There are a lot of reasons why international students would want to stay back in the US after schooling. However, most students end up not doing so, because they don’t how to change a student Visa to a Green card.
It is for this reason and more that we’re writing this article. We will help you understand the intricacies and various steps you must take towards achieving this fit.
This article will carefully explain these steps and how to go about it.
Meanwhile, below is a table of content that summarizes this article in bullet points.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, about 1.1 million international students were enrolled in U.S. institutions in the school year (SY) 2022.
This marked a decrease of almost 20,000 international students from the year before – following a decade of consistent growth.
Among the key factors for this decline were the rising cost of U.S. higher education, high numbers of student visa delays, and denials.
Additionally, the difficult political environment for immigrants under the Trump administration, and expanded opportunities to study in other countries contributed to this decline.
How To Change Your Student Visa To Green Card: Introduction
I’ve come in contact with lots of international students – some I met while I was still in college and others afterward. One thing was easily noticeable in them all, they were all enjoying their time in the States regardless of the cultural differences.
Also, quite a number of them are really interested in settling down here after schooling.
And quite frankly, the reason for this isn’t far-fetched. For some, it was the endless possibilities and opportunities in the States. Meanwhile, for others, they’d like to give their kids the same opportunity they had, and there’s no better way to do that than to stay back.
Nonetheless, some are totally clueless as to how to change students’ visas to Green cards. Nor do they know the requirements needed to change students’ visas to Green cards.
This and more will be discussed in this article, but before that;
What Is A Students Visa?
This is simply a visa that must be obtained by international students to be able to study in the US.
A student visa (F or M) is required to study in the United States. Foreign nationals may not study after entering on a visitor (B) visa. They are also not allowed to study if they came through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
However, they will be allowed to undertake recreational study (non-credit) as part of a tourist visit.
The F 1 and M 1 visa is the most popular of these visas as it comes with certain benefits. Some of the benefits include permitting an international student to work in his or her first year.
Nonetheless, you can only work in the campus for the first year and in specified programs.
Categories Of International Students Visa
U.S. immigration law has four categories of visas for foreign students and exchange visitors:
- F-1 visa for full-time students at an academic institution such as a college, university, or high school, or who are enrolled in a language training program.
- M-1 visa for full-time students at a vocational or other nonacademic institution.
- F-3 or M-3 visa for nationals of Canada and Mexico who commute to the United States for full- or part-time study at an academic (F-3) or vocational (M-3) institution.
- J-1 visa for participants in an educational or cultural exchange program. This visa category includes college and university students as well as physicians, summer work-travel visitors, visiting professors, research and short-term scholars, teachers, and au pairs.
Students holding an F-1 visa are authorized for up to 12 months of OPT upon graduation and become eligible for another year of OPT when seeking a further post-secondary degree at a higher level.
Students with a degree in (STEM) are eligible for an OPT extension of up to 24 additional months.
Immediately after the OPT period ends, graduates must find an employer willing to sponsor them for a work visa (such as an H-1B visa) in order to continue working in the United States.
Spouses and children of foreign students and exchange visitors can enter the country by obtaining an F-2, M-2, or J-2 visa. Nevertheless, this depends on the visa category of the student or visitor they are accompanying. However, only J-2 holders are eligible to study or work in the United States.
After they complete their academic or research programs, international students and exchange visitors may remain in the United States.
This can only be if they are eligible for the family- and employer-sponsored green cards, the K-1 visa for a fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens, and some nonimmigrant visas.
How To Change Your Student Visa To Green Card
As an international student living and studying in the US, it’s possible you’re interested in settling down there. While this involves a tedious series of events, it’s doable.
There are numerous ways of achieving this, it can be a tad to decipher your best option.
Find out the option that best suits you.
#1. Receive Employer Sponsorship
If you gain employment while studying, you can have your employer sponsor you. This can also come into play if you get employed after school but must be within the 60-day grace period.
This involves asking your employer to make an application for you for an EB-2 or EB-3 employment-based green card.
#2. Marry a US Citizen
Some people consider this the easiest way of getting a green card. However, you must prove that your relationship is easy, and not a means of securing residency.
