As students and teachers return to school, it’s time to focus on immigration opportunities in academia. Foreign nationals benefit from and contribute to America’s academic institutions, and American communities benefit when foreign nationals remain in the United States and create jobs after receiving a college education.

Foreign nationals and second-generation Americans comprise 20 percent of U.S. college students and 24 percent of U.S. community college students. After graduation, 45 percent of foreign students extend their visas, gain employment and remain in the United States to work and/or create jobs. Colleges, universities and the communities in which they are located should have a vested interest in providing foreign nationals access to higher education and in creating pathways for individuals who wish to remain in the United States after completing their education.  

Opportunities for Foreign Students

The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country. The table below details the three main types of visas that foreign students may use to travel to the United States and pursue academic study.

Visa

Purpose

Eligibility

Type of Institution

Restrictions

F-1

Visa for persons wishing to study in the United States through a recognized academic program

A student who:

Is enrolled full-time in a qualified institution

Is proficient in English or enrolled in courses leading to proficiency

Possesses sufficient funds for self-support during course of study

Maintains a residence abroad

Private elementary school

High school

College

Seminary

Conservatory

Academic institution

Language training program

Limited on-campus employment during first academic year

All subsequent off-campus employment must be authorized and in the field of study

M-1

Visa for persons wishing to study in the United States through a recognized non-academic program

A student who:

Is enrolled full-time in a qualified institution

Is proficient in English or enrolled in courses leading to proficiency

Possesses sufficient funds for self-support during course of study

Maintains a residence abroad

Vocational institution

Non-academic institution

No language training programs

Practical training permitted after completion of studies

All subsequent off-campus employment must be in the field of study

J-1

Visa used to foster the exchange of ideas and stimulate international collaboration between Americans and foreign nationals

Students, trainees, etc.

Public or private entity that is designated to act as an exchange sponsor by the U.S. Department of State

Employment is permitted only as authorized under the terms of the exchange program

May require a waiver or 2-year residency in home country before applying for an H or L visa, or lawful permanent residence

Opportunities for Academics and Researchers

The United States’ higher education institutions attract scholars, researchers and professors from around the world. Professors and researchers may use the following temporary and permanent work visas to teach and research in the United States.

Visa

Purpose

Eligibility

Type of Institution

Restrictions

EB-1 and EB-2

Visa that allows extraordinary ability professors or researchers, or academics who are recognized internationally as outstanding to teach or complete research in the United States

An individual who has:

Extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics; or

At least three years of experience teaching or research and enters the United States to work in a tenure-track position at a university, institution or higher education, or a private employer

Possesses sufficient funds for self-support during course of study

Maintains a residence abroad

Private elementary school

High school

College

Seminary

Conservatory

Academic institution

Language training program

Status may require proof that visa issuance is in the U.S. national interest

Certain off-campus employment may require particularized authorization

H-1B

Temporary visa used to employ foreign professors, researchers and academics

An individual who:

Has at least a bachelor’s degree and will work as a professional educator or researcher

Institution of higher education; or

Non-academic U.S. employer

No language training programs

Annual cap limitations may apply in certain circumstances when foreign beneficiaries work for employers that are not institutions of higher-education

J-1

Visa used to foster the exchange of ideas and stimulate international collaboration between Americans and foreign nationals

Professors and researchers

Public or private entity that is designated to act as an exchange sponsor by the U.S. Department of State

Employment is permitted only as authorized under the terms of the exchange program

May require a waiver or 2-year residency in home country before applying for an H or L visa, or lawful permanent residence

O-1

Visa used to confer temporary employment status to individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary ability in academics and research

Academics and researchers who work in positions that require extraordinary ability

Any U.S. employer

A written consultation must be obtained from an appropriate U.S. peer group

O-1 visas are normally approved for three years but are eligible for extensions

Academic visas for students, professors and researchers are useful tools in an educational institution's and/or foreign national's long-term immigration strategy.