Your admission on an F-1 visa ends with the allowance of a term of 60 days after your graduation in the United States unless you secure a new visa. Studying for your Bachelor’s Degree or higher on a U.S. campus leaves many options to both gain experience in your career and to stay in the United States, both temporarily and permanently depending on your circumstances. To begin building your skill set and career, you should consider partaking in practical training and internships while you are enrolled in your degree program. Your level of expertise upon graduation will improve your possibilities to both secure employment and to stay in the United States upon graduation.
Two options to work in the United States while you are studying are 1) Curricular Practical Training (CPT) completed during each applicable semester of study and 2) Optional Practical Training (OPT). This extension allows you to look for work in the U.S. in your area of study. If you study in the United States for at least one full academic year, you might be eligible to receive OPT at graduation and if your field of endeavor is on a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) career track you may be eligible for STEM OPT. OPT is a 12-month extension to your F-1 visa status and STEM OPT is an additional 24 months extension. To find out more about earning course credits and/or enhancing your job skills in your field of endeavor, you should speak directly to your designated school official or international student counselor. These training options will assist in building job skills, networking with employers in your career field, and potentially finding an employment-based visa sponsor.
Once your OPT expires, you will need to consider further immigration options. Immigration options at this point include 1) an employment-based sponsor or 2) an employment-based self-petition.
In the United States, a common and temporary employer-sponsored visa is the H1B visa. This visa is granted to specialty occupations, including science, engineering, medicine, accounting, data analysis, among others. To be eligible, a United States-based sponsoring employer must apply with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for the visa, on your behalf. This application should be submitted in what is commonly known as “the lottery”, which takes place in April of each year. Only 85,000 visas are issued among applicants each year, so many applicants will not receive a visa. An H1B visa can be extended to a term of 6 years and you may travel on your H1B visa with the appropriate documentation in your passport.
There are two options toward a Green Card through your employment:
1) your company sponsoring an application for your green card or
2) a self-petition for an employment-based green card, if your endeavor is in the national interest of the United States.