Are you an international student studying in the US? If so, chances are you dream of staying there permanently, especially if you want to land a well-paying job to tackle those hefty student loans.
Becoming a permanent resident as an F1 student visa holder can be quite a journey, and it can be overwhelming to figure out the best path for you. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Keep reading to discover the option that suits your situation the best.
Can F1 Students Apply for a Green Card?
The short answer? Yes. In fact, you already have a slight leg up, since you are legally living in the US. Below are 7 ways you can transition from an F1 student visa holder to a permanent resident.
Also read our latest blog post on How to become a permanent residence in Canada
7 Ways F1 Students Can Get a Green Card
There are seven ways you can get a green card as an F1 student:
- Receive Employer Sponsorship
- Marry a US Citizen
- Seek Asylum
- Win the Green Card Lottery
- Receive Sponsorship by a Relative Who Owns a Business
- Participate in Military Service
- Receive Parent or Child Sponsorship
Below, we discuss each of those ways!
1. Receive Employer Sponsorship
One possible route is to secure employment while you’re studying. If you manage to find a job, you can ask your employer to sponsor you for a green card. They can apply on your behalf for an EB-2 or EB-3 employment-based green card. This option allows you to continue working in the United States after graduation.
2. Marry a US Citizen
Another way to obtain a green card is by marrying a US citizen. However, it’s important to note that you’ll need to provide evidence that your relationship is genuine and not solely for the purpose of gaining residency. The process can be quite thorough, involving interviews, background checks, and examination of documents that you submit to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It’s a rigorous process, but it can lead to permanent residency if your marriage is deemed legitimate.
3. Seek Asylum
If returning to your home country would put your life in danger due to factors such as civil war or persecution based on your membership in a minority or persecuted group, you can apply for asylum. Each petition is evaluated individually by the USCIS. To ensure the best presentation of your case, it’s advisable to seek guidance from an immigration lawyer who can assist you in navigating this complex process.
4. Win the Green Card Lottery
The Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery, often referred to as the “green card lottery,” takes place annually from October to November. Participating in this lottery does not guarantee a green card, but it offers a chance to obtain one. It’s important to note that citizens of certain countries that have sent a significant number of immigrants to the US in the last five years, such as Canada, South Korea, Mexico, and China, are ineligible to participate.
5. Receive Sponsorship by a Relative Who Owns a Business
If you have a relative who owns a business in the US, they have the opportunity to sponsor you for a green card. However, it’s crucial that your relative demonstrates that they are hiring you based on your qualifications rather than solely because of your relationship. They must show that they have followed a fair recruitment process for the position you would be filling and have made genuine efforts to hire a US citizen for the role but were unable to find a suitable candidate.
6. Participate in Military Service
Normally, joining the military requires a green card or work authorization. However, if you have completed at least two years of university, there may be certain high-demand positions in the military that you can qualify for even without a green card. Reach out to a military recruiter on your campus to explore this potential opportunity further.
7. Receive Parent or Child Sponsorship
If you have a parent or a child who is under 18 and already a legal US citizen, they have the ability to sponsor you for a green card, opening a path towards permanent residency for you.
Rights You Will Have as a Green Card Holder
After going through the green card process steps and obtaining a green card, you enjoy almost all the rights of a US citizen:
- Right to Permanent Residency
- Right to Work
- Right to Protection Under Law
- Right to a Driver’s License
- Right to Bear Arms
- Right to Travel
- Right to Request Visas for Immediate Family
- Right to Social Security Benefits
Below are 8 primary rights you can expect as a permanent resident.
1. Right to Permanent Residency
You have the right to live permanently in the US. This right can be revoked, however, if you break the law or commit certain other actions that make you removable under immigration law.
2. Right to Work
You have the right to work at the business of your choosing. Some restrictions do apply, including homeland security or certain elected positions.
3. Right to Protection Under Law
You have the right to protection under the law. This includes all federal and state laws, as well as the laws of your local jurisdiction.
4. Right to a Driver’s License
Although it’s technically possible to get a driver’s license without an SSN, if you want/need to drive, you would now have the right to apply for a driver’s license.
5. Right to Bear Arms
You have the right to purchase a firearm. You can carry and use it according to the laws of the state you live in.
6. Right to Travel
You are not restricted to living in one area. You have the right to travel through the US as you please.
7. Right to Request Visas for Immediate Family
Do you have a wife, a husband or an unmarried child under 21? You have the right to request a visa for them.
8. Right to Social Security Benefits
You have the right to the Social Security benefits you’ve accrued through working. You also have a right to other benefit programs, such as Medicare.
Responsibilities You Will Have as Green Card Holder
As a green card holder, you also have certain responsibilities to uphold:
- Responsibility to Follow the Law
- Responsibility to Register with Selective Service
- Responsibility to File Income Taxes
- Responsibility to Support the Government of the United States
- Responsibility to Carry Proof of Residency Status
- Responsibility to Inform DHS of Address Changes
- Responsibility to Have Health Insurance
Failure to do so can result in losing your green card. Each of these responsibilities is discussed in more detail below.
1. Responsibility to Follow the Law
The first and perhaps most important responsibility is simply to follow the law. You must obey all federal, state, and local laws.
2. Responsibility to Register with Selective Service
If you are a male between the ages of 18 and 25, you must register with Selective Services. Selective Services registers people who might be subject to the draft, though there hasn’t been one in the US since 1973.
3. Responsibility to File Income Taxes
Just like a citizen of the US, you must file income tax. You have the responsibility to report all income you receive to the IRS.
4. Responsibility to Support the Government of the United States
If you have a green card, you have a responsibility to support the democratic form of governance in the US. You must make no attempt to alter it in any illegal manner.
5. Responsibility to Carry Proof of Residency Status
Once you have a green card, you are required to carry proof of your residency status. The most common proof is your permanent residency card, i.e. your green card.
6. Responsibility to Inform DHS of Address Changes
Though you are free to travel throughout the US, you must inform the Department of Homeland Security if you do change residences. You will have 10 days from your move date to inform DHS of your address change.
7. Responsibility to Have Health Insurance
Finally, you are required to have health insurance. Note that you might be eligible for affordable health insurance offered through a federal or state healthcare marketplace.
There are many ways to obtain a green card if you have an active F1 student visa. Hopefully one of the above options is right for you. The green card will entitle you to a number of rights, as well as certain responsibilities.
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