Trends Among International Students in the U.S.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) recently released a quarterly report on the statistical data in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The report provides interesting and useful insight on the demographics of international students in the United States, and a comparison between 2013 and 2014 trends, including the level of education, and geographic location of schools most attended by international students.

SEVP and SEVIS Defined

SEVP is a program within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that oversees SEVIS. Created in 2003, SEVIS is an online program that tracks the status and activities of F-1 and M-1 international students, as well as J-1 exchange visitors.

Slight Decline in Students / Dependent Family Members Since 2013

The overall number of SEVIS records has grown since inception, but there has been a 2.4 percent decline from October 2013 to January 2014, resulting in a total of 1,315,528 nonimmigrant students, exchange visitors, and their dependents in the United States. Since October 2013, there has been a 2.6 percent drop in the number of F-1 and M-1 students coming to the U.S. to study, a 1.5 percent decrease in the number of dependent family members of students, and a 2.6 percent decline in the number J-1 exchange visitors. During that same period, the number of J-2 dependents actually increased by 1.7 percent.

Asia Sending Most Foreign Nationals, With China in Lead

As of January 2014, of the approximate one million F and M students in the United States, roughly 3/4 originated from Asia. China was the biggest contributor, making up nearly 29 percent of the total number of such students; India accounted for the second-largest number of F and M students, at about 100,000. Other countries represented by significant numbers of these nonimmigrant students were Saudi Arabia (around 65,500), Japan (over 26,000), Taiwan (approximately 23,700), and Vietnam (around 20,000). Australia and the Pacific Islands accounted for fewer than 6,000 F and M students, while South America and Africa accounted for around 45,000 per continent. North American and European countries sent close to 69,000 and 89,000 of these students, respectively.

Majority of Students are Male

SEVP provided a distribution of gender-based statistics, with 56 percent of all F and M students being males. This gender-gap is especially noticeable among foreign students from Western Asia, with 77 percent of them being men. The highest proportion of females comes from Eastern Europe, with women accounting for 60 percent of all their F and M students.

California, New York Leading Destinations for Students

California is the most popular destination for F and M students, with approximately 163,000 students as of January 2014. This is followed by New York, which is home to over 115,500 of these students. Other well-represented states are Texas, with more than 69,000 F and M students, and Massachusetts, with nearly 59,000 of these foreign students. Florida, Illinois, and Pennsylvania also attract a good number of such students, with about 45,000 each.

Favorite Schools: USC, Purdue, University of IL, NYU, & Columbia

Among individual schools certified by SEVP for the administration of F-1 program, the most popular school is the University of Southern California, with almost 10,500 of these students. Purdue University, the University of Illinois, New York University, and Columbia University in the City of New York each have more than 9,000 F-1 students.

Management, Marketing, and Engineering Popular

International students most often seek degrees in business, management, marketing, and engineering. The top ten majors also include computer and information sciences, general liberal arts, visual and performing arts, social sciences, health professions, biological and biomedical sciences, physical sciences, and mathematics and statistics. The least popular programs of study are primary education, flight training, and other vocational studies.


The quarterly report published by SEVP on the statistics of SEVIS records is a useful tool in predicting the development of the U.S. economy, international relations, politics, and trends and developments in demographics of international students in the United States. This data can also help in projecting the demand for visas, as some of the students choose to continue working and living in the United States after graduating. A trend in student demographics suggests that individuals from China may account for one of the largest inflow of future professional workers, as the number of students from China is far ahead of the numbers of students coming from other high rate countries, including India.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.