With the spring semester coming to an end, many students are gearing up for their college graduations. Many of them are figuring out where they’ll live and work now – including international students.
International students use F-1 visas, which expire 60 days after they graduate. But many of them wish to remain living and working in the United States. Luckily, there are several options for these students.
Optional practical training
Optional practical training is a program that allows you to remain in the U.S. for one year after graduation if you get a job in your academic field. If you studied science, math, engineering or technology, you can stay for two years.
This program is available for anyone who studied in the U.S. for one full academic year. It’s a helpful way to build experience and gain connections in your field. Also, if you’re a valuable asset to your employer, they may choose to petition for H1-B status for you – which could enable you to stay in the country even longer.
Non-immigrant work visa
The H-1B visa is available for anyone if a U.S. employer wants to sponsor them. Typically, this visa is geared toward people who want to work in high skilled occupations, such as engineering and information technology. It allows you to work in the U.S. for six years.
During your fifth year at the same company, your employer can file for employment-based permanent residency on your behalf. This would extend your visa. However, if you switch jobs within the six-year period, your new employer would need to file an H-1B petition for you.
A green card is the favored option for most immigrants because it grants permanent residency. However, green cards are in high demand right now. It may be difficult to get one – but since you’re already living legally in the U.S., you may have an upper hand.
If you worked while you were a student, your U.S. employer may sponsor your green card petition. A few other options for getting a green card are through military service, family members, asylum status and the official green card lottery.
If you want to remain in the U.S. following your graduation this spring, you’re not alone. Many international students extend their stays each year. By exploring these options, you may find one that works well for you.