The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), released a report Wednesday detailing the nonimmigrant student population. The report highlights calendar year 2018 data from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a Web-based system that includes information about nonimmigrant students, exchange visitors and their dependents while they are in the United States.

The report notes there were 1.55 million active records for F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant students in SEVIS during calendar year 2018, a 1.7 percent decrease from calendar year 2017, and there were 8,936 U.S. schools certified by SEVP to enroll nonimmigrant students. Sixty-five percent of schools that enrolled at least one student in 2018 hosted between one and 50 nonimmigrant students during the calendar year; only four SEVP-certified schools – Columbia University (18,573), New York University (18,481), the University of Southern California (18,345) and Northeastern University (18,123) – enrolled more than 15,000 nonimmigrant students in 2018.

Eighty-five percent of nonimmigrant students pursued higher education degree programs in 2018, equating to about 1.3 million SEVIS records, which is on par with the number of students pursuing higher education degrees in 2017. Around 85,000 nonimmigrant students were enrolled in K-12 programs of study, and about 92 percent of those students were enrolled in secondary school programs (grades 9-12). China sent more K-12 students than any other country, comprising about half of the K-12 nonimmigrant student population in 2018.

Asia remained the top continent of origin for nonimmigrant students with 1.17 million student records in SEVIS in 2018, a 1.9 percent decrease in the nonimmigrant student population from Asia from 2017. In calendar year 2018, only the continents of South America and Australia/Pacific Islands saw growth in the nonimmigrant student population, increasing by 2,703 and 102 student records, respectively.

China (478,732), India (251,290) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) (88,867) sent the largest number of nonimmigrant students in both calendar year 2017 and 2018. Of these countries, only the number of students from India increased from 2017 to 2018 (+4,157). The number of students from China (-147) and Republic of Korea (South Korea) (-6,403) decreased over the same period.

In 2018, 145,564 nonimmigrant students received an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and were employed in pre- and post-completion optional practical training (OPT). This marks a five percent decrease from 2017. Nearly 70,000 nonimmigrant students received an EAD and were employed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) OPT in 2018, compared to 64,481 in calendar year 2017, more than an 8 percent increase. There were 151,525 nonimmigrant students that received an EAD and were employed in curricular practical training (CPT) in 2018, compared to 132,380 in 2017, more than a 14 percent increase.

In 2018, California hosted 302,073 nonimmigrant students, the largest percentage of nonimmigrant students (19.5%) of any U.S. state. New York, Texas and Massachusetts each hosted more than 100,000 nonimmigrant students and rounded out the top states for enrollment in 2018.

HSI reviews SEVIS records for potential violations and refers cases with possible national security or public safety concerns to its field offices for further investigation. Additionally, SEVP’s Analysis and Operations Center analyzes student and school records for administrative compliance with federal regulations related to studying in the United States.

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Updated: Thu, Feb 13th 2020 @ 12:05pm EST