USA Going From F1 to H1 to Green Card
If you are international student in the USA on an F-1 visa, then you have an
excellent opportunity to eventually become a permanent resident of the USA.
Students come to the USA either on an F-1 or J-1 visa. The J-1 has one advantage
over the F-1: it allows the J-1 holder's spouse, who would receive a J-2, to
work in the USA while their spouse is studying. But after their education or
training, J-1 and J-2 holders have to return to their native countries for at
least two years before they can re-enter the country to work. For most
individuals from the Third World, this condition usually means that you may
never have another opportunity to settle in the USA. But the F-1 has no such
restrictions. F-1 visa holders can apply for jobs and use the jobs to get their
permanent residence, also known as the green cards.
International students planning to stay back must remember a few things that
will help make their progress from an F-1 to an H-1B and then onto the green
card smooth and uneventful.
It is always easier if one has at least a master's degree. Unless you arein a
high demand area like nursing or information technology, a bachelor's degree is
usually inadequate. The labor department, which gives the permission to hire
foreign workers, finds it hard to believe that anyone with just a bachelor's
degree has such unique skills that there are no Americans who can do that job.
In information technology, it is generallyunderstood that skilled workers are
unavailable, so even a bachelor's degree will do, but not in other areas.
Never violate your status.
As an F-1, you are required
to be a full-time student in
every semester, which is at
least nine credits for
graduate students and 12
credits for undergraduate
students. When your course
work is completed and you
are writing your thesis,
make sure that you register
for that so that your status
remains intact. You do not
have to register during the
summer semesters. Also
remember that as an
international student you
can work only on campus and
only for 20 hours a week. If
you break these laws you
will be out of status. If by
any chance you have violated
your status, but you still
have a valid multiple entry
F-1 Visa, then you can
restore it by making a short
trip overseas ? the Bahamas,
Mexico and Canada are all
close by ? and then re-enter
the USA. While on the
subject, it is good to know
that F-1 visas are only
entry documents. Even if
your visa has expired, you
can continue to stay in the
USA and study, legally,
until the validity date on
Do not waste your practical training period. All F-1 students are allowed to
work off-campus for one year if in the preceding year they have maintained their
status as F-1 students. Many students are tempted to avail this privilege in
order to make money. It can prove to be a disaster if you do not land a job as
soon as you graduate, and you have already used up your practical training
period. You will either have to go back or violate your status. Sometimes, even
when you get a job on time and your lawyer applies for your F-1 on time, delays
at INS , which aren't that infrequent, can abruptly disrupt your life plans. At
this time, your practical training period can come in handy. You can start work
on your training work permit and not worry about waiting on the INS.
An H-1B is a provision created by the Congress to enable foreigner workers to
come to the USA temporarily and help American organizations and business meet a
shortfall in expert help. Globalization and the high-tech boom in the USA has
created a demand for skilled workers that far outstrips local supply. The amount
of H-1B visas available each year varies. In the year 2000-2001, there are
107,000 H-1B visas available. There is a proposal to raise it to 195,000, but
that depends on who is elected president. Democrats usually favor immigration,
but that might change since globalization is now hurting labor even in the First
World. Remember the riots in Seattle and Switzerland against the World Trade
You can get H-1B sponsorship from two kinds of employers: labor consultants
and companies. Some labor consultants hire people whom they can contract to
other firms. For example, a company may hire you for $35,000 a year, acquire
your H-1B and then subcontract you to some other company at $50 an hour. The
company will make about $96,000 by contracting you and profit nearly $61,000.
Some candidates who are in a hurry to get a job join such firms. But always
remember these firms never sponsor people for green cards. Even larger firms
that you could work for directly do not sponsor their employees for green cards.
Which means they will use you for six years ? the maximum period available for
an H-1B employee ? and then discontinue you. You will have no option but to go
out of the USA and won't be able to return for two years. So before you say "I
do," make sure that the company you are joining is willing to sponsor your green
card. You can join any firm and start looking for another job that will sponsor
you. It may entail working in less glamorous places and for lesser wages, but if
you want a longer stay in the USA be prepared to pay the price.
You can be on an H-1B for six years, and it takes the entire green card
process about three years. You have to be with the same employer during that
period. If you switch jobs, you have to restart the entire process.I do not
recommend this no matter how much extra the new firm pays. For this entire
odyssey you need patience, steadfastness, a good lawyer and about $5,000. The
F-1 to H-1B usually costs between $1,500 and $2,000, and the H-1 to green card
will cost between $2,500 and $3,500. Remember to hire an immigration attorney.
Feel free to interview them and check their past history. Offices in a downtown
area are usually good indicators of success, but probably also means higher
fees. Do not, under any circumstances, allow ethnicity or back-home connections
to influence your choice of attorney. Nothing can be more foolish.
The process sounds tedious, time- and money-consuming and full of legal
hurdles. But believe me, it is worth it. The USA is a great country, full of
opportunity and freedom. It is a prize worth working hard for.