• US needs rescuing


    The USS America is sinking in the high seas of the international education market.

    Fear not.

    The Department of Homeland Security is coming with a towboat.

    Until March 11, the United States had seen other countries take international students away from American educational institutions. Two major reasons for this 10-year exodus are the ability to work while studying from day one and a clear pathway to permanent residency.

    Ten years ago, the US was the top destination for foreign students, Japan came in second. Canada was in seventh place below New Zealand. Australia was getting barely half of foreign students enrolled in the US.

    In 2014, while the US remains on top, Canada has climbed to second place with Australia on third.

    To aggressively compete in the international student market, the US’ Department of Homeland Security issued a final rule on March 11, allowing foreign students in STEM degree programs to work for 24 months, during or before program completion. Not all of foreign students get the 24-month OPT extended time for employment while in student status: only STEM students – those pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.

    Prior to this, F-1 students – regardless of degree program or course – may not work off-campus during the first academic year, although they may accept on-campus employment subject upon meeting certain requirements.

    Why the change of heart?
    The Department of Homeland Security final rule admits that the US has been losing international students to other countries, particularly Canada. While the overall number of international students increased between 1999 and 2013, the US experienced a slowdown – and reduced earnings from tuition fees and the economic benefits resulting from this fund infusion.

    In the final rule published with the Federal Register, the DHS confirms “significant contributions of international students to the United States, both through the payment of tuition and other expenditures in the US economy, as well as by significantly enhancing academic discourse and cultural exchange on campuses throughout the United States.”

    In particular, the rule explains:

    1. STEM students further contribute through research, innovation, and the provision of knowledge and skills that help maintain and grow increasingly important sectors of the US economy.

    2. According to statistics compiled by NAFSA: Association of International Educators (NAFSA), international students made a net contribution of $26.8 billion to the US economy in the 2013 – 2014 academic year.

    3. This contribution included tuition ($19.8 billion) and living expenses for self and family ($16.7 billion), after adjusting for US financial support ($9.7 billion).

    4. Public colleges and universities particularly benefit from the payment of tuition by international students, especially in comparison to the tuition paid by instate students.

    In short, international students provide essential fuel to keep the USS America sailing ahead of the other countries competing for international student money.

    In 2001, the US received 28 percent of international students; by 2011, that share had decreased by 19 percent, with the US losing to Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Taiwan and China.

    Canada’s decision enhancing its post-graduate work permit (PGWP) – allowing students who have graduated from a recognized Canadian post-secondary institution to stay and gain valuable post-graduate experience had been singled out in the final rule’s explanation for this change in rule.

    A foreign student in Canada may work for the same length of the study program during the PGWP and even up to a maximum of three years with no restrictions on type of employment.

    DHS acknowledged this change as the main reason for the steady increase of international students to Canada between 2003 and 2007. In fact, by 2014, the number of international students in the program was more than double the 2008 total.

    On the other hand, regular, non-STEM students in the US may work off-campus only after the first academic year under the following schemes: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and up to 12 months Optional Practical Training, or OPT, (pre-completion or post-completion)

    In contrast, STEM Students may OPT for 17 months. The March 11 final rule even extends this employment authorization period to 24 months. When implemented in May this year, a student completing another STEM degree is eligible for another 24 months of employment.

    A foreign student in Canada may work for the same length of the study program during the PGWP and even up to a maximum of three years with no restrictions on type of employment.

    Student to resident pathway
    The main difference is the pathway after employment during the CPT or OPT periods, STEM or not.

    In Canada, a student (without experience before enrolling and completing the course) could work for one year and be eligible for permanent residency either through the International Graduate scheme of Canada on the Federal level or through a nomination program by a Canadian province.

    Australia offers an 18-month Temporary Graduate visa for the student to gain experience as well as improve language and cultural efficiency. Said students may apply for any of the Skilled Migration programs through the SkillSelect selection system, especially through the Employment-Nomination Scheme.

    Completion of a one-year academic course (at least Level 7) gives the student points for the New Zealand-earned qualification, which constitutes significant points toward permanent residency.

    The NZ student – like his or her Canadian or Australian counterparts – may work 20 hours a week while school is in session and work full-time during off-school season.

