USCIS Policy Guidance for International Students 2024: Key Updates and Insights

by Barinder Singh Saini

Introduction: USCIS Policy Guidance for International Students

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently unveiled new policy guidance concerning the F and M student nonimmigrant classifications. International students and U.S. educational institutions will benefit from the clarity provided on a range of important topics, such as eligibility requirements, school transfers, practical training, and on- and off-campus employment.

Key Points from the USCIS Policy Guidance:

  1. Foreign Residence Requirement: F and M students must maintain a foreign residence that they do not intend to abandon. However, students may still demonstrate their intention to depart after a temporary period of stay, even if they are the beneficiary of a permanent labor certification application or immigrant visa petition.
  2. Optional Practical Training (OPT) for STEM Students: The guidance clarifies that F students seeking an extension of OPT based on their degree in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field may be employed by startup companies, as long as the employer adheres to specific requirements and provides compensation commensurate to that provided to similarly situated U.S. workers.
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Understanding the Nonimmigrant Student Classifications:

  • The nonimmigrant academic student (F-1) classification allows noncitizens to enter the U.S. as full-time students at various academic institutions, including colleges, universities, and language training programs.
  • The nonimmigrant vocational student (M-1) classification includes students in recognized nonacademic programs, such as vocational training and other nonacademic programs excluding language training programs.

Further Resources:


The USCIS’s updated policy guidance is geared towards providing greater clarity and assistance to international students and U.S. educational institutions. By addressing key aspects such as employment authorization, change of status, and extension of stay, the USCIS aims to streamline processes and provide a clearer path for international students pursuing education in the United States.

For international students and educational institutions alike, staying informed about these policy updates is crucial to navigating the complex landscape of studying and working in the U.S. As always, it’s advisable to consult official USCIS resources for the most accurate and current information.

By keeping up-to-date with USCIS policy changes, both international students and educational institutions can ensure compliance with regulations and make informed decisions regarding academic and career pursuits in the United States.


What specific areas of the USCIS policy guidance will be covered in the blog post?

The blog post will comprehensively cover the USCIS policy guidance regarding the F and M student nonimmigrant classifications, including eligibility requirements, employment authorization, change of status, extension of stay, and reinstatement of status for these students and their dependents in the United States.

Will the blog post clarify the requirements and considerations for F and M students regarding maintaining a foreign residence, while also pursuing opportunities in the United States such as employment or permanent labor certification applications?

Yes, the blog post will clarify the specific requirements for F and M students, including the necessity of a foreign residence, the possibility of pursuing permanent labor certification applications or immigrant visa petitions, and demonstrating the intention to depart after a temporary period of stay.

How will the blog post address questions related to optional practical training (OPT) for F students in STEM fields, particularly concerning employment by startup companies and adherence to specific requirements?

 The blog post will provide detailed information on the extension of OPT based on a degree in a STEM field, including specific requirements for employment by startup companies, adherence to training plan requirements, and compensation standards.

Will the blog post differentiate between the nonimmigrant academic student (F-1) and nonimmigrant vocational student (M-1) classifications, and what educational institutions or programs are eligible under each classification? 

Yes, the blog post will clearly distinguish between the F-1 and M-1 classifications, outlining the specific types of institutions and programs eligible for each classification, such as academic institutions, language training programs, and vocational or other recognized nonacademic programs.

Where can readers find additional resources or official documents related to the USCIS guidance and the role of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in administering nonimmigrant student programs?

The blog post will provide links to the USCIS Policy Alert, Volume 2, Part F of the Policy Manual, and the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS) for readers seeking further information about the USCIS guidance and the role of ICE in administering nonimmigrant student programs.

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1 comment


Sahil 21 December 2023 - 10:05

Full fledged info


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