Immigrants at Home and Abroad: International Students

International students comprise a substantial portion of foreign-born people in the United States, and they have the capabilities to contribute not only to economic growth but also to our nation’s technological innovation. Welcoming America’s Guide to Immigrant Economic Development notes that two-thirds of foreign students pursue degrees in STEM fields or business, management and marketing fields, versus the 48% of American students studying in those fields. According to a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, STEM workers are the main drivers of productivity in the U.S, and thus it is essential that measures be implemented to retain such global talent on American soil.

The visa process, however, often presents obstacles for international students. In St. Louis, for example, according to arecent survey of the nearly 9,000 international students studying in the region, 80% indicated that they would stay in St. Louis if offered a job. When their F-1 student visas expire, they must apply for a one-year temporary work permit, and if they do not receive company sponsorship from a job within a year, they must return to their home countries. Although students may receive sponsorship from a company, they must still enter the annual lottery for obtaining the H-1B work permit. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services only grants 85,000 students H-1B visas each year. So, even if both the student and the company are in agreement, the student’s ability to stay remains up to chance.


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