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Understanding the New USCIS Policy Guidance for International Students and Companies

USCIS has updated its policy guidance, affecting both F and M student visa categories and companies looking to hire foreign students

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated its policy guidance for F and M student visas, consolidating various rules into one clear document to reduce confusion and increase transparency for students and businesses. This includes clarifications on maintaining foreign residence while pursuing permanent residency, and new options for F-1 STEM students to work with startups during their Optional Practical Training (OPT) extensions.

What’s New and What Remains the Same?

New Clarifications: Addressing the coexistence of foreign residence and permanent residency intentions, and work opportunities with startups.
Continuity: Basic requirements for F and M visas, school transfer procedures, and general employment rules.
What does USCIS’ New Guidance Change for International Students?
The guidance addresses key areas such as employment authorization, change of status, extension of stay, and reinstatement of status for F and M students and their dependents in the United States.


The updated guidance emphasizes that F and M students must maintain a foreign residence and not intend to permanently abandon their home country.

Despite this, the policy now allows students to apply for permanent residency through green cards in the U.S. It’s crucial for students to demonstrate their intention to return to their home country after their temporary stay in the U.S., even as they explore long-term options.


For F-1 students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields, the policy update is particularly noteworthy. It offers an extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT) for those seeking employment opportunities with startup companies.

The startups must comply with specific requirements: they need to adhere to the outlined training plans, be in good standing with E-Verify, and provide compensation that is on par with similarly situated U.S. workers. This creates new employment opportunities but also requires students and their employers to be vigilant about meeting these conditions.


USCIS has provided detailed explanations regarding the maintenance of student status. This includes comprehensive guidance on transferring schools, exploring different employment options while on a student visa, and the procedures for applying for various benefits.

The clearer guidelines help students understand their responsibilities and rights under their visa status. However, it also means that students need to be more proactive in ensuring their activities and employment align with these updated rules to maintain their legal status in the U.S.


While the policy update offers greater flexibility and opens up new avenues, it’s essential for students to plan their future in the U.S. with these regulations in mind.

Whether it’s considering long-term residency or seeking employment post-graduation, students should factor in these updated guidelines in their decision-making process.

IMPORTANT: With these changes, the onus is on the students to stay informed and compliant with the updated policies. This involves regularly checking for any new updates or changes in immigration policies that might affect their status.

What does the Foreign Student Policy Guidance Mean for U.S. Employers?


  • Increased Flexibility for STEM Graduates: Companies can now more easily hire F-1 students who have graduated from STEM fields. The new guidance allows these students to extend their OPT and work for startups, which opens up a broader talent pool for employers.


  • Compliance with Training Requirements: If a company hires a student on STEM OPT, it must adhere to specific training plan requirements. Companies need to ensure that their training programs meet these criteria and are properly documented.


  • Wider Talent Pool: Companies might find it more appealing to hire international students, especially in STEM fields, given the clarified rules regarding OPT and extensions.

  • Long-Term Planning: Companies interested in retaining international talent long-term should be mindful of the students’ visa status and potential pathways to permanent residency, like the H-1B visa and eventually green card applications.


  • No Direct Impact on PERM: The USCIS guidance doesn’t directly alter the PERM labor certification process. However, companies should be aware that international students might now be more open to pursuing permanent residency pathways while on F or M visas.


  • Future Green Card Sponsorship: If a company is considering sponsoring an international student for a green card, they should start planning early, as the process can be lengthy and complex.


  • Maintain Compliance: Companies must stay compliant with all regulations related to hiring international students, including wage requirements, training plans for STEM OPT students, and reporting obligations.
    Consultation with Legal Experts: Given the complexities of U.S. immigration law, companies should consult with immigration attorneys to ensure compliance and to strategize the best approach for hiring and potentially sponsoring international students.


Stay Informed: Keep updated with the latest immigration policies and how they might impact the hiring of international students.
Collaboration with Educational Institutions: Establish or maintain relationships with universities to access the talent pool of international students, particularly in specialized fields.
“Understanding and adapting to the USCIS’s new policy guidance is crucial for employers seeking to tap into the rich pool of international talent. This guidance not only opens up new avenues for hiring bright minds, especially in the STEM fields, but also brings a responsibility to ensure compliance with the nuanced requirements,” said Hendrik Pretorius, Immigration Attorney and Director of Account Management at Boundless. “As companies navigate these changes, it’s important to strike a balance between leveraging global talent and adhering to the intricate landscape of immigration policies. Proactive engagement and informed strategies will be key to harnessing the potential of international students in a way that benefits both the students and the growth of our companies.”

Understanding the Visas

  • F-1 Visa: For academic students in colleges, universities, or other academic programs.
  • M-1 Visa: For vocational or non-academic program students.

Big Picture for Students and Companies

USCIS’s revised policy guidance is a pivotal development for both F and M international students and U.S. employers. It aims to simplify and clarify the complexities of student visa categories, providing a clearer path for students pursuing education and career opportunities in the United States. For students, it opens doors to new opportunities, particularly in STEM fields, and delineates the conditions under which they can pursue permanent residency while on a student visa. Employers stand to benefit from a broader pool of international talent, especially in specialized STEM areas, with the added responsibility of ensuring compliance with the specific requirements of the OPT program. This guidance symbolizes a stride towards a more integrated and supportive framework for international students and the companies that seek to employ them, fostering an environment of growth, innovation, and mutual benefit. As we navigate these changes, the importance of staying informed, adhering to legal requirements, and seeking expert advice cannot be overstated, ensuring that the potential of these policies is fully realized for the enrichment of both international students and the American workforce.


Read More :Boundless

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