- Indian students held 56% of the total STEM-OPT authorisations in fiscal 2017
- Chinese students, with 24% of the total STEM-OPT authorisations, were next in line.
- These statistics are part of the data-sets released last week by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Indian students in the US hailing from STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields dominated the scene when it came to participating in the optional practical training (OPT) programme, under which they can work in the United States once they obtain their degrees.
They held 50,507 (or 56 per cent) of the total STEM-OPT authorisations in fiscal 2017. Chinese students, with 21,705 (or 24 percent) of the total STEM-OPT authorisations, were next in line. Only a handful of students from other nations had STEM-OPT authorisations for the fiscal ending September 30, 2017. To illustrate, only 500 odd Canadian students and about 400 from Mexico participated in OPT.
In the US, international students are eligible for a 12-month OPT. But those with STEM degrees are eligible for a 24-month OPT extension. The dominance of Indian students having STEP-OPT authorisation is significant, given that overall the number of students from China is nearly double of those from India.
These statistics are part of the data-sets released by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), last week. The data is drawn from the Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS) which houses information about international students and exchange visitors such as research scholars. Corresponding data of the previous period was not available. It appears to be a new initiative to boost greater transparency. Prominent companies hiring STEM-OPT students were Amazon, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Integra Technologies and Facebook.
There has been an increase focus on STEM-OPT placements by the Trump Administration. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the immigration agency, countinues to frown on arrangements that provide ‘labour for hire’ and those where a bona fide employer – employee relationship cannot be demonstrated. However there has been a beneficial development in recent months. In its edition date August 19, TOI had reported that USCIS has reversed its earlier stand that international STEM students undergoing OPT cannot be place at customer work sites. However, employers, even if they place STEM-OPT students at customer work sites, need to meet their training obligations.
Overall, in aggregate, nearly 2.50 lakh or 16 percent of the total international students in the US were from India, placing it as the second largest country of origin, following China, during the fiscal year 2017. The number of students hailing from China, at 4.81 lakh (or 30 per cent of the total), were almost twice the number from India. Nearly 46 percent of the international students are drawn from India and China. The total number of active international students during the 12-month fiscal ended September 30, 2017 stood at 15.90 lakh.
The release of such data is aimed at enhancing transparency about international students in the US, including where they are from and where they are studying, said Rachel Canty, deputy assistant director of the Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) in an official release.
However, it should be noted that date is periodically drawn from SEVIS to account for the number of international students, and interim reports are periodically released. For instance, in April this year, ICE in its report said there were 12.02 lakh active F and M students in Mar 2018, a decrease of 0.5 per cent if compared with March 2017. Nearly half of the F and M student population in US hailed from either China (with 3.77 lakh students) or India (with 2.12 lakh students). For the twelve month period ended March 2018, China sent 6,305 more students and India sent 2,356 more students, signifying a minuscule growth between 1-2 per cent.
F visa is allotted to international students attending accredited educational institutions, M visa is a vocational student visa and the J visa more commonly known as exchange visitor’s visa, is given to say – research assistants.