The process is quite rigorous and can involve interviews, background checks, and examination of documents you provide to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
So if you think you’ve got what it takes, and that you have a legitimate relationship, make it official, marry a US citizen!
#3. Seek Asylum
This is another way of getting a Green card as an international student. This option is however only open to a certain set of international students. Students whose country is in a civil war, those who might be persecuted if they get back home because they belong to a particular ethnic group.
If you fall into any of the categories above, you can petition for asylum. You’re advised to consult an immigration lawyer as to the best way to present your case.
#4. Win The Green Card Lottery
This lottery is held every year from October to November. The Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery is sometimes called the “green card lottery” and is a legitimate way of getting a green card. However, there’s no guarantee that you will get a green card through this means.
#5. Receive Sponsorship By A Relative Who Owns A Business
You can get a green card from a relative who owns a business. They can sponsor you for a green card, however, they will have to prove that they hiring due to your qualifications, rather than because you’re related.
They must have a recruitment process for the position you would fill and show that they have made a good-faith effort to hire a US candidate, but that none were available or willing to do the job.
#.6 Participate In Military Service
Usually, people are not allowed to join the military if they don’t have a green card. Nonetheless, if you have been to the university for at least two years, you might be eligible for certain high-demand positions in the military.
And if that’s your case, you won’t be needing a green card. Speak to a recruiter on your campus about this possibility.
#7. Receive Parent or Child Sponsorship
If you’re a parent or child under 18 who is already a legal US citizen, he or she can sponsor you for your green card.
This is possible if your parent has been lining in the US before you went there for studies. Or if you had a kid during the cause of your study.
While this scenario isn’t very easy for most international students, it remains a legitimate way of getting a green card.
#8. Self Petition
You’re already attending university and should be more knowledgeable than other Green card applicants. It won’t be wrong to assume that you’d have abilities average persons or applicants 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 visa is for these groups of people:
So if you think you fall under this category, petition for a Green card under this category.
#10. Become an Investor
Investing in the U.S economy is another way of getting a Green card. However, you must have a lot of money for this to be possible. This is because you’ll need to invest nothing less than $500k to $1M in a commercial enterprise and create more than 10 permanent jobs.
Able t do this, you will be given the EB-5 Visa. However, there are other criteria you must meet.
Rights You Will Have As A Green Card Holder
Now you have gone through all the required steps and have obtained a green card; what right do you enjoy?
#1. Right to Permanent Residency
With a green card, you can now reside in the US permanently. This right can be revoked, however, if you break the law or commit certain other actions that make you removable under immigration law.
So be of good behavior and stay away from trouble.
#2. Right To Work
With a green card, you can work anywhere of your choice in the country. There are restrictions however to very sensitive positions like the homeland security and certain elected positions.
#3. Right To Protection Under Law
This means that the constitution of the United States of America now protects you and all your rights therein.
This includes state and local laws of your jurisdiction.
What this also means is that you can be prosecuted under these laws.
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#4. Right To A Drivers License
As you’ve earned a green card, you have also earned the right to own and drive a car, and this can’t be done without a license – driving that is.
This does not mean you can’t own and drive without a green card. Rather you now have an SSN and can apply for a driver’s license with it.
#5. You Can Now Bear Arms
You now have the right to bear arms. However, the laws of your state of residence dictate how to carry and use it.
#6. Right To Travel
You’re allowed to travel across the state border or completely move to another state if the need ever arises.
#7. Right To Request Visas For Immediate Family
Do you have a wife, a husband, or an unmarried child under 21? You have the right to request a visa for them.
#8. Right To Social Security Benefits
You have the right to the Social Security benefits you’ve accrued through working. You also have a right to other benefit programs, such as Medicare.
Responsibilities You Owe The States As A Green Card Holder
With great powers and or opportunities come great responsibilities. And in the case of a Green card, you have obligations you must fulfill to maintain your status. They are as follows:
There’s no doubt that there might be other means of getting a Green card as an international student, however, we complied the easiest of them all. While the above procedures will help you secure a Green card, it comes with certain obligations and requirements you must meet.
Furthermore, when you finally obtain a green, you must maintain certain obligations to the states as highlighted above.