Ideal paths for educated immigrants to study and work in the USA

The United States has the highest number of college-educated immigrants in comparison to any other country. In 2015, it had 14.7 million immigrants in the age group of 25 and above with a college degree/postsecondary diploma living in it. As a comparison, the figures in Canada were 4.4 million and in the United Kingdom -3.4 million.

The U.S. has a smaller stand when we look at immigrants having a college education as a share of the overall overseas-born population. 36% US immigrants have a college degree, but the share in Canada is 65% and 49% in the UK.

President Trump supports the immigration of talents and top skilled people, and the public also shares this view. In a 2018 survey 78%, U.S. adults support the encouragement of top skilled people to immigrate and work in the USA. 83 % Democrats and 73% Republicans also extend support to this idea.

We present four paths for educated immigrants to study/work in the U.S.  These are:

  • H-1B visa program,
  • The F-1 visa program,
  • The Optional Practical Training program and finally,
  • The Green Cards

H-1B visas

H-1B visa applications are far more in numbers than its supply for the last five years.  The H-1B program was created by the Immigration Act of 1990.

It serves as a major visa program for  workers born in a foreign land seeking temporary employment. They also need to have specialized knowledge and also a Bachelor’s Degree. The companies receive H-1B visas directly on the basis of arriving first as per the time. Furthermore, the annual cap set by the Congress is 65,000 visas and an additional 20,000 per year for foreigners who graduate from a local academic institution. The Homeland Security Department issued a rule changing the selection. Now it gives a priority to individuals having a U.S. graduate degree. Furthermore, H-1B visas have a validity of six years. There is a huge demand for H-1B workers and there are more applications than the available visas. In the FY 2001 to 2015, Indians received 50.5% of H-1B visas. In respect to China, it was 9.7%.

F-1 visas

The F-1 visa is the common type of foreign student visa. Its recipients are students who pursue an associate/bachelor’s/ master’s and doctoral degrees in the U.S. In 2016 the enrollment of foreign students was 364,000. Foreign students had a sharp growth on F-1 visas in public and private institutions.

In 2016, 49% of newly enrolled overseas students were pursuing degrees at the graduate level, and 41% were working for a master’s degree. Only 8% were pursuing a doctoral degree. 38% were pursuing bachelors and 13% the associate degrees.

Optional Practical Training

The approvals in this category surpassed H-1B visa approvals in 2010 and also in 2014-2017. This program permits foreigners studying as full-time students in local colleges/universities to remain in the USA temporarily for gaining the practical work experience after completing the graduation. This program does not require sponsorship of an employer for applicants.  Participants can work in for 12 months after completing the graduation. Additionally, it can be extended to 36 months for students having a degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics.

A popular pathway

The OPT program also serves as a popular pathway for overseas students graduating from U.S. colleges to remain in the USA. 2017 was the year when 276,500 overseas graduates received a work permit in OPT. In 2017, College graduates of India and China had a majority in OPT approvals. Furthermore, The Trump administration has made the regulations governing this program very strict.

Green cards

Many immigrants, having the college education also live and work, in the country by using green cards. It provides lawful PR to a million people born in a foreign country each year. There are admission categories and quotas, not specific to education but are available to all immigrants not considering their background. 66% immigrants received New Green Cards FY 2017 in the category of sponsored by family members. The share of asylum seekers/ refugees was 13%. There is no clarity regarding the numbers in workers serving on H-1B visas who received a Green Card in 2017.  A report of the Bipartisan Policy Center states that H-1B holders had a share of 36%, in the employment-related Green Cards issued between FY 2010 and 2014.

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