Most foreign students in the U.S have an F-1 visa status. The visa is valid only for the period while they are in school, and afterwards the students can no longer stay in the U.S. During the application period, the student must state that they intend to return and will not stay in the U.S. They must prove that they will go back to their home country after they complete their degree.
But many students after spending time in the U.S wonder whether they can go from an F-1 visa to Green Card. This article will show the ways to get a Green Card for international students.
Can F-1 Students Apply for a Green Card?
During the F-1 visa interview, the U.S Embassy officials focus a lot on the requirement to go home. They continuously ask whether the student intends to return to their home country or not. They want to see proof that you will not try to stay illegally or in any other way. You will have to submit bank statements, leases, or property deeds to prove your intentions to return.
But even though this rule exists, the U.S has not made it completely impossible to stay after you get your degree. The reason is because the U.S wants to have educated people in the country. Since most F-1 visa holders are getting a higher education degree in the U.S, they have a few loopholes for staying.
So despite what you will have to prove during your visa interview, there are ways to go from a student visa to a Green Card.
How to Get a Green Card in USA for Students?
While the U.S does not explicitly prohibit international students from trying to get a Green Card, they made the process quite difficult. There are four ways through which an F-1 visa international student can get a Green Card.
1. Self-petition as a Person with Extraordinary Abilities
Since many of the students who have F-1 visas are attending higher education, they are quite knowledgeable. They have abilities that the average person or applicant for a Green Card might not have. For these people who have achieved a lot, the U.S has made a specific visa. This is the Persons with Extraordinary Abilities Green Card or EB-1 visa.
The EB-1 visa is for these groups of people:
- outstanding professors and researchers,
- people with extraordinary abilities in arts, science, business, athletics, or education, and
- executive managers who have worked at a foreign branch of a U.S company for the past 3 years
With an EB-1 visa, a person can then work in the U.S in their field of specialty permanently. Getting the EB-1 visa though is quite difficult since the requirements are extensive. Very few people can meet them and that is why going from an F-1 visa to an EB-1 visa is also difficult.
Some of the requirements of the EB-1 visa include proving you have achieved any of the following:
- Having won an Oscar, Pulitzer, or an Olympic Medal prize
- Evidence that you have received a national or international price/award for your achievements and excellence
- Evidence that you are a member of an association for your field which continuously asks for advancements from their members
- Evidence that you have published papers or research in your field which has been recognized in journals or the media
- Evidence that you had to evaluate the work of other people either as an individual or in a panel, etc.
There are many other requirements which you can find in the EB-1 visa article.
To apply for the EB-1 visa, the F-1 international student has two choices:
- find a job in their field of specialty
If you find a job, then the employer must sponsor you by paying for the petition. Also they must make sure they follow labor and visa laws.
If you self-petition, you must go through the whole procedure yourself. This includes doing the application and paying the high fees. Even after you do this, there is no guarantee you will get an approval.
2. Adjust status to a dual intent visa
Because a very small number of people can get a Green Card directly through the EB-1 visa, there are other ways. An indirect way is to adjust status from an F-1 visa to a dual intent visa.
A dual intent visa is a nonimmigrant work visa which allows you to apply for a Green Card. The adjustment can happen after a certain period of time has passed. Dual intent visas are some of the H nonimmigrant visas such as the H-1B visa.
After they complete their degree, the F-1 students can continue working in the U.S for about 12 months. They can work through two different programs.
The Curriculum Practical Training (CPT)
The F-1 student can get employment from the educational institution that they attend. They can complete practical training like working as a Teaching or Research Assistant. Students can start their CPT after 9 months that they enroll in the educational institution. The CPT can continue for 12 months. This could convince the institution to sponsor the student. The student can stay as Associate Professor if he or she fulfills the criteria.
The Optional Practical Training (OPT)
The OPT is a program that allows international students to get some work experience in the U.S. It can only start after the student gets their degree. The student finds a job from a U.S employer in their specific field of expertise and can work for 12 months. After 12 months, the student must return to their home country.
But if you are successful during your OPT, you can get a chance at a dual intent visa. The employer can sponsor you to get an H-1B visa. The employer must petition for you to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and get approval. For the nonimmigrant visas, the F-1 student cannot self-petition. Only the employer can start the process.
After getting the dual intent visa, the international student can try to apply for the Green Card. This is a more indirect path which takes longer, but most international students choose this one since it is a bit easier than getting the EB-1 visa.
3. Become an investor in the U.S
Another route to get a Green Card is by investing in the U.S economy. This only applies if you are wealthy enough to afford it. When you invest $500K to $1M in a U.S commercial enterprise and create more than 10 permanent jobs, you can get the EB-5 visa.
The EB-5 visa is a Green Card for wealthy investors. You need to fulfill specific criteria to get it and there are four types of the EB-5 visa:
- C-5 visa for investors who create jobs outside of target areas
- T-5 visa for investors who create jobs in targeted rural or high unemployment areas
- R-5 visa for investors who take part in an Investor Pilot Program not in a target area
- I-5 visa for investors who take part in an Investor Pilot Program in a targeted area
While the EB-1 visa is difficult to get because of its extensive requirements, the EB-5 is difficult because of the financial prerequisites. But if you can afford it, it is one of the better ways to go from an F-1 visa to a Green Card.
4. Marry a U.S citizen
Finally, one way to get a Green Card if you are an international student is to marry a U.S citizen. This path to a Green Card will adjust your status to an IR-1 visa or a spouse visa. The spouse visa is only for foreign spouses of U.S citizens.
If you are thinking that this is an easy way to get a Green Card, think twice. USCIS does extensive background checks to ensure that the relationship is valid. They want to make sure that the relationship is not only for the Green Card.
Because of that, when a foreign person and a U.S citizen marry, USCIS gives the foreign spouse a conditional status. They get a CR-1 visa which is valid for 2 years. If during those two years, the couple gets a divorce, the foreign spouse loses their status. The foreign spouse must then return to their home country.
If the couple stays married for those two years, then the foreign spouse can adjust their status. They can go from the conditional status into a permanent one and get the Green Card. So if you are an international student who in a real relationship with a U.S citizen, then you can follow this path to get a Green Card.
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