How to extend your stay in the US after graduation


By Olushola Samuel

If you plan to remain in the United States following graduation, this guide on F-1 and OPT visa extensions can assist you in comprehending the available choices. It outlines several common options for graduates seeking a post-study work visa. The available options are:

Practical Training on an F1 Visa

Non-Immigrant H3 Visa (Trainee)

Non-Immigrant H-1B Visa Specialty Occupation

Non-Immigrant R-1 Visa Religious Worker

Non-Immigrant E1/E2 Visa

Non-Immigrant L-1 Visa

Non-Immigrant Obtaining a Green Card

Employment Based Immigration

Practical Training on an F1 Visa

An F1 student typically has the right to engage in post-completion practical training for up to one year. This authorization, which commences upon graduation or completion of the course, may be granted for a maximum of 12 months. For students in STEM fields, this practical training period may be extended to 24 months.

To initiate the process, consult your university's international students department for the requisite forms and guidance on applying for a post-study work permit. They will provide information on the various practical training options at your disposal. It is advisable to explore these options early in your academic journey to adequately prepare for the future. Additionally, if eligible based on your field of study (STEM), you may consider applying for an OPT extension to prolong your stay in the USA after the initial OPT period.

Non-Immigrant H-3 Visa (Trainee)

This is particularly suited to those individuals who do not have appropriate education or work experience. It is for those who would like to come to the U.S. to train in a particular field with the intention of transferring the acquired knowledge and training back to their home country upon completion of their visa. The H-3 visa is valid for 2 years and cannot be extended. To qualify for this type of visa, the applicant needs to secure training from a U.S. employer who has an established training program.

Non-Immigrant H-1B Visa (Specialty Occupation)

The minimum requirements for obtaining this visa type are: 

(1) a U.S. employer to sponsor the applicant. 

(2) a U.S. Bachelors Degree or its equivalent, and. 

 (3) a correlation between the job duties and the applicant’s education and work experience. 

 In addition to the above requirements, it is also necessary to obtain an approval of a labor condition attestation (LCA) from the Department of Labor prior to filing the H-1B petition with the Immigration & Naturalization Service. A LCA is required to prevent foreign workers from being exploited by U.S. employers and are paid the same salaries and obtain the same benefits as their American counterparts.

The H-1B is issued for an initial period of 3 years and can be extended for an additional 3 years, but cannot be extended beyond 6 years. Spouses and minor children automatically obtain H-4 visas, which entitle them to accompany the applicant to the U.S. and to attend school, but not work, in the U.S.

R-1 Visa (Religious Worker):

The R-1 visa is for religious workers such as ministers, those in professional religious occupations, or individuals working for a religious organization. Applicants need to show a 2-year affiliation with the religious denomination, initial admission is for 3 years with a potential 2-year extension, and the U.S. employer must demonstrate tax exemption status.

E-1/E-2 Visa (Treaty Trader/Treaty Investor):

Certain countries have treaties allowing their nationals E-1/E-2 visas. E-1 requires at least 51% of the company's trade between the U.S. and the treaty country, while E-2 needs a substantial investment in a new or existing enterprise. Managers, executives, and essential employees are eligible, and the visa is usually granted for 5 years with 2-year increments.

L-1 Visa (Intracompany Transfer):

The L-1 intracompany transferee visa is for companies with offices abroad wanting to temporarily transfer employees to the U.S. Managers/executives have a maximum admission of 7 years, specialized knowledge individuals have 5 years. New offices get an initial 1-year period, extendable with documentation of business activity. Permanent residency is possible for multinational executives/managers.

Obtaining a "Green Card":

Permanent residency allows living and working in the U.S. Citizenship eligibility is after three or five years, depending on classification. Four main categories include family relationships, employment sponsorship, diversity immigrants, and refugees/asylees, with family sponsorship being the quickest route.

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