A report published by The Brookings Institution, drew on F-1 visa data from 2001-2012 to find that 45% of students were able to extend their visas through the optional practical training (OPT) programme after graduating and get jobs in the metro regions they had studied in.
Additionally, foreign students contributed US$21.8bn in tuition and US$12.8bn in living costs over five years from 2008-2012.
Currently around 70,000 foreign students in the USA are on the OPT programme, which allows them to work between 12 and 29 months after graduating, and is an extension of the F-1 visa, which itself allows students to seek temporary work while studying.
“The US is the global hub of higher education but foreign students in particular are assets in connecting us with a global economy through their local connections here and their hometowns abroad”
“The US is the global hub of higher education but foreign students in particular are assets in connecting us with a global economy through their local connections here and their hometowns abroad,” Neil Ruiz, associate fellow for the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and author of the report told The PIE News.
The report shows the New York City metro area is the most popular destination for international students and also has 75% of graduates working for a local employer, but Ithaca, home to Cornell University, has the highest concentration of international students approved for F-1 visas relative to the overall student population.
Seattle, Miami and Las Vegas also ranked highly while the metro areas with the fewest students who stayed in the area were Erie, PA; Binghamton, NY and Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX.
Since 2001, the number of foreign students on F-1 visas in US colleges and universities has grown dramatically from 110,000 to 524,000 in 2012. Almost two thirds studied degrees in STEM or business, management and marketing fields.
“It’s important to understand how students from fast-growing foreign nations can help build global connections and shore up our local economies and businesses”
Ruiz underlines that as F-1 students continue to increase, cities should engage with the foreign talent at their doorestep.
“Metropolitan leaders should capitalise on this trend to strengthen their position in the global marketplace by giving local employers access to a larger pool of workers with valuable skills and knowledge already living in their areas,” he said.
The data also showed that students are also increasingly hailing from large, fast-growing cities in emerging markets.
Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Hyderabad and Riyadh were the five foreign cities that sent the most students to the US universities and colleges between 2008 and 2012 and China, India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia are the largest source markets.
“As we kick off a new school year, it’s important to understand how students from fast-growing foreign nations can help build global connections and shore up our local economies and businesses,” commented Ruiz
Among its recommendations the report suggests that metropolitan leaders should help educate local employers on how to obtain the necessary visas through the current US immigration system.
It also calls on the federal government to make changes in the F-1 visa programme to allow foreign students from high-quality schools to apply directly for permanent residency if an employer is hiring them.
The Brookings report forms part of the Global Cities Initiative, a joint five-year project of Brookings and JPMorgan Chase launched in 2012 that aims to help leaders in US metropolitan areas reorientate their economies towards greater engagement in world markets.