Recent data from the Institute of International Education showed that international student enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities dropped by 15% in the 2020-21 school year. This could be due in large part to the pandemic and the associated travel bans.

According to the Pew Research Center, there were less than one million international students enrolled in American colleges and universities this year. The number includes both online and in-person registrations. This is the first year since 2014-15 that fewer than one million international students enrolled in American institutions.

This lower number of enrollees was driven by a sharp drop in first-time students coming from abroad. Older students may have been able to navigate the difficulties involved in online learning, travel bans and flight cancellations. It would be more difficult for first-time students.

It is also possible that U.S. immigration policy changes over the past few years have made the United States a less desirable place for international students seeking higher education. The ban on people from predominantly Muslim countries, for example, may have dissuaded Muslim students from applying to U.S. colleges or universities even though that ban is no longer in place.

What visas do international students need?

The type of student visa you need depends in part on your country of origin and in part on the type of educational program you plan to attend.

  • The F-1 visa is for students from countries besides Canada and Mexico who have been admitted to academic programs in the U.S.
  • Canadian and Mexican nationals who plan to attend academic programs in the U.S. and then return home should apply for an F-3 visa.
  • The M-1 visa is for students from countries besides Canada and Mexico who have been admitted to vocational programs in the U.S.
  • M-3 visas are for Canadian and Mexican commuter students in vocational programs.
  • F-2 and M-2 visas are for spouses and children of F-1 and M-1 visa holders, respectively.

In order to qualify for an F-1 or M-1 visa, you must meet these criteria:

  • You must be enrolled in an “academic,” language-training or vocational education program
  • Your school must be approved through ICE by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, and your program must result in a degree, diploma or certificate
  • You must be enrolled as a full-time student
  • You must be proficient in English or enrolled in English-proficiency courses
  • You must be able to support yourself financially during your education
  • You must maintain a residence abroad that you have no intention of giving up

If you are interested in studying in the U.S., contact Yew Immigration Law Group. We have years of experience helping people come to the U.S. for education.