If you’re a foreign student attending university in the United States on an F1 visa, you may have aspirations to stay here to work. While you could work in the U.S. by obtaining an H1B work visa, that would only allow you to stay for a maximum of six years. If you wish to to stay for a long period of time, a green card is your best option.
When you obtain a green card, you achieve the same privileges as U.S. citizens—excluding the right to vote or run for political office. There are few limitations as to where your green card allows you to work, and you’ll also be eligible to attend college classes under scholarships and financial aid. With a green card, your stay in the U.S. is indefinite—permitted that you do not violate the terms of your green card, which are outlined later on in this post.
As an F1 student, you have an upper hand because you are already legally living in the United States. Because of this, you may apply for a green card through an F1 to green card change of status. In this post, we’ll go over your best options for pursuing a green card in the United States and how to pursue them.
1. Employer Sponsorship
After you’ve graduated, you can obtain permanent residency in the United States by having a company sponsor you for an EB-2 or EB-3 employment-based green card. In this case, your employer will file an application for a green card on your behalf. After the USCIS approves the necessary forms, you will receive your green card. You will also get a stamp on your passport to signify that you are now a green card holder. For employer sponsorship, there are a variety of requirements that must be met by both you and your employer.
One of the better known methods of obtaining your green card is through marriage to a United States citizen or permanent resident. In fact, if the relationship is seen as legitimate, this may be the simplest method of obtaining permanent residency in the United States. However, if your case is found to be fraudulent, you will not receive a permanent green card.
In order to receive your permanent green card, you will have to prove that your marriage is legitimate. This is done in a variety of ways, including interviews and check-ins with the government. You and your spouse will need to live together and know intimate details about one another.
If the U.S. government finds your relationship to be valid, you will receive a two-year green card. After two years of marriage, you will receive your permanent green card. Should your marriage fail before two years have elapsed, you will have to prove that your marriage ended because of legitimate and unforeseeable marital issues. If your spouse is abusive, you can still receive your green card if you report them—you will be required to provide some sort of proof of the abuse. If complicated issues such as abuse or divorce arise, it is always best to consult with an immigration lawyer.
Another way you can obtain a green card in the U.S. as an F1 student is if there is a civil war going on in your country of citizenship. This means that, if you were to return, your life would be in danger. In this case, you would be able to stay in the United States through asylum. Asylum cases vary by many factors—it is best to consult with an immigration lawyer to make sure your case is best represented.
4. The Green Card Lottery
The Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery, also known as the “Green Card Lottery,” is held once a year and the application period runs from October to November. Because it is a lottery, you are not guaranteed to receive a green card.
There are also some requirements in order to be eligible for the lottery, including a high school degree (not a problem as an F1 student) and the existing number of immigrants from your country of citizenship.
The following countries are ineligible for the Green Card Lottery because they have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States within the last five years:
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
5. Sponsorship by a Relative Owning a Business
While this is a difficult option to pursue, it can be done. First, your business owning relative will have to petition on your behalf for you to become an employee of their company. However, your relative will need to prove that they are hiring you because of your qualifications and not solely because they wish to sponsor you for a green card. They will also need to have a recruitment process for the position you will fill in order to prove that it is a legitimate position and that there are no U.S. workers who are willing and qualified for the role.
The Department of Labor (DOL) considers a familial relationship to be “any relationship established by blood, marriage, or adoption, even if distant.” Grandparents, in-laws, cousins, aunts and uncles, as well relatives through a valid same-sex marriages are also included. If you fit any of these categories, you must disclose it to the DOL or your PERM application will be revoked.
6. Military Service
Another way to receive your green card is to join the U.S. military after you complete your degree. This includes the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and the National Guard. Ordinarily, you cannot serve in the U.S. military if you do not already have a green card or work authorization. However, if you are a foreign student who has attended a U.S. university for two years, you maybe be qualified to fill certain high-demand fields within the military even without a green card.
If you have completed your degree and elect for a year of Optional Practical Training (OPT), you may elect to work for the military. Speak with a military recruiter about your options. However, you will not automatically receive a green card after joining the military. To make sure you obtain your green card, contact an immigration lawyer.
7. Parent or Child Sponsorship
Often, if you have a family member who is a U.S. citizen or LPR, they may be able to petition for your lawful status. For example, a parent or child who is at least 18 years of age and an American citizen could sponsor you for your green card. However, the amount of people qualifying for this option is rather low since it is uncommon for a foreign immigrant to have a parent or child that is a U.S. citizen.
Rights and Responsibilities
Once you complete your F1 to green card change of status, there are certain rights and responsibilities you should be aware of. As a green card holder, you have the right to:
- Live as a permanent resident in the United States
- Be a legal employee for any business of your choosing. Restrictions do apply to some government jobs such as homeland security or any elected office position.
- Be protected under all federal, state, and local laws
- Obtain a driver’s license
- Purchase a fire arm
- Travel the United States
- Request a visa for your spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21
- Receive Medicare and Social Security benefits
There are also conditions you must follow in order to keep your green card. As a green card holder, you agree to:
- Obey all federal, state, and local laws
- Register with the Selective Service (if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 25)
- File your income tax returns and report all income to your state taxing authorities as well as the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
- Support the United States’ democratic form of government and not attempt to alter it in any illegal manner.
- Carry validation of your status as a permanent resident
- Inform the Department of Homeland security of a change of address within 10 days of your move date
- Have health insurance
Bonus Tip: E-2 Visa to Green Card
If none of the options above seem right for you, you could could also get an E-2 visa by starting a business or investing a significant amount of money ($50,000 USD or more) into an existing business. From there, you’ll be able to apply for change of status and obtain permanent residency. In order to qualify for the E-2 visa, you’ll need to be involved in a company that operates 50 percent of its business within the United States. If it’s a new business, it will need to create jobs for U.S. citizens. Like the other options, applying for permanent residency from E-2 may require some specialized knowledge. For more information on F1 to E-2 to green card, contact the experts at Katz Law Office, Ltd.
Choosing the Right F1 to Green Card Option for You
Once you have considered all of these options and identified which one you think will work best for you, it is a good idea to consult with a competent immigration lawyer. The process of going from F1 to green card is a difficult one, and it is often fraught with unforeseen complications. A skilled lawyer will be able to help you overcome these challenges and simplify the process of your change of status. For more information on obtaining a green card, contact the experienced lawyers at Katz Law Office, Ltd. today for a free consultation.
None of the advice contained in these materials serves as a substitute for individualized legal representation by a licensed attorney with experience in the practice area.