The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently updated its policy guidance concerning F and M student nonimmigrant classifications. This update is a consolidation of existing policies and aims to provide clearer guidance to international students and U.S. educational institutions. The guidance covers several key areas, including:
- Employment Authorization and Status Modifications: USCIS is set to assume a pivotal position in the evaluation and decision-making process for applications pertinent to work permits, status alterations, extensions of current stays, and the restoration of student statuses, along with those of their dependents, within the United States.
- Eligibility and Requirements: The policy clarifies that F and M students must maintain a foreign residence and demonstrates their intention to leave the U.S. after their temporary stay. However, they may still be eligible for permanent labor certification or immigrant visa petitions.
- Practical Training and Employment: The guidance offers explicit information for F visa students who are extending their Optional Practical Training (OPT) in STEM disciplines, especially those aiming to work with startup firms. Key conditions highlighted include compliance with established training program guidelines, adherence to E-Verify regulations, and ensuring equitable remuneration.
- Academic and Vocational Classifications: The guidance also elaborates on the nonimmigrant academic student (F-1) and vocational student (M-1) classifications, specifying the types of institutions and programs eligible under each category.
For comprehensive details, USCIS advises referring to the Policy Alert and the Policy Manual. Additionally, information on the role of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in administering these student programs can be found through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS).