News » Education » F1 visa: 595,569 were issued in 2014, with 173,062 of those refused

F1 visa: 595,569 were issued in 2014, with 173,062 of those refused

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Most number of F-1 visas given by universities in the New York metropolitan area.

By Raif Karerat

An F-1 visa is issued to international students who wish to pursue academic studies or English language training programs at an accredited U.S. college or university. It is intended for non-immigrants who are only eligible to remain in the United States up to 60 days past the culmination of their academic programs, less they have applied and been approved to stay and work for a period of time under the OPT Program (Optional Practical Training Program), according to the eponymously named International Student, a website designed to serve as a resource for international students around the globe.

You may enter in the F-1 or M-1 visa category provided you meet the following criteria, per the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ guidelines:

  • You must be enrolled in an “academic” educational program, a language-training program, or a vocational program.
  • Your school must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, Immigration & Customs Enforcement.
  • You must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution You must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency.
  • You must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study.
  • You must maintain a residence abroad which you have no intention of giving up.

The process for applying for an F-1 visa involves several steps, the first of which is to apply and get admitted into a SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System ) certified school. Once admitted, the school becomes the sponsoring institution for a student visa and enters the foreign student’s information into the SEVIS database, generating a paper I-20 form to include in the student’s admissions packet.

Once the prospective student receives I-20 form, they apply for a foreign student visa through the U.S. Embassy or consulate in their home country. During this step of the process, the applicant is screened for security risks terrorist, health, or criminal.

Once foreign student is granted a visa and arrives in the United States, immigration inspectors confirm their SEVIS record and enter her arrival information into the SEVIS database. The sponsoring school is then responsible for confirming that the foreign student is attending classes and must update SEVIS for any changes in their enrollment status, major, or any disciplinary actions.

As with other foreign student visas, there is no limit on the number of F-1 visas that can be issued annually. However, national security policies that affect immigrant admissions to the United States cause fluctuations in the use of F-1 visas, according to the Brookings Institute, which organized a significant amount of data regarding F-1 visas in August of 2014.

Some of the report’s key findings included:

  • The number of foreign students on F-1 visas in U.S. colleges and universities grew dramatically from 110,000 in 2001 to 524,000 in 2012. The study found that the number of foreign students allowed to enter the United States declined in a drastic fashion following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and also took a minor dip during the recession, but annual F-1 visa approvals averaged 360,000 from 2001 to 2012, fluctuating from a 2001 low of 123,000 to a 2012 high of 550,000.
  • The fastest rate of growth of foreign students came from the Middle East and North Africa with a 1,283 percent increase, from 5,500 students in 2001 to 75,000 in 2012. During the same period, the East Asia and Pacific region (451 percent growth) and Europe and Central Asia (442 percent growth) also experienced a large increase in their number of students studying in the United States.
  • The top countries of citizenship for foreign students on F-1 visas from 2008 to 2012 consist of China (25 percent), India (15 percent), South Korea (10 percent), Saudi Arabia (5 percent), and Canada (4 percent), with all other nations accounting for 41 percent of the visa allotment.
  • The top 100 schools accounted for 46 percent of all F-1 students pursuing at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • F-1 visa approvals are focused heavily in certain metropolitan areas with high concentrations of colleges and universities. Every one of the nation’s more than 350 metropolitan areas registered at least one F-1 visa approval in the 2008-2012 period. However, 118 metro areas exhibited a high number (over 1,500 approvals), accounting for 85 percent of all F-1 visa approvals in that time period. The New York metropolitan area had by far the highest number of F-1 visa approvals: more than 100,000 over the 2008-2012 period, accounting for more than 8 percent of national F-1 approvals. Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco and Washington made up the remaining top five metro areas, each with between 35,000 and 70,000 F-1 visa approvals.
  • Foreign students constitute a large source of export earnings for U.S. metropolitan economies. Over the 2008 to 2012 period, foreign students on F-1 visas studying for BMD degrees paid about $35 billion in tuition and living expenses in the 118 high F-1 U.S. metropolitan areas.
  • Most foreign students come from large fast-growing cities in emerging markets abroad. From 2008 to 2012, 94 cities abroad registered as significant sources of foreign students in the United States (with over 1,500 students), together sending 575,000 students and accounting for 51 percent of all F-1 approvals. The ten global cities that sent the most students to the U.S. between 2008 and 2012 in descending order are Seoul, South Korea; Neijing, China; Shanghai; China, Hyderabad, India; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Mumbai, India; Taipei, Taiwan; Hong Kong, SAR; Kathmandu, Nepal; and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Chennai, India slotted in at no. 12, while Bengaluru, India came in at no. 14, followed by Delhi at no. 15.
  • Foreign students disproportionately lean toward STEM and business fields when choosing their fields of study. 37 percent of all incoming foreign students were studying toward a degree in STEM fields. Meanwhile, business, management or marketing (all at 30 percent) are the most popular majors among foreign students.
  • The top global hometowns by percentage of F-1 students studying STEM fields are dominated by India. They are, in descending order — Vijayawada, India; Visakhapatnam, India; Chennai, India; Hyderabad, India; Secunderabad, India; Pune, India; Tehran, Iran; Bengaluru, India; Kolkata, India; and Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • The top ten source cities of STEM-oriented students by total F-1 students in descending order — Hyderabad, India; Beijing, China; Seoul, South Korea; Shanghai, China; Mumbai, India; Chennai, India; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Bengaluru, India; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Taipei, Taiwan.
  • Hyderabad, India, sent the largest number of STEM students (20,800) to the United States and ranked fourth for the percentage of its students pursuing a STEM degree (80 percent) during the 2008-2012 period. Notably, 91 percent of students from Hyderabad are studying for a master’s degree, versus only 4 percent for a bachelor’s degree. The vast majority were studying for computer and information sciences (9,100) and engineering (8,800) degrees.
  • Forty-five percent of foreign student graduates extend their visas to work in the same metropolitan area as their college or university.

