It's March Madness once again! As we head well into the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, fans everywhere are staying tuned for the wins and upsets, each high-stakes game highlighting the tenacity and the spirit of the college athlete. But after the impossible happens and the dust settles, the question remains for many foreign students - where will you be after the Big Dance?
Immigration options after college
We have listed below some immigration options for foreign students who would like to continue residing in the United States after they finish their Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion).
Students in pre-completion OPT are authorized to work part-time (20 hours or less per week) or full-time when school is not in session. For those in post-completion OPT, applicants have the option of working part-time or full-time. Students with STEM degrees may apply for a 24-month extension if they meet certain requirements.
- H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa: The H-1B program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ a foreign worker with a bachelor's degree or higher, particularly in the fields of science, engineering, and IT, which are occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge. There is an extremely high demand for this type of visa and applications are selected through a "lottery" process. Some positions, which are “cap exempt,” notably, jobs with institutions of higher education or non-profits affiliated with such institutions, are exempted from the lottery process. If you can get a job during your OPT period in a field related to your undergraduate degree with a university or a non-profit associated with one, this employer could be a great petitioner for an H-1B visa if they decide to hire you.
- O-1 Extraordinary Ability Visa: The O-1 visa is for individuals with “extraordinary ability.” It’s so important to remember that this is just a legal term and Immigration will evaluate whether you have extraordinary ability based on whether you have experience that fits into certain categories. The O-1 visa is for those with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, and athletics, as well as those in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry. For foreign students interested in this type of visa, the OPT period is very important because it gives you one year to work towards accomplishments showcasing your extraordinary ability, such as getting published, being written about in the press, having an exhibition, and working with people or organizations that are very distinguished. It’s important to plan for this now if this is the route you may take post-OPT period.
- E-2 Investor Visa: If you are interested in starting your own business in the U.S., have access to capital (which can be from a gift or an unsecured loan), and hold citizenship with an E-2 treaty country, one option for you during your OPT period may be to launch a business that utilizes your skills from your undergraduate studies. The E-2 visa requires, amongst other requirements, that you invest a substantial amount of money in an enterprise so that it can launch and that you hold the position of developing and directing the business. In other words, you need to primarily manage the operations and have a plan to eventually hire U.S. workers that you will supervise once you apply for the E-2 visa. The OPT period could be a great time to get the business going so that when you are ready to apply for an E-2 visa, you can show that you have a viable business with employees that is generating money. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, this is a good visa option that is renewable so long as your business remains viable.
- P-1A Internationally Recognized Athlete: P1A visas are for those coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance. This visa is a good option for 1) a foreign individual athlete who is participating in an individual event, competition or performance in which you are internationally recognized with a high level of achievement; or 2) one who is part of a team that has achieved significant international recognition in the sport and will participate in team events that are distinguished and require the participation of athletic teams of international recognition. Student-athletes with tournaments or competitions after graduating may benefit from this option.
These are only a few options available for foreign students who want to continue living and working in the U.S. after they graduate. Immigration applications are reviewed by officers in a case-specific way and there may be immigration options that are not listed above that may work best for you. If you are a foreign student planning for your post-graduation options, contact us. We are here to help. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Tumblr for up-to-date immigration news.
Rasoulpour Torregoza is the law firm for immigrants, by immigrants. We are founded on the motto of LegalEase: we do away with the legal jargon and make law easy to understand, so you can focus on what’s important to you – going for your American Dream.
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