I love the U.S. This country offers great opportunities in all spheres of life. When you’re a student, however, this fantastic experience often comes to an end. That’s what awaits me. I’m a 26-year-old student from China studying in the USA, but I love the country so much and want to stay here for a bit longer. I’ve started to research the ways I can prolongate my stay here and these are my findings. Hope they will be useful to other international students, especially from China.
Option #1. Training Programs
Let’s look at some of the main training-related ways in which you can remain in the U.S.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT allows international students to work in the United States for up to 12 months after completing their studies. To qualify, you must have been enrolled in an accredited institution for at least one academic year and have maintained valid F-1 status. You must also apply for OPT before completing your studies. If you have a degree in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics), you may be eligible for an additional 24-month extension. There are many programs that allow getting this work visa in United States. If you’re still studying, it’s the best option to look for the programs as much as possible. Anna, one of my friends from Europe, who studies STEM, managed to get a U.S. working visa this way. She started with the OPT and immediately began employment. Later, her employer provided juridical help to guarantee her long-term stay with a U.S. work visa.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
CPT allows students to work in the US while still enrolled in school. To qualify, you must have completed one academic year of full-time study and the employment must be directly related to your major field of study. Your academic advisor must also approve the CPT and you must have maintained valid F-1 status. This is a perfect way to justify an application for a permanent residence card. You can gain the help of your employer and achieve a visa through their assistance. Personally, that’s the way I managed to get help with the relevant U.S. visa status. I work as an assistant in the admission center and the staff there helped me collect the documents.
Option #2. Status Changes and Green Cards
Apart from training, there are some other ways to stay in the U.S. Here they are:
Change of Status
If you have a valid nonimmigrant visa status, such as an H-1B, L-1, or E-1 visa, you may be able to change your status to an F-1 student visa. To do so, you must first be accepted to an accredited institution and obtain an I-20 form from the school’s international student office. You must then file a Change of Status application with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This path is difficult and, regrettably, none of my close friends managed to get a visa to work in USA this way. Still, there are some cases. Pay attention to the visas they give you during the early period of application;
Enroll in a New Program
If you are nearing the end of your current program, you may be able to enroll in a new program at the same or a different institution. This would require you to obtain a new I-20 form and apply for a new F-1 student visa. My friend Artem from Ukraine managed to get such a visa by first finishing the computer science course and then transitioning to the economics bachelor program. I believe that’s the easiest way to get a visa to USA.;
Apply for a Green Card
If you have a job offer from a US employer, you may be eligible to apply for a Green Card (Permanent Resident Card). This would allow you to live and work in the US permanently. The process can be lengthy and complex, but if approved, it would provide you with long-term security in the US. Some of the cases above involved people starting with training and then transitioning to the permanent residence card;
Apply for Asylum
If you fear persecution or harm in your home country, you may be eligible to apply for asylum in the US. Asylum would allow you to remain in the US indefinitely and eventually apply for a Green Card. However, the asylum process can be complex and it is recommended to consult with an experienced immigration attorney. Your case should be legitimate. The number of countries from which you can get asylum is low. When it comes to my case, I know only one person from Afghanistan who managed to get such a visa for immigration.
Some Notes on These Methods
It is important to note that each of these options has its own requirements and limitations. It is also important to maintain valid F-1 status and comply with all immigration regulations. Failing to do so could result in the termination of your F-1 status and potential deportation. Getting a green card in the USA requires a perfect track record.
To increase your chances of success in obtaining an extension of stay, it is important to plan ahead and consult with an experienced immigration attorney.
They can advise you on the best course of action based on your individual circumstances and assist you with the application process.
Sometimes, legal options don’t work regardless of the willingness to stay. If you can’t get a green card, try to at least maximize time in the U.S. Here are some actions that can benefit you:
- Network: Make connections with professionals in your field and attend career fairs and other events. This can lead to potential job offers and opportunities for internships or other practical training.
- Gain experience: Participate in extracurricular activities and volunteer opportunities to gain valuable experience in your field. This can also make you a more attractive candidate for potential employers.
- Improve your language skills: Take advantage of language programs and language exchange opportunities to improve your English skills. This will not only help you in your studies and future career, but also in your daily life in the US. Visa extension in USA usually is possible for those who know the language.