If you are an international student in a US university or college, you probably want to know what are your options to obtain a visa/status that allows you to pursue a career in the US after graduation. This article explores the most common visa and green card programs used by international graduates of US institutions.
However, this list is not exclusive, and based on the individual’s circumstances, interests and abilities there could be other US visa options after graduation.
It is important for international students in US universities and colleges to start planning early, get informed about their options, choose an appropriate route and adapt their job search and career choices accordingly.
US Visa Options After Graduation are:
- H-1B Visa
- E-2 Visa
- E-1 Visa
- EB-5 Program
- L-1 Visa
- TN Visa
- E-3 Visa
- Permanent Residence (Green Card)
Below we discuss in detail the US visa options after graduation.
H-1B Visa – This is the most popular work visa/status used by foreign graduates in the US after the completion of their OPT. The H1-B Visa allows a worker to work for the sponsoring US employer in a specialty occupation that requires a bachelor’s degree or higher. These visas are typically issued for a 3-year period and can be renewed for another three years. The H-1B also allows for the immediate family members, spouse and children under 21, to come live with the worker in the US under H-4 visa.
The downside of the H-1B is that is limited by an annual limitation cap, meaning there is a limited number of visas each year, unless the US employer is cap-exempt.
There are 85,000 H-1Bs each year with 20,000 of them being reserved for applicants with advanced degrees. In recent years there have been three times as many applicants as there are visas. Who gets to apply for H-1B visa is decided by a lottery, held in during the month of March each year.
E2 Visa – is a nonimmigrant visa for people looking to run a business in the United States. To qualify for an E2 visa, the applicant can start a business in the US, purchase a business or otherwise invest in an existing US business. In addition, foreign-owned US businesses can bring essential employees of to the US on an E2 Visa to help them run the business in the US. The condition is that both the business owner/investor and the E2 employee are from the same E2 qualifying country.
The visa can be suitable for international graduates who are more entrepreneurial and have the financial ability to start a US business. The investment amount required is not set by law, rather it has to be sufficient for the type of business contemplated. Also, the business has to be more than marginal, moaning the business is expected to grow and provide more than just a living income for the investor.
The main advantages of the E2 are that there is no cap limitation, and that the applicant does not need a US sponsoring employer. The disadvantage of the E2 visa are it is open only to nationals of countries that have a commerce and navigation treaty with the US. Another disadvantage is the main E2 visa holder can only work for the E2 company.
EB-5 Visa Program – The EB-5 program is an immigrant visa (a Green Card) for investors, entrepreneurs and anyone looking to do business in the USA.
To qualify for EB-5 Visa, the investor must invest or be in the process of investing in a Regional Center Project or a US business $1,050,000 million for a standard investment or $800,000 in a business located in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) or a Regional Center infrastructure project.
The capital invested can be in the form of loans from family members and other personal loans.
Under the new EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA), you can apply for adjustment of status and work authorization at the time of filing the EB-5 visa petition, allowing you to stay and work in the United States after graduation.
E-1 Visa – is similar to the E2 in respect to being available only to nationals of countries that have the appropriate treaty with the US. The visa is for business owners who wish to carry on substantial trade, principally between the United States and their own country. The E1 visa is also available to employees of treaty traders if they have the same nationality as the E1 visa treaty trader, company or individual.
Both the E1 and E2 visa allow investors, entrepreneurs or employees to bring their spouse and children under the age of 21 to stay in the US with them.
L-1 Visa – allows a multinational company to transfer an executive, manager or an employee with specialized knowledge relating to the company’s business interests from one of the employer’s foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States.
The transfer must be from an executive, manager or specialized knowledge employee position in the home country to an executive, managerial or specialized knowledge position in the US.
The transferring employee must have been continuously employed full-time by the multinational company for at least 1 year in the 3 years prior to L-1 visa application.
A recent graduate in a US university might not be able to satisfy the 1 year employment abroad requirement, especially if they have studied full-time in the US for more than 3 years. Therefore, it might be prudent to return to the home country after graduating or post OPT and work for a multinational business that is willing to do the L-1.
The L-1 visa has the advantage that there is no annual limit to how many visas are issued and is open to all nationalities.
TN or E-3 – these visas are only available to certain nationalities. TN visa is available only to citizens of Canada and Mexico and only for certain professions as defined by treaty. The TN visa is given for an initial period of 3 years, renewable for another 3 years. The E-3 visa is similar to H-1B but does not have an annual limit to the visas being issued. The E-3 is initially issued for a period of 2-years, and the employee can renew as many times as they wish, provided they still meet the requirements.
EB-2/EB-3 Employment-Based Green Card – The EB-2 and EB-3 programs allow foreign workers to come or stay, if already in the US, to live and work permanently in the United States. The EB-2 is for applicants who hold an advanced degree, such as masters or PhD, or for those who can show exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. EB-3 is primarily for those applicants who hold a U.S. bachelor’s degree and are a member of the professions for which qualified workers are not available in the United States.
For both the EB-2 or the EB-3, the foreign national must have a confirmed a job offer from a sponsoring employer and must first obtain an individual PERM labor certification from the United States Department of Labor (DOL). To obtain the PERM labor certification the sponsoring employer must obtain a prevailing wage determination (PWD) for the position and test the labor market by advertising the job following DOL guidelines. After that the applicant’s PERM application must be approved by the DOL before the sponsoring employer can file an immigrant worker petition.
Malescu Law can assist
If you are an international student in a US university or college and want to start exploring your immigration options to pursue a career in the US, contact us or book a consultation with one of our attorneys to start planning your future.
Malescu Law P.A. – Business & Immigration Lawyers