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Staying in the United States after Graduation

by Hamid R. Kashani, Attorney at Law
Nov 07, 2018 (last modified Mar 01, 2020)

If you are an F-1, J-1, or M-1 student, who wishes to stay in the United States after graduation, you have several options under the immigration laws.

Here are some of your options:

High technology jobs for graduating students Permanent Employment. A great many international students secure permanent employment (and a green card) in the United States and make their home here. This is especially true of the international students who obtain their degrees in a STEM major.  See Work-Based Immigration. If you hold a Ph. D., M.S., or M.A., see Green Card for Professionals with Advanced Degrees.  If you hold a B.S. or B.A., see Green Card for Professionals.
Silhouette of engineers Working In Data Center Room Temporary Employment. Some international students secure temporary employment in the United States that subsequently may turn into permanent employment (and a green card).  If you are holding a degree in a specialty field, you may qualify for H-1B visa.  See H-1B Visa for Professionals, in specialty occupations.
Image of young people working Optional Practice Training (OPT & STEM OPT). Science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors qualify for an additional 24 months. See Optional Practical Training (OPT) F-1 students with a B.S., M.S., or Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, see STEM OPT
Hands of husband and wife with wedding rings Marriage. College students often marry each other. On October 17, 2013, U.S.A. Today reported that “A Facebook Data Sciences study released last week found that about 28% of married graduates attended the same college as their spouse.”  If you have found your life partner in your college sweetheart, who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and decide to marry, you may apply for permanent residence as the spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. See Marriage-Based Immigration.
Silhouettes of refugees people searching new homes or life due to persecution. Asylum. If the conditions in your home country have changed and you genuinely fear persecution on the basis of “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,” you may apply for asylum in the United States. However, you must (a) establish that your fear is genuine and has a basis in fact and (b) apply within one year of your entry into the United States or promptly upon learning of the changed circumstances.  Your fear must be genuine. See Asylum in the United States.
Bubbles of money and growth graph with cityscape background. Investment. The EB-5 Visa Program allows immigrants to secure permanent residence in the United States by investing $900,000 or $1.8 million, thereby stimulating the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment.  See Investment-Based Immigration.

Students coming to the United States at a young age and staying here for several years are likely to eventually feel assimilated and wish to stay here longer than their school years and sometimes permanently. If that is you, or if you are considering theat possibility, you may wish to explore the possibilities provided under the United States immigration laws. The most common options are discussed above. The immigration laws provide for other options depending on the circumstances and the home country of the prospective immigrants.

WARNING. You must remember that student visas are nonimmigrant visas.  As a nonimmigrant visa holder you are required to maintain a permanent residence in your home country and intend to return to it upon the completion of your studies.  Failure to do so will be a violation of your nonimmigrant status. While you may “tentatively” intend to reside in the United States, if you receive permission from the USCIS upon a future application, legally you cannot form a present intention to stay in the United States indefinitely. If that is the case, do not mistakenly represent your future, prospective intentions as your present, actual intention.  This distinction is very important and you must observe it carefully.

Related Topics:

Work-Based Immigration

H-1B Temporary Work Visas

Marriage-Based Immigration

Optional Practical Training (OPT)


Asylum in the United States

Investment-Based Immigration


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