How a foreign student might become a citizen in ways other than through employment
Direct support from family members
Your US citizen parent, spouse, or child can file paperwork on your behalf and help you become a permanent resident of the US. Only a spouse, kid above 21, parent, or sibling can sponsor you. Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) is what you’ll need to fill out to verify your familial ties. The USCIS provides extra information for those interested on their Family of US Citizens page.
Through a spouse or fiancé, you can apply for a visa or permanent residency for yourself. It is not enough to just marry a U.S. citizen; you must go through the proper channels to establish the legitimacy of your marriage and apply for citizenship.
Apply for green card status after one year of continuous residence in the United States if you have been granted asylum there. There is a possibility that you may need to provide evidence of continued eligibility for asylum based on the original grounds for which you were granted refuge in order to receive a green card. You should not return to your native country or any other foreign nation for a lengthy period of time before gaining lawful permanent residency in the United States.
At the time this article was written, international students who have attended a university in the United States for more than two years may be eligible to serve in the United States military in specialised positions such as those requiring language skills or medical training but do not have a green card. On the other hand, only citizens and green card holders are eligible for security clearances and executive posts.
While there is no direct route to citizenship through the United States military, those who serve in the armed forces may be able to bypass the usual five-year residence requirement to become citizens. You should know that the military can’t help you become a citizen and that it’s possible that this route won’t even exist in a few years.
Employment Authorization Document for Foreign Workers (H-1B) (non-immigrant visa)
With the support of a US company that would sponsor their H-1B visa application, an overseas student can switch from an F-1 student visa. Graduate students who are granted H-1B visas can stay in the US for up to 6 years to work and study. To qualify for this visa, you must show USCIS that you have exceptional qualifications for employment with the organisation based on your area of study.
After working for a firm for five years in a row, the employer can apply for permanent residency on the basis of the employee’s job. The H-1B visa can be extended for an additional six years in this manner. You will need to reapply for an H-1B visa if you change employment within that six-year window.
Experiential learning is available as an option (OPT)
Undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 visas can participate in optional practical training. Students who qualify for OPT are allowed to remain in the United States and find employment for a full calendar year. To participate in this programme, students must have graduated from high school or been in school for at least one year in the United States. An additional 24 months of stay may be granted to students or recent graduates in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Only a specific limited number of participants can be accepted into this extended programme. Visit the USCIS website for details on the OPT STEM extension.
Consult the international student advisor at your school for advice on how to go about searching for OPT employment. Other possible sources of employment leads include websites like OPT Nation. If you’re looking for a job but can only commit to working there for a limited time, consider applying for contract work. While most job openings are searching for employees who will stay with the organisation for the foreseeable future, contract employment is different since employers just need someone to perform the role for a specific period of time.
You can extend your stay in the United States beyond the one year allowed under the OPT if your employer files a petition for H-1B status on your behalf. Instead of beginning with OPT, you can apply for an H-1B visa status or a green card once you graduate. On the other hand, OPT can help you network, which is crucial for securing future sponsorship. OPT reduces the employer’s risk while allowing you to develop your resume and demonstrate your work ethic to potential future employers.
The coveted “green card”
Anyone who is not a citizen of the US should make it their top priority to become a legal resident. Because of their long period of legal residence in the United States, international students have an advantage when applying for green card status. A green card will provide you permanent status in the United States, but an H-1B visa will only enable you to stay for a set period of time. With a green card, you’re legally allowed to work and reside in the United States permanently without fear of deportation.
Due to its popularity, obtaining a green card is not only more time-consuming but also more challenging. That said, it’s not completely out of the question. In the best-case scenario, your US employer will recognise your worth while you are in the country on another visa and agree to sponsor your green card application. One can “self-petition” for a green card, which means they don’t have to rely on an employer to sponsor them.