On December 20, 2023, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) unveiled new policy guidance specifically aimed at international students. This significant update represents a substantial shift that will directly affect international students holding an F-1 Student Visa and pursuing their studies in the United States.
For the very first time, students of this kind will have the opportunity to personally apply for a visa in the Employment-based classification. This adjustment allows international students to qualify for US immigrant visas.
The USCIS policy guidance includes -
F & M student nonimmigrant classification,
Role of USCIS in deciding applications for employment authorization,
Change of student status in the US,
Extension of stay of the student in the US, and
The reinstatement of the status for these students and their dependents in the US.
Based on the USCIS News Release, the advice will offer clear information to foreign students and American educational institutions about various topics such as qualifications, transferring schools, practical training, and employment both on and off campus.
According to the latest guidelines, foreign students in the United States with an F or M visa must have a foreign residence that they plan to maintain. Additionally, these students must either be the recipient of an immigrant visa petition or have a pending permanent labor certification application. They still need to demonstrate their intention to depart the US after their temporary stay.
Furthermore, the USCIS guidance outlines the criteria for F students seeking OPT (optional practical training) related to their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) studies to work for startup firms in the United States. Startup employers must meet specific requirements to hire F Student visa holders.
The news marks a significant ruling that permits F-1 Student visa holders to be employed by startup firms in the US, benefiting Indian students studying there.