Overview

It’s tough being a foreign student.  Aside from the high ‘out-of-state’ tuition fees, there are all kinds of new rules on unlawful presence, violating OPT status, and increased scrutiny on students who utilize CPT.

So what’s the bottom line?  Students have to be very, very careful!

These are the student categories immigrants typically use to study in the US:

F-1 and M Visas

The “F” visa is for foreign students wanting to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs in the United States, and the “M” visa is for nonimmigrants wanting to pursue nonacademic or vocational studies.  Both of these visa categories have very strict requirements, especially right now.

J-1 Exchange Visa

This is an exchange visitor visa that companies, schools, and individuals use to bring researchers, scholars, students, trainees, interns, au pairs, and other specialists to the US.  Some people who obtain J-1 status are subject to a 2-year foreign residency requirement, which means they have to return to their home country for 2 years before they can get another U.S. immigration status, with some exceptions.  Many medical schools use the J-1 program for foreign physicians who do their residency in the U.S.

Optional Practical Training (OPT), STEM OPT, and Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

There are very strict rules for students who have Optional Practical Training (OPT), especially given the increased level of scrutiny right now. If you are unemployed on OPT, not working in a position related to your degree, or think you will be laid off by your OPT employer, you need to speak with your DSO and/or immigration attorney.

Also, F-1 students who are on STEM OPT must 1) work for an employer who is enrolled in e-Verify and 2) complete the Form I-983.  Information Technology staffing companies that hire foreign students on their STEM OPT extension should seek counsel before completing the I-983 form. 

Lastly, F-1 students who are currently enrolled in a ‘day one’ CPT program should ensure they are complying with all of the requirements of their F-1 program.  The USCIS is especially scrutinizing these programs and the students enrolled in them, so make sure your decision to enter into such a program is a sound one, and that if you do enroll in one, you comply with all the requirements of the program and the CPT employment.

If you’re an international student and have questions, contact us to speak with one of our immigration attorneys.

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