Immigration Post-9/11 for International Students

September 11, 2001 was a day that devastated the hearts of the United States. That event caused the United States to increase their security on immigration, especially for international students. One of the terrorists that hijacked a plane was later found out to have entered the United States with a student visa, which changed the immigration policy on international students.

When international students want to study in the United States, they need to apply for a F1 visa that allows them to become a full-time student. However after 9/11, a new system called the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) was put in place to monitor students constantly on their status. When given a F1 visa and a SEVIS number, the student receives a I-20 Form that certifies their eligibility at a certain school. All of these applications require some sort of interview and a costly price. They must also have sufficient financial support, since they have limited work opportunities which I will talk about later. If a student does not meet the requirements, then they are denied the F1 visa.

There are a few rules for someone holding a F1 visa such as maintaining a full-time student at all times (12 semester units or 16 quarter units) while paying an international student fee, keeping their passport valid, extending their I-20 Form if needed, obtaining special permission to work, or leaving the United States when told to do so. Holding a F1 visa does not allow the student to work off campus, only on campus for up to a maximum of 20 hours week. After a year, the student may work off campus, but there are strict restrictions on where they work and the amount of money they get paid. If they do not follow the rules, they get deported.

After an international student has graduated, they must either leave the country, apply for a different visa, or apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT allows them to work in the field that they graduated with, for one whole year, or two years for students in the Science, Technology, Engineer, Mathematics (STEM) field. After, they must apply for a different immigration status to work in the United States. While there is no quota for the number of F1 visas given out each year, there is a quota for OPT each year. Therefore not all international students are given the opportunity to work after they graduate. Also, while a student is on OPT, they must report to the school constantly on their status of finding a job. If they do not find a job within a certain amount of time, they get deported.

The following are links to more information about the F1 visa and the SEVIS.

I am also an international student that are going through these struggles. I have family members and friends that are, or were, international students that have struggles finding a job or are at risk of deportation as well. I know first-hand that it is not easy being an international student in the US. The following is a video where the reporter, Jia Guo, interviews several international students on their thoughts about the struggles of finding a job in the US.

International students struggle to find jobs in the US by Pavement Pieces

Since the moment an international student steps into the United States, they are at risk of being deported. Having international students in the United States is beneficial because it diversifies the country overall. Putting minds from all over the world can expand the overall knowledge of the population. Many students in the STEM field have been international students and that have benefitted the country. However, the United States makes it so difficult for students to find opportunities that they either get deported or they would rather find work in other countries than to deal with the immigration policies in the United States.

Why does the United States provide higher education for international students, only to send them away after they graduate?

As President Obama said in his 2012 State of Union address:

As soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else….That doesn’t make sense. …. let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, defend this country.