F1 Visa to Green Card – For International Students

Changing Status From F-1 Visa to Green Card

Students having an F-1 visa can change their status from F-1 to Green Card

The F-1 visa is a nonimmigrant student visa designed for international students who want to enroll in various academic programs in the United States. If you have an F-1 visa, you can attend a university, high school, college, private elementary school, seminaries, or any other academic programs such as a language course.

You need to have a valid acceptance letter in order to apply for the F-1 visa. This letter must be obtained from the institution you’re planning to attend. The U.S. embassy in your country will then determine your eligibility based on the documents you provide.

There is a large number of international students enrolled in American educational institutes on an F-1 visa status. The F-1 visa is only valid for the period you’re enrolled in an institute and that you have to return to your home country after completing the academic program.

Many students think whether or not they can change their status from an F-1 to the green card. This article will answer this question and show how you can get a green card while being in the U.S. on an F-1 visa.

F-1 Visa Holders Applying for a Green Card

If you have already attended an F-1 visa interview, you must be aware that the interviewer needs an assurance that you’ll return to your home country after completing the degree. They ask many questions related to your ties to the home country. From property documents to bank statements, you have to present many documents to prove that you will return to your home country.

While you gave an assurance to the U.S. embassy at the time of your interview that you’ll return to your home country after completing your degree in the U.S., it’s not completely impossible to change your status from being an international student to a permanent resident of the U.S. Here is what you can do to achieve this objective:

How International Students on F-1 Visa Can Get Green Card?

While the U.S. government doesn’t explicitly prohibit international students to change their status from being foreign students to immigrants, they certainly make it difficult. Following are four ways an international student with F-1 visa can get a green card:

  1. Self-petition

Majority of the international students come to the U.S. for higher education and most of them are brilliant in their field. They certainly have the attributes that distinguish them from average people. International students with extraordinary abilities can apply and get a green card or EB-1 visa. Groups of students that may qualify for an EB-1 visa include:

  • Researchers and professors with outstanding academic record and achievements
  • Students with exceptional abilities in business, science, arts, athletics, etc.
  • Students who have worked as executive managers at a foreign branch of a U.S. company

In case you qualify to receive an EB-1 visa, you’ll be able to work in the U.S. in your field of specialty. However, the requirements to get an EB-1 visa, or a change of status from F-1 to EB-1, are extensive and only a limited number of people get an EB-1 visa. Following are some of the EB-1 visa requirements and situations in which your chances of getting an EB-1 visa increase:

  • You have won an Olympic medal, an Oscar, or Pulitzer
  • Proof of your achievements at international level or award you received for your excellence
  • Documents showing that you have been a member of an association or community of extraordinary people
  • Your published papers or research in highly recognized journals or the media

How can you apply for an EB-1 visa? As an international student studying in the U.S. on an F-1 visa, you have two options: self-petition, or find a job in your field of specialty. If you secure a job in the U.S., then your employer must sponsor you for the visa by filing the petition. If you have no other way but to self-petition in order to get an EB-1 visa, you’ll be going through an extensive process and there is no guarantee that you will get the visa.

  1. Dual Intent Visa

Adjusting status from an F-1 visa to a dual intent visa is an indirect way of getting a green card through EB-1 visa. A dual intent visa is a nonimmigrant work visa that can help you apply for the green card. The adjustment is usually made after a certain time period has passed. When your degree is completed, you can start working in the U.S. for about a year. Here are a couple of programs that allow you to stay in the U.S. even after completing your academic program:

1. The Curriculum Practical Training (CPT)

As an F-1 student, you can seek employment from the institute you’re attending. There are many jobs you can perform; for example, you can participate in curriculum practical training (CPT) and work as a teacher or research assistant. You can start your CPT after 9 months of your enrollment in the institute. This can lead to opportunities to get sponsorship from the institute.

2. The Optional Practical Training (OPT)

The OPT is a program allows international students in the U.S. to obtain some work experience. You can start the OPT program after receiving your degree.  For this, you need to find a job in the U.S. in your specific field. OPT allows you to work for 12 months before you return to your home country.

If you perform exceptionally well during the OPT, your employer can sponsor you to get an H-1B visa. In this case, the employer will file a petition to USCIS for you. After getting the dual intent visa, you can apply for the green card.

  1. Become a U.S. Investor

If you have resources to invest in the U.S. economy, you might qualify to get Investor Green Card or EB-5 visa which will allow you to stay in the U.S. permanently. To avail this option, you have to make a considerable contribution towards economic development in the U.S. Following are the types of EB-5 visa:

  • C-5 Visa – It is for investors who create  jobs outside of target areas
  • T-5 Visa – It is for investors who create jobs in targeted areas where unemployment is high
  • R-5 Visa – It is given to those who participate in an investor pilot program, not in a targeted area
  • I-5 Visa- It is for investors who take part in an Investor Pilot Program in a targeted area

The only issue with this option is the minimum requirement for the amount of investment required. To qualify for an EB-5 visa, you have to invest between $500K and $1 million. Students usually don’t have this much money. However, if you have resources, you may consider this option.

  1. Marry a U.S. Citizen

Marrying a U.S. citizen might enable you to change your status. There are many cases where F-1 visa holders start a relationship with a U.S. citizen which often leads to marriage. If you’re planning to marry a U.S. citizen, it will make you eligible for the IR-1 visa which is for the spouse of a U.S. citizen. This option seems easier than the above-mentioned ways.

However,  getting an IR-1 visa involves complexities and extensive process. Since many people try to create a fake relationship in order to get the green card, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires solid proof of your relationship.

You can produce many supporting documents to ensure the USCIS that your relationship is not fake. Marriage certificate, pictures, a declaration from ceremony witnesses, or anything that strengthens your relationship should be provided.

If you need assistance to get an F-1 visa extension or renewal, feel free to contact Visa Help.