Immigration System?

The President is Finally Talking the Talk… In his speech, President Trump stated: “Under the senseless rules of the current system, we’re not able to give preference to a doctor, a researcher, a student who graduated number one in his class from the finest colleges in the world — anybody. We’re not able to take care of it. We’re not able to make those incredible breakthroughs. If somebody graduates top of their class from the best college, sorry, go back to your country. We want to keep them here. Companies are moving offices to other countries because our immigration rules prevent them from retaining highly skilled and even, if I might, totally brilliant people. We discriminate against genius. We discriminate against brilliance. We won’t anymore, once we get this passed. And we hope to get it passed as soon as possible. Some of the most skilled students at our world-class universities are going back home because they have no relatives to sponsor them here in the United States. And that’s the only way. We want these exceptional students and workers to stay, and flourish, and thrive in America.” This is certainly a welcome surprise since, in the past, the President endorsed the RAISE Act which would reduce immigration to the U.S. by 50%. The details of the President’s plan remain vague. He called for the implementation of a points-based system similar to that of Canada, Australia and New Zealand and for certain English-language requirements. Wouldn’t employer sponsorship be better? He did not explain what he planned to do about DACA, TPS or the 4 ½ million people waiting in line for green cards. His speech emphasized border security and derided asylum seekers. The President did not discuss his Administration’s harsh treatment of applicants for temporary working visas nor the need for an independent Immigration Court system. As a result, most Democrats dismissed his proposals as “dead on arrival”. I understand. Nevertheless, the President’s praise of immigrants and the paragraphs of his speech cited above were music to my ears. And then… …but is he Walking the Walk? After listening to the President’s speech, I looked at the Spring 2019 Regulatory Agenda of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS has announced that they are planning to propose regulations which would, among other things: - Put an end to the age-old process of concurrent filing for I-140 employment-based visa petitions and applications for adjustment of status; - Impose a new filing fee on employers who use the upcoming H-1B cap registration system; Restrict who can qualify for H-1B status; - End the ability of some H-4 spouses to obtain EAD work permits; - Increase the minimum investment amounts for EB-5 investors; - Restrict the activities of B-1 business visa holders. This agenda is the polar opposite of employment friendly. And why should we be surprised? For the last 2 years, President Trump’s appointees at the DHS and the USCIS have been conducting a virtual war on employment-based immigration. The percentage of Requests for Evidence (RFEs), Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs) and denials of H-1B and L-1 petitions as well as I-140 petitions have reached record highs. Nothing has been done to raise the H-1B numerical cap nor the per-country green card quotas. Now, after 2 years in office, the President is starting to talk the talk about supporting employment-based immigration, but he is not walking the walk. It is going to take more than words to show that he is serious about increasing employment-based immigration. Unfortunately, his Administration continues to limit the chances for “exceptional students and workers to stay, and flourish, and thrive in America.”

Giselle Carson | Jun 16, 2019

FAQs about F-1 OPT Work Authorization Verification

How do I verify work authorization for a student under F-1 status and OPT? The following document establishes a student’s identity and employment authorization for Form I-9: Unexpired OPT EAD (Employment Authorization Document). How do I verify a student under F-1 status and OPT Cap-Gap? If a student is in F-1 OPT status when you file a cap-subject H-1B petition with an October 1 start date, they will receive an automatic cap-gap extension of both their F-1 student status and their OPT work authorization. If the H-1B petition is selected and remains pending or is approved, the student will remain authorized to work as an F-1 student with OPT EAD through September 30. The following documents establish identity and employment authorization for Form I-9 purposes for students under OPT cap-gap: Expired OPT EAD and Form I-20 endorsed by the student’s designated school official (DSO) reflecting the cap-gap extension. These documents are acceptable through September 30 of the year in which the employer filed the H1B petition unless the H-1B petition is rejected, not selected, denied, revoked or withdrawn before October 1. If a student is in F-1 status when you file an H-1B petition with an October 1 start date, but the student does not have a current OPT EAD, the student will receive a cap-gap extension of their F-1 status, but will not be authorized to work until USCIS approves the H-1B petition and the H-1B status begins. How do I verify a student under F-1 status and STEM OPT? The EAD issued to a student with F-1 STEM OPT states “STU: STEM OPT ONLY.” The following documents establish a student’s identity and employment authorization for Form I-9: Unexpired STEM OPT EAD, or for certain students, an expired OPT EAD presented with Form I-20 endorsed by the student’s DSO recommending a STEM extension. The expired EAD with an endorsed Form I-20 for STEM OPT is acceptable until USCIS makes a decision on the student’s application, but for not more than180 days from the OPT EAD expiration date. Employment authorization must be re-verified after 180 days from the date the EAD expires to continue employment.