When a student decides to come to America to pursue an education, he or she often does so with the thought of remaining here to pursue a dream. Unfortunately, many do not realize that it can be quite difficult to obtain a different legal status and the right to work like a naturalized citizen. So, how can one remain in America after finishing school?

 

Most immigrants seek a Green Card. It gives you (as the immigrant) all the rights and privileges of full citizenship, except you cannot vote or run for public office. A Green Card allows you to work, continue your education, and live in the country indefinitely. There are several ways to obtain a Green Card, including job sponsorship, asylum, marrying a citizen, the Green Card lottery, military service, and others.

Job Sponsorship

One of the best ways to get a Green Card may also be one of the hardest. You have to find a job willing to hire you and go through the process of sponsoring you for citizenship. The company has to fill in immigration forms explaining why they want to hire you (a foreigner) over an American employee, and show that they cannot find an equally qualified American citizen to fill that job. If there are many Americans qualified and willing to do that job, you will not get the visa, so this type of Green Card sponsorship is usually only available for those in unique professions or who possess unparalleled skill at what they do. Scientific, Engineering, and Health related disciplines tend to have the easiest time obtaining job sponsorship Green Cards, but many other professions may qualify, as well.

Asylum

If you came to the US and while you were in school a war or political upheaval struck your home country, such that returning there may endanger your life or freedom, you may be able to apply for political asylum. A number of different laws apply to the asylum process, and can change depending on the circumstances. Thus, you should consult with an immigration attorney before applying for asylum. You can find an attorney in your area using HG.org’s lawyer search function.

Marrying a US Citizen

One of the easiest ways to get a Green Card is to marry a US citizen. However, the marriage must be real and legitimate, or it could lead to annulment of the marriage, denial of your application, and deportation. Typically, couples may be asked to prove things such as cohabitation (living together), how you met, intimate knowledge about each other, whether you have children together, if the US citizen’s family knows about the foreign spouse, etc.

Upon successful application, you will receive a two year temporary Green Card. After two years, you can get a permanent Green Card if you are still legitimately married. This two year period ensures that your marriage is real and helps prevent people staying married just long enough to apply for the Green Card.

Green Card Lottery

The Electronic Diversity Visa lottery is, as the name suggests, a lottery for Green Cards. There is no guarantee you will win, but if you have finished high school and have no other special circumstance that would allow you to obtain a Green Card, it may be an excellent option and at least worth the try. Be aware, however, that immigrants from nations that send a lot of people to the US may not be eligible to participate in the lottery.

Military Service

Enlisting in the US military is another way to get a Green Card. However, the military will not allow you to enlist unless you already have a green card or work authorization. In order to work around this issue, consider pursuing military career fields that are in high demand, like nurses, doctors, psychologists, etc. Another option may be converting an Optional Practical Training (OPT) work permit into an authorization to work for the military for one year. Once enlisted, the military may be able to sponsor your Green Card. For more information, speak with an attorney or talk to a recruiter.

Avoid Trouble

As a final note, while these various methods are among the most likely ways for a student to become a Green Card holder, it will all be pointless if you get yourself into legal trouble. Avoid overstaying your student visa and becoming an illegal immigrant, as this could disqualify you from the Green Card process and result in your immediate deportation. Also, getting into legal trouble, such as driving under the influence, fights, theft, or other crimes will similarly disqualify you. When pursuing a Green Card, it is important to show that you will become an upstanding and beneficial addition to the American culture, so any negative marks may result in an automatic disqualification and an end to your American dream.