US visas issued for international students exceed pre-pandemic figures

US visas issued for international students exceed pre-pandemic figures

Highest record of visas issued since 2019

The United States has consistently been a top study choice for students from all over the world. Based on a recent report by Boundless, there are more than a million enrolled international students, making up nearly 6% of the total student body in the country. This is no surprise, especially with its recognised reputation as a provider of excellent education, prestigious institutions, opportunities for research, professional advancement and sociocultural engagement. International students continue to choose the US as their study destination time and time again.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, international education was of course gravely affected. Numbers in the US dropped, but have since been on an upward slope since borders reopened. 2022 brought the largest number of enrolments since 2019. According to Boundless, “In 2022, there were 1,362,157 active F-1* and M-1* students living in the [US], an increase of 10% from the previous year, and a clear sign that international student enrollment is bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels.”


The US government’s fiscal year (FY) runs from 1 October to 30 September, and according to the ICEF Monitor, the State Department is reporting that for year-to-date FY2023, “more than 393,000 F-1 visas have been issued. In other words, for the first ten months of the current fiscal year, the US has nearly exceeded the total F-1 volume from the previous year.”


New demographics of international students in the US

While numbers are on their way to return to pre-pandemic levels, the data and statistics accompanying these have definitely changed. Looking at the Boundless report “International Students Studying in the United States: Trends and Impacts”, we can get a better look and assess the new demographics of international students in the US.


International students took part in a variety of degrees and programs across the US, with all its four regions experiencing an increase in international student enrolment in 2022. Interestingly, nearly half of all international students study in just these five states: California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts and Florida, but overall, California hosts more international students than any other state, holding a whopping 16.5% of the international student population in the country.


In 2022, international students in the US came from more than 227 countries and represented every continent in the world except Antarctica. More than 70% of international students come from Asia, with a considerable number of students coming from China and India, each with an active student count of 324,196 and 297,151, respectively.


The report says that “[m]ost international students come to the United States to enroll in higher education — specifically, SEVP-certified associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral programs.” In terms of areas of study, many pursue degrees in STEM fields, as well as business and management. The top 10 fields of study for international students for the academic year 2021-2022 are as follows:

  1. Computer Science
  2. Second Language Learning
  3. Business Administration and Management
  4. Computer and Information Sciences
  5. Electrical and Electronics Engineering
  6. Mechanical Engineering
  7. Management Science
  8. General Studies
  9. Econometrics and Quantitative Economics
  10. Liberal Arts and Sciences/Liberal Studies


Shifts in sending markets

Along with the change in demographics, we also see changes in sending markets. According to The PIE News, in 2022, the US “issued over 30,000 student visas to applicants from African countries, which it also said was more than in any of the previous six years” and that “US embassies and consulates in Nigeria and Ghana issued more student visas last year than in any year in the past two decades[.]” Similarly, the US embassy and consulates in India “broke the all-time record for most student and exchange visitor visas issued in a year, issuing more than 125,000 visas[.]”


The value of international students to the US

It’s no surprise that numbers for international students in the US have already gone up just a couple of years post-lockdown, as students around the globe continue to see the value of gaining an American education. Reciprocally, the international student population is also of high value to the US. By analysing various data on the contributions of the sector to the US, it’s easy to understand their force and influence on the economic and cultural fabric of the country. According to Boundless, “international students stimulate more than just the economy; they also enhance the intellectual and cultural environment for American students. The relationships and experiences shared by domestic and foreign students have long-lasting impacts on personal, socioeconomic, and even political growth.” and also, “Researchers at Duke University surveyed alumni from several universities roughly 5, 10, and 20 years after graduation. The study found that U.S. students who actively interacted with international students reported better self-confidence, leadership, quantitative skills, and overall intellectual growth. Later in life, participants were more likely to appreciate art and literature, be able to place current problems in historical context, read or speak a foreign language, reexamine their political and religious beliefs, and reassess their beliefs about other races or ethnicities.”

With a flourishing and positive mutual relationship between the US and international students, we can be sure that this sector will only continue to grow, both in number and in outcome. Visit our platform and get in touch with our Business Development Managers today to explore study and career opportunities for your students in the US

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