On December 20, 2023, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued policy guidance regarding F and M nonimmigrant students, including the agency’s role in adjudicating applications for employment authorization, change of status, extension of stay, and reinstatement of status for these students and their dependents in the United States. USCIS said it “expects that this will provide welcome clarity to international students and U.S. educational institutions on a wealth of topics, including eligibility requirements, school transfers, practical training, and on- and off-campus employment.”

For example, USCIS said, the guidance clarifies that F and M students must have a foreign residence that they do not intend to abandon, but such a student may be the beneficiary of a permanent labor certification application or immigrant visa petition and may still be able to demonstrate an intent to depart after a temporary period of stay.

In addition, the guidance specifies how an F student seeking an extension of optional practical training based on a degree in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field may be employed by a startup company, as long as the employer adheres to the training plan requirements, remains in good standing with E-Verify, and provides compensation commensurate to that provided to similarly situated U.S. workers, among other requirements.

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