California Immigration Attorney’s Steps from F-1 to Green Card

International students often come to the United States to attend college, and the F-1 visa is the most popular visa status for these full-time students. Under an F-1 visa, an international student only needs to attend an approved university full-time for as long as it reasonably takes to complete the program. Many students either come to the United States and attend a California university, or a college elsewhere throughout the country, with the goal of staying and working after graduation, and others seek to stay and pursue a career at a US company only after receiving a Bachelor’s and/or Master’s degree.
In order to remain in the United States after graduation, however, the individual is required to change their visa status. One route is through entering Optional Practical Training (OPT), then obtaining an H-1B visa, and finally a green card. An experienced California immigration attorney can assist in this complicated process.
An OPT is a temporary authorization for employment and allows graduated students to apply their theoretical knowledge to work experiences, as long as the work is related to the major field of study. This will provide international students with significant experience, and individuals often receive employment offers during OPT. Therefore, the individual, through a US employer, may transition from an F-1 visa to an H-1B visa, which allows US companies to hire foreign nationals in specialty occupations. These specialty occupations include employment requiring a Bachelor’s degree in sectors such as computer science, engineering, and business, which are common among many California companies and firms.
However, as a California immigration lawyer can explain, there is also a “cap gap” period in which students who are awaiting H-1B approvals can remain in the United States in F-1 status where the F-1 status and work authorization would otherwise expire. In other words, this is an automatic extension of the F-1 OPT status as long as the appropriate paperwork is filed in a timely manner.
Once the H-1B is approved, the individual can work in the position indicated on the H-1B visa only. While the professional is working, he or she can apply for a green card by obtaining sponsorship through the employer. While the green card application process is very lengthy and can take up to five years, once an individual has a green card, he or she is a permanent resident. As a result, the professional is free to work and change jobs, just as any legal US citizen.
The process of obtaining an F-1 visa and moving towards permanent residency is complex. This entire process is quite lengthy and requires the assistance of knowledgeable California immigration attorneys. Call the Law Offices of Vaughan de Kirby at (415) 221-2345 for assistance through the process and for answers to your questions. You may also order copies of the free reports, School in the United States and Professionals – Employers Special Report H-1 Employment Visa; both are available on our website.
Vaughan de Kirby
California Immigration Attorney

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