The U.S. is not just home of the world’s largest and most robust economy, which attracts investors and entrepreneurs from across the globe. It is also an academic and research leader that, each year, attracts hundreds of thousands of students from around the world who wish to advance their knowledge.
If you are a student currently living in the U.S. on an active F1 visa, then you may be eligible to apply for a Green Card (a.k.a. Permanent Resident Card). Obtaining this will allow you to legally live and work in the U.S.
Regular vs. Conditional Permanent Resident Green Card
If you qualify as a regular permanent resident, your Green Card will be valid for 10 years. If you qualify as a conditional permanent resident, your Green Card will be valid for 2 years. Typically, conditional permanent resident status is available to petitioners who seek to obtain their Green Card through a marriage that is less than two years old (this is discussed further in this article).
A regular permanent resident Green Card can be renewed, but a conditional permanent resident Green Card cannot. However, those with the latter type of Green Card can petition to have their status changed from conditional to permanent, which if granted would extend the expiration date and be subject to possible renewal. Keep in mind that either a regular permanent resident or conditional permanent resident Green Card will can be revoked at any time if the visa program’s rules are broken.
Generally speaking, there are 6 options that could allow you to get from F1 student visa to Green Card:
F1 Student Visa to Green Card Option #1: Get an Employer Sponsorship
Provided that an employer meets certain eligibility requirements, you can petition for an EB2 or EB3 visa (a.k.a. Employment-Based Green Card).
F1 Student Visa to Green Card Option #2: Enter the Green Card Lottery
Once each year, USCIS offers the Green Card Lottery (formally known as the Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery). Be aware that there are a limited number of Green Cards available, and petitioners from certain countries cannot enter the lottery because their country has sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the last five years. Check to ensure that your native country is not on the list before pursing this as a potential option.
F1 Student Visa to Green Card Option #3: Marry a U.S. Citizen
It may be possible to obtain a Green Card through marriage (as noted above, this would almost certainly be a conditional permanent resident Green Card if the marriage is less than two years old).
However, be advised that USCIS is highly skeptical of petitioners who pursue this option. They will conduct rigorous background checks, examine documents, and perform interviews to determine if, in their view, the marriage is legitimate, or if the union is for the purpose of helping one spouse obtain a Green Card.
With this being said, if you do indeed obtain a Green Card by way of marriage, you are not forced to stay married. Ideally you will have a happy matrimonial life. But if you ultimately separate or divorce, you will not necessarily lose your Green Card. However, you will need to convince USCIS that the marriage ended for legitimate reasons, and not because it was expedient to do so once you received your Green Card.
Also note that if successfully petition to switch from a conditional permanent resident Green Card to permanent resident Green Card (usually after you have been married for at least two years), then a dissolution of your marriage will not be factored into your eligibility consideration.
F1 Student Visa to Green Card Option #4: Petition for Asylum
If there is a civil war currently happening in your native country, or if you are part of a persecuted population or group and returning would put your life in danger, then you may be able to obtain a Green Card by petitioning for asylum. USCIS assess each petition on a case-by-case basis, and the process is extremely detailed and complex.
F1 Student Visa to Green Card Option #5: Get Sponsored by a Relative
If you have a relative who owns a business in the U.S., then you may be able to obtain sponsorship that would result in a Green Card. However, this is a difficult option and several criteria must be met. For example, you must be hired for your qualifications, and not because you are a relative. In addition, the employer (i.e. your relative) must demonstrate to the Department of Labor that they attempted in good faith, but ultimately failed, to fill the position by hiring a U.S. citizen.
An Important Note
If you wish to get from F1 student visa to Green Card, then regardless of which option you pursue, your application will need to take into consideration all of your unique details — especially since USCIS evaluates petitions on a case-by-case basis, and many are rejected for being incomplete, because of missed deadlines, or because the argument for the petitioner to remain the U.S. was not convincing enough.
To learn more, and have your questions clearly and fully answered, contact the Pollak PLLC team today. We are here to help!
Karen-Lee Pollak is the Managing Attorney at Pollak PLLC located in Dallas, Texas. She is a frequent speaker, author and blogger on immigration issues. She can be reached at karenlp@pollakimmigration