USCIS Issues Updated Policy Guidance for International Students

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released policy guidance addressing the F and M student nonimmigrant classifications, outlining the agency's role in processing applications for employment authorization, change of status, extension of stay, and reinstatement of status for these students and their dependents within the United States.

This guidance consolidates existing policies, aiming to offer clarity to international students and U.S. educational institutions on various topics, encompassing eligibility criteria, school transfers, practical training, and both on- and off-campus employment.

For instance, the guidance emphasizes that F and M students must maintain a foreign residence they do not intend to abandon. However, it clarifies that such students may still be eligible as beneficiaries of a permanent labor certification application or immigrant visa petition, demonstrating the intention to depart after a temporary stay.

Moreover, the guidance outlines how F students seeking an extension of optional practical training (OPT) based on their STEM degree may be employed by startup companies, provided the employer complies with training plan requirements, maintains good standing with E-Verify, and offers compensation comparable to that of similarly situated U.S. workers, among other stipulations.

The F-1 nonimmigrant academic student classification enables noncitizens to enter the U.S. as full-time students in various academic institutions, while the M-1 nonimmigrant vocational student classification includes those in established vocational or other recognized nonacademic programs.

For detailed information about USCIS guidance, refer to the [Policy Alert (PDF, 312.06 KB)] and Volume 2, Part F of the Policy Manual. To understand the role of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in administering these nonimmigrant student programs, consult the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS) page.

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