    Yes, these three countries have their own selection system that allows international students a clear and viable pathway toward permanent residency.

    In fact, students with at least one-year of experience before enrollment may immediately qualify for permanent residency in Canada or Australia with a job offer. Canadian provinces have specific routes for nomination. The same is true with Australia’s State or Territories. The US does not have similar options on the Federal or State level.

    While the US dangles the prospects of extended employment, the chances of transitioning to a full-time work visa (such as the H-1B category) is dicey. Why? Because qualified students seeking H-1B visas still would have to enter the lottery for the yearly 65,000 H-1B quota. There is a 20,000 visas exempt from this cap for STEM and Non-STEM students with advanced degrees completed in the US.

    For the US degree holders who may have been selected via lottery, applying for permanent residency in the Employment-based third category will take years to process. STEM students with advanced degrees have a smoother transition: they qualify under the Second Employment-based immigrant visa category. There is no waiting period. Once the petition is approved, a visa is immediately available and the qualified STEM student may immediately apply for adjustment of status.

    This is the towboat that the DHS and the State Department intend to keep the USS America afloat and moving. The other countries, on the other hand, have been able to increase their fuel supply and even official cargo fuel planes on stand-by.

    Canada, for example, aims to double the number of international students from 211,949 in 2014 to 450,000 by 2022, and is making the permanent residency pathway even easier.

    And last week, Immigration Minister John McCallum announced initiatives between the Federal and Provincial governments to give bonus points to international students for education and work experience in Canada. Such bonus points would significantly boost a foreign student’s selection as a permanent resident.

    In stark contrast, the way he is excluding potential immigrants from entering the US and alienating allies, President Donald Trump may bar residency privileges for foreigners permanently.


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    1. David Michael Meyer on

      To my mind America has a psychology that s flawed,from the very out set.

      ..The concept that an individual has the right to bear arms ,,has so many undesirable consequences..We do not have the space to explore them all.

      .America has a deep entrenched ideology of winners and losers..

      Coupled with the concept of a enshrined belief of gun ownership..This give rise to the winners ,,vs losers —with each side having the right to bear arms ..

      The only defense against the bad guy with a gun –Is a good guy with a gun .

      ..They will take my gun from my dead cold hand cries the Actor-Leader of the gun Lobbyist (Charlton Heston}

      Already we have in the USA more than 250 million registered fire arms .
      The talk is for even more

      Some are wanting the teachers in schools to be armed

      In the end it seems the age of the wild wild west will be upon us..The individual will become the law and his gun will be the judge

      Would any one of us like to live in that society ..Where might is right ?
      I am
      Your obedient
      Dr David Michael Meyer (PhD Psych)

    2. Perturbed Pundit on

      OPT amounts to the government offering a $10,000 incentive to employers for hiring a foreign student instead of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. This bonus takes the form of the foreign students being exempt from payroll tax (due to their student status, which they technically still have under OPT in spite of having graduated). I would add that if OPTs duration were to be extended to three full years, as DHS wants, the employer bonanza gets multiplied by 3, so it becomes $30,000 or more. Why hire Americans, eh?

      Since this tax exemption from payroll tax was pointed out in the lawsuit against DHS, and has been one of the major points raised by critics, DHS was well aware of it. Yet they are refusing to address it or even acknowledge it.

      The bigger problem with OPTs and foreign workers in general is that employers hire foreign workers INSTEAD of Americans, rather than using foreign workers to replace Americans.

      In contrast to DHS recent statements, in which they openly admitted that they intend OPT as an end-run around the H-1B cap, they now describe OPT in warm and fuzzy terms of “mentoring” (putting the T back into OPT). That raises several questions:
      If the U.S. indeed “needs” the foreign students (DHS’s phrasing on this point verges on desperation) to remedy a STEM labor shortage, why do these students need training? The DHS/industry narrative is that the U.S. lacks sufficient workers with STEM training, while the foreign workers are supposedly already trained. And, if workers with such training are indeed needed, why wont these special mentoring programs be open to Americans? Why just offer them to foreign students? Since DHS admitted that its motivation in OPT is to circumvent the H-1B cap, does that mean that if the cap were high enough to accommodate everyone, these same foreign students wouldn’t need training after all?