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 grants 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.
Type of Institution
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
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
Visa for persons wishing to study in the United States through a recognized non-academic program
No language training programs
Practical training permitted after completion of studies
All subsequent off-campus employment must be in the field of study
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.
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
Status may require proof that visa issuance is in the U.S. national interest
Certain off-campus employment may require particularized authorization
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
Annual cap limitations may apply in certain circumstances when foreign beneficiaries work for employers that are not institutions of higher-education
Professors and researchers
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 visas normally are 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. If you have questions concerning visa opportunities available to you or your academic institution, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.