International students wishing to study in the U.S. have a few options for visas. The two most common student visas are a J-1 and an F-1 student visa.
A J visa is an exchange visitor visa for students participating in approved exchange programs within the U.S. Some nonimmigrants under the J visa are required to return to their home country for two years at the end of their program before they can return to the U.S. unless they are eligible to waive that requirement. A student under the J visa program is allowed to work in on-campus employment during the course of study and in approved off-campus employment related to the academic program for a period of 18 months.
An F1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for students in a full-time course of study who must be proficient in English or enrolled in English language courses and who must have sufficient funds available to support themselves during their entire course of study. They must also have a residence abroad to return to after the expiration of their non-immigrant status. A student in the F visa program may only work on-campus during the first academic year and then may accept certain off-campus employment related to his or her academic program.
While many students studying in the U.S. have been living in the country for many years, often in the same state for most or all of those years, those students are almost never eligible for in-state tuition at a public university. For instance, Colorado law prohibits state-funded schools from offering in-state tuition to those in the country on a J-1 or F-1 visa, stating the students’ residency in Colorado must be for purposes other than their education.
International students are also often excluded from most forms of financial aid. Without a U.S. citizen co-sponsor, international students are usually ineligible to apply for a public or private student loan. As nonimmigrants, they are also often excluded from most scholarships. And while international students are eligible to work, that work is limited to part-time work during the academic term and is unlikely to cover the higher fees they pay for out-of-state tuition. For example, at Colorado State University, in-state undergraduate students can expect to pay $12,000 for tuition, while out-of-state students will pay $30,000. CU Boulder estimates an in-state undergraduate student will pay nearly $28,000 for tuition and housing, and out-of-state student will pay $52,000, and an international student will pay nearly $58,000.
International students are nonimmigrants with no direct path to permanent residency or citizenship. But while those students are living and working in the U.S., they are contributing to the economy and their communities. Many of these same hurdles apply to students protected under DACA, as many states have yet to provide in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.
As we head into graduation season, take note of the accomplishments of international students and the extra hurdles they had to face to get there.