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International Students Returning to US

Latest figures show 10% increase in student visitors, more than 50,000 enrolled in K–12, and a massive increase in second language majors

Last month, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) released the latest version of the SEVIS by the Numbers report, which provides us with the latest official statistics on international students in the U.S.

The report uses Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) data from calendar year 2021 and calendar year 2022. The total number of SEVIS records for active F-1 and M-1 students was 1,362,157 in calendar year 2022—up 10.1% from calendar year 2021 and the most since 2019. Other highlights and notable trends from the report include the following:

  • All four regions in the U.S. saw an increase in international student records from 2021 to 2022 with respective increases ranging from 8-11%. California continued to host more international students than any other state.
  • The number of students from China and India made Asia the most popular continent of origin. Comparable to the drop from calendar year 2020 to 2021, China sent fewer students in 2022 compared to 2021, while India sent more students.
  • The number of international students enrolled at kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) schools increased 7.8% from 2021 to 2022 (+3,887).
  • There were 117,301 pre- and post-completion optional practical training (OPT) students with both an employment authorization document (EAD) and who reported working for an employer in calendar year 2022, compared to 115,651 in calendar year 2021—a 1.4% increase.
  • There were 276,723 active exchange visitors in the United States in 2022 compared to 240,479 active exchange visitors in 2021— up 15%.

International Students at K-12 Schools
There were 53,517 international student records for K-12 education during calendar year 2022. China sent 25.3% of all K-12 students in 2022, followed by South Korea (8.2%), Mexico (7.6%), Spain (6%), and Vietnam (5.5%). Over 20% of all k-12 students came from Spanish-speaking countries including Mexico and Spain.

Between the calendar year 2021 and calendar year 2022 reporting period, the total number of F-1 and M-1 international student records increased by 125,409 (+10.1%).

Higher Education
Most F-1 and M-1 students come to the U.S. to take part in the higher education system. In 2022, roughly 90% of all F-1 and M-1 students were enrolled in an SEVP-certified associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral program. Specifically, international students in the U.S. pursued 1,226,231 degrees in higher education, which is an increase from calendar year 2021 (+83,879). It is important to note that one student might partake in more than one level of education in a given calendar year, so they may be counted in multiple educational levels.

Associate Degrees
There were 71,445 F-1 students who sought an associate degree in calendar year 2022, which accounted for nearly 6% of higher education degrees pursued by the international student population. The number of students enrolled in associate degree programs increased by nearly 3% between calendar year 2021 and 2022.

Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees
There were 957,603 F-1 students who sought either a bachelor’s (450,408) or master’s (507,195) degree in calendar year 2022, which accounted for 78% of higher education degrees sought by the international student population. The percentage of students pursuing bachelor’s degrees increased by 1.6% (6,968) and the percentage of students pursuing master’s degrees increased by 15.7% (68,805) between calendar year 2021 and 2022.

Doctoral Degrees
There were 197,183 F-1 students who sought a doctoral degree in calendar year 2022, which accounted for 16.1% of higher education degrees sought by international students, up from 15.4% in 2021. The number of students enrolled in doctoral programs increased 3.2% (6,156) between calendar year 2021 and calendar year 2022.

Primary Majors
International students can pursue more than one major during their program of study in the U.S. This section focuses on students’ primary majors, which are the foremost majors listed on their SEVIS record and correspond to most of their coursework in the U.S.

The top 5 most popular higher education majors for international students in calendar year 2022 were (student count):

  • Computer Science (91,083)
  • Second Language Learning (89,266)
  • Business Administration and Management, General (81, 797)
  • Computer and Information Sciences, General (63,955)
  • Electrical and Electronics Engineering (37,809)

**“Second Language Learning” indicates a major in a language other than English, such as (but not limited to) Spanish language and/or literature, Japanese language and/or literature, etc.
The percentage of students majoring in languages is significantly higher than historical averages and represents a major success for language departments. For more information on how international student trends have changed over time, explore the SEVIS Data Mapping Tool on Study in the States.

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