According to Brookings, “These findings suggest that foreign students can provide important economic benefits to their U.S. metropolitan destinations—serving as bridges back to their growing home cities and offering valuable skills to local employers. More metropolitan leaders should emulate leading practices that capitalize on the knowledge and relationships of foreign students to strengthen local economies while also maximizing students’ educational and professional experiences in the United States.”

The most recent data available from the U.S. Department of State denotes that 595,569 F-1 visas were issued in 2014, while 173,062 of those were refused.

The State Department also disclosed that the largest portion of overall visa issuances went to foreign nationals of Asian origins, followed closely by North America with the second largest demographic, followed by Africa, Europe, south America, and Oceania in last.

As already proposed by Congress, the Brookings report found that the federal government should make changes in the F-1 visa program to allow foreign students from high-quality schools to apply directly for permanent residency if an employer is hiring them. State and metropolitan leaders should start dialogues with local higher educational institutions in order to further utilize foreign students’ knowledge and connections with markets abroad to benefit local businesses; these reforms could help U.S. metropolitan economies grow in more productive, inclusive and sustainable ways.

Currently, Homeland Security has been given a Feb. 12, 2016 deadline for their efforts to terminate a visa extension that allows F-1 graduates to work in the U.S. for an additional six years after graduating.

“I’m tense now, I don’t know what to do,” said Venu during an interview with U.S. News. He earned a master’s degree from San Diego State University in 2014 and works as a software developer in Virginia. (He asked to use only his first name to avoid affecting his employment.) “Knowing I might need to leave the U.S. and go back to India all the sudden, it’s difficult for me.”

STEM executives say the extension is little short of a godsend, enabling them to find, train and retain high-end specialized talent they say is in intensely short supply.

“We are starving for workers,” stated Luis von Ahn, CEO of the language-learning app Duolingo and a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. “There’s high unemployment, but there’s just not many people with advanced degrees in STEM,” he told U.S. News.

Immigration advocates, meanwhile, contend the extension has provided a much-needed bridge to obtaining a longer-lasting H-1B work permit, which only a third of the roughly 240,000 applicants received in the last fiscal year.

“The goal is to bridge the gap and keep these American-educated kids here rather than sending them out of the country to compete against us,” said Emily Lopez Neumann, an attorney at the Texas-based immigration firm Reddy & Neumann.

Attorneys say they expect Homeland Security to issue a rule by late October.

“We just want to have a normal life. We want to do more and contribute,” said Rahul Shambhuni, of India, who earned a master’s degree from Old Dominion University and now works for a telecommunications company in Los Angeles. “We have a chance to do that here, not really back in the home country. That’s good for us, and good for the U.S., too.”


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