22 Feb

If you are currently in the United States on a student visa, it is possible to apply for a green card, which grants permanent residency in the United States. However, the process of obtaining a green card can be complex and time-consuming, and it is important to understand the eligibility requirements and application process. 

General steps to follow to convert a student visa to a green card:  

  1. Determine your eligibility: To be eligible for a green card, you typically must have a qualifying family relationship or employment opportunity in the United States, or qualify for a green card through humanitarian or refugee status. You should carefully review the eligibility requirements and determine which category you may be eligible under.
  2. File a petition: Once you have determined your eligibility, you or your sponsor (such as a family member or employer) will need to file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petition will need to include documentation to support your eligibility, such as proof of family relationships, employment, or humanitarian status.
  3. Wait for a visa number: If your petition is approved, you will need to wait for a visa number to become available. The availability of visa numbers depends on a variety of factors, including your category of eligibility, the country you are from, and the demand for visas in that category.
  4. Apply for adjustment of status: Once a visa number is available, you will need to apply for adjustment of status with USCIS. This involves submitting additional documentation, undergoing a background check, and attending an interview.
  5. Receive your green card: If your application is approved, you will receive your green card, which grants you permanent residency in the United States.

Eligibility for converting a student visa to a green card

Eligibility for converting a student visa to a green card (permanent residency) depends on the specific circumstances of the individual. Generally, a foreign national who is in the United States on a student visa may be eligible to apply for a green card if they meet certain requirements. Here are some common ways that a student visa holder may be eligible to apply for a green card: 

  1. Family-based sponsorship: If a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative (such as a spouse, parent, or adult child) petitions for the student visa holder, they may be eligible to apply for a green card through family-based sponsorship.
  2. Employment-based sponsorship: If the student visa holder has a job offer from a U.S. employer, the employer may be able to sponsor them for a green card.
  3. Humanitarian-based eligibility: If the student visa holder qualifies for refugee or asylum status, they may be eligible to apply for a green card based on that status.

It is important to note that each of these categories has its own eligibility requirements and application process. In addition, there may be other categories or options for obtaining a green card that are specific to the individual's circumstances. Option (2) and (3) usually applies to all type of visa holders. However, option (2) which is employment based sponsorship is usually a matter of interest for many students currently on a student visa in the united states. 

Key insight to employment-based sponsorship for conversion of student visa to green card:

Eligibility requirements: To be eligible for employment-based sponsorship, the student visa holder must have a qualifying job offer from a U.S. employer. The employer must be willing to sponsor the student visa holder for a green card, and the student visa holder must have the skills and qualifications required for the job.

  1. Employment-based preference categories: The student visa holder's eligibility for an employment-based green card is determined by their preference category, which is based on factors such as their job qualifications, the demand for their skills, and their country of origin. There are several preference categories, including:
    • EB-1: Priority workers, such as those with extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics; outstanding professors or researchers; and multinational executives or managers. 
    • EB-2: Professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. 
    • EB-3: Skilled workers, professionals, and unskilled workers in certain occupations. 
    • EB-4: Special immigrants, such as religious workers, broadcasters, and certain retired employees of international organizations. 
    • EB-5: Investors who create new jobs in the United States.
  1. Filing the petition: The employer must file Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to initiate the process. The petition should include supporting documentation, such as job offers, labor certifications, and evidence of the student visa holder's qualifications.
  2. Waiting for visa availability: The availability of visas for employment-based sponsorship depends on the category of eligibility and the country of origin of the student visa holder. There may be waiting periods of several months or even years for a visa to become available.
  3. Adjustment of status: Once a visa becomes available, the student visa holder may apply for adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident. This involves submitting additional forms and documentation, attending an interview, and passing a background check.

Useful links for students looking to convert their visa to green card:

  1. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) - https://www.uscis.gov/ : The official website of USCIS provides information on the green card application process, eligibility requirements, and forms needed to apply for a green card.
  2. Study in the States - https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/: This website provides information for international students studying in the US, including visa and immigration processes.
  3. National Immigration Law Center - https://www.nilc.org/: This website provides resources and support for immigrants, including information on legal rights, policies, and advocacy efforts.
  4. Immigration Equality - https://www.immigrationequality.org/: This organization provides legal assistance and advocacy for LGBTQ immigrants seeking to obtain green cards or other forms of legal status.
  5. NAFSA: Association of International Educators - https://www.nafsa.org/: This organization provides resources and support for international educators, including information on visa and immigration policies affecting international students.
  6. American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) - https://www.aila.org/: AILA provides resources and support for immigration lawyers and provides access to legal resources for immigrants seeking to obtain a green card.
  7. The Green Card Blog - https://www.thegreencardblog.com/: This blog provides information and updates on green card policies, news, and trends.
  8. Immihelp - https://www.immihelp.com/greencard/: This website provides comprehensive information on the green card application process, including eligibility requirements, forms needed, and FAQs.

It is important to note that the employment-based sponsorship process can be complex and time-consuming. An experienced immigration attorney can help guide the employer and student visa holder through the process and ensure that all necessary forms and documentation are submitted correctly.

- Published by Salar Tavangar, Esq.  

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