The Guide to Student Visas and the U.S. Immigration System

Many students attend college in the United States precisely because they want to live in the United States.  Some want to live there for only as long as they are students, while others want to live in there beyond their college years. Some want to live only for a time, while others hope to live permanently.  No matter what the nature of the stay, all guests will have to deal with a dysfunctional immigration system.  Compared to that of similar countries like the U.K., Canada, and Australia, the United States’ immigration system is relatively restrictive towards skilled immigrants.  As of this writing, the annual limit on HB-1 worker visas, for skilled foreign workers, is 65,000 people.

Although international students are in the U.S. to acquire skills, the U.S. considers international students to be non-immigrant, temporary visitors instead of immigrants.  This distinction expresses their expectation that the students will return to their home countries after their period of study.  For this reason, the U.S. allows a significant amount of students into the United States for study, issuing 331,208 F-1 visas and 313,957 J-1 visas in 2009.

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