What are my options to stay in the U.S. after my F-1 Visa?

Britt Vergnolle
March 30, 2021

Moderna’s CEO, Stephane Bancel, has been one of the leaders combating the COVID-19 crisis. While Bancel’s company has drawn headlines for the development of their COVID vaccine, few know though that Bancel was once an international student. And Bancel is not alone, immigrants who were once international students have been the backbone in our fight against COVID-19. America is the leading force behind the COVID-19 vaccine because it is the leading destination of international students in the world.

In 2019 alone, international students contributed $44 billion to the US economy and supported over 450,000 jobs. Of America’s billion-dollar startups, 55% were founded by immigrants who studied here first.

America prides itself on its international students, but what happens after you graduate? What are your options? On your F-1 visa, you can only stay in the United States for 60 days after your graduation date, so it’s in your best interests to start planning for your course of action well before you graduate.

Here are three common employment-related ways to help extend your stay.

Optional practical training (OPT): Optional practical training is a program for undergraduate and graduate students on F-1 visas. OPT allows these students to stay and work in the United States for 12 months. To be eligible for this program, students must have either received their degree or have been studying in the US for one full academic year. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) students or graduates may receive a 24-month extension of stay. However, this extended program only has a certain number of spots available. For more information on the OPT STEM extension, visit the USCIS website.

H-1B visa (non-immigrant visa): An international student can transfer their F-1 student visa status to an H-1B status with the help of a sponsoring US employer. The H-1B status allows the graduate student to live and work in the United States for up to six years. To be eligible for this type of visa, you must prove to USCIS that you are uniquely qualified for the position in the company because of your field of study. In your fifth consecutive year of employment at the same company, your employer can file for employment-based permanent residency. This will extend your H-1B visa past the six-year limitation. If you change jobs within the six-year period, you will need to apply for an H-1B visa again.

EB-3 Unskilled (Other workers) Visa: Obtaining a green card is the ultimate goal for many F-1 student visa holders. While an H-1B visa will only allow you to stay in the US for a limited number of years, a green card is your key to permanent residency. As a green card holder, you can work anywhere in the United States and live in the US indefinitely. BDV Solutions can help. The US Government allocates 10,000 visas each year for employment-based sponsorship through EB-3 'Other Workers' for employers that have proven labor shortages in unskilled work positions. Almost anyone from any country (except those with visa backlogs) is able to apply for the EB-3 Visa if they have an employer willing to sponsor them and are willing to work in an unskilled position. The EB-3 'Other Workers' Visa leads directly to permanent residence green card status for you, and if applicable, your spouse and children. More employers than ever are struggling to fill available unskilled jobs. Industries such as janitorial services, packing, food & beverage, and warehousing are suffering due to the difficulty of filling these positions.

To learn more about the EB-3 Unskilled Visa, register for an account to watch our detailed videos on the process, timeline, and costs.