A multiyear decline in foreign-student enrollment in American colleges and universities appears to be ending.

Key Points:

  • According to the U.S. State Department, 411,131 F-1 visas for foreign students were issued in Fiscal Year 2022, compared with 364,204 in 2019, the most recent non-pandemic year. The FY 2022 total was also the highest number since FY 2016, when 471,728 F-1 visas were issued.
  • The government expects the numbers this year to continue increasing.
  • Most of the increase in 2022 — 70% — was driven by visas issued to Asian students. Of these 274,880 visas, 115,115 went to Indian students.
  • The increase is occurring despite rising rejection rates of F-1 applicants. In all, the U.S. State Department rejected 35% of all F-1 applicants in 2022, a sharp increase from previous years.
  • In May, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement terminated COVID-era guidance that allowed F and M students to count more online classes than normal toward a full course of study. The long-term impact of this change on enrollment trends is not known at this point.

Background: The United States recorded its high-water mark of 644,253 F-1 visa issuances for foreign students in 2015, then saw the numbers decline steadily for the next four years, reaching 364,204 in 2019. In 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caused issuances to plummet to 111,387. In 2021, the 357,839 F-1 issuances nearly reached pre-pandemic levels, and they’ve been increasing ever since.

BAL Analysis: There is intense global competition to attract young minds who will shape future talent pools. The increasing numbers are good news for American employers because they represent a talent pipeline of educated, diverse, skilled workers already acclimated to American life and equipped to join the U.S. workforce, especially in STEM fields.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice Group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

Copyright © 2023 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries, please contact copyright@bal.com.