U.S. Trends for International Students and Exchange Visitors

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) periodically releases updated information reflecting the number, type, and location of F-1 and M-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors. One key highlights in the August 2015 report is a small, but notable decrease in the number of F-1 and M-1 students in the United States, but an increase in J-1 exchange visitors. It remains to be seen whether this trend will continue.

7% Decrease in F-1/M-1 Students Over Past Six Months

The most recent ICE data reflects that, as of August 2015, there are just over one million foreign students in F-1 and M-1 status attending schools in the United States. This is a decrease of almost seven percent (7%) from February 2015. No explanation was provided for what may have prompted this decline.

Meanwhile, the overall number of J-1 exchange visitors has surged to just under 250,000. This is an increase of more than twenty percent (20%) since February. This may be partially due to some of the seasonal J-1 programs, which include programs for summer work / travel and camp counselors.

Types of Study: STEM Focus

Nearly 75 percent of foreign students in the United States are enrolled in bachelors, masters, or doctoral programs. The M-1 program allows for vocational and non-academic programs. Overall, just under 40 percent of foreign students are enrolled in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Those in STEM disciplines are primarily in programs of engineering, computer and information sciences, or biological and biomedical sciences.

Thousands of Certified Schools, but Few Have Sizable Number of F-1/M-1 Students

There are over 8,800 schools in the United States that are certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to admit F-1 and/or M-1 students. More than three-quarters of these schools, however, have 50 or fewer such students apiece currently enrolled. And, 2,010 of the SEVP certified schools do not have a single F-1 or M-1 student enrolled. There are 240 certified schools, on the other hand, that each have more than 1,000 of these students.

Large Percentage of Students from China and India

In the report, ICE includes statistics related to the countries of origin of F-1 and M-1 students enrolled in schools in several large states, including California, New York, and Texas. In California and New York, the most common country of origin of foreign national students is China, with India a distant second. In Texas, on the other hand, Indian nationals make up a slightly larger portion of the student body than students from China.


The United States continues to offer robust foreign student and exchange visitor programs. These programs are beneficial to the participants, as well as to this nation’s academic institutions and economy.


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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.