The other most widely used method to obtain legal permanent residence in the U.S. is through family sponsorship, which is also categorized based on the relationship of the foreign national to the petitioning U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident (LPR).
There is no waiting period for foreign relatives who are spouses, children (under age 21) and parents of U.S. citizens. These individuals may receive an immigrant visa immediately and are classified as Immediate Relatives.
For foreign relatives who do not qualify as Immediate Relatives, U.S. immigration law provides different preference categories based on the foreign relative’s relationship to the U.S. citizen or LPR. These relationships are separated into four family-based preferences:
F1 (Student Visa): First Preference, Unmarried adult children (over age 21) of U.S. citizens
F2: Second Preference, Spouses and children, and unmarried children of LPRs
F3: Third Preference, Married children of US citizens.
F4: Fourth Preference, Siblings of adult US citizens.
F1 Visa Requirements
To be eligible for an F1 visa, foreign students must possess all of the following:
- An offer of study from an approved educational institution in America
- Intent to travel to America for the purpose of enrollment in a full course of study (as certified by the academic institution in postgraduate or postdoctoral level study or at least 12 semester hours on the university level or equivalent)
- A valid passport
- Ability to prove they have sufficient funds to pay for tuition and costs for the duration of the program, although in certain circumstances the student may be given permission to work
- Fluency in English or enrolled in an immersion course or other course that will lead to proficiency
- Intent to return to their country of abode after expiration of the visa
Other Foreign-Student Opportunities
Students may additionally participate in the Optional Practical Training program that allows temporary paid work “directly related” to their fields of study. This work normally does not exceed 12 months in total. After a year at school, the student can utilize OPT part time when school is in session, full time when it is not or after graduation.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services estimates about 70,000 foreign graduates currently participate in this practical training program.
Students with degrees in certain science and technology fields (officially Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics fields or STEM) may be eligible for additional 17-month extensions of OPT.
During the OPT period, if a student works for an employer willing to sponsor them, he or she may begin the process of obtaining an H-1B nonimmigrant work visa or a green card leading to permanent residence in the U.S.
Please contact our office if you require assistance with any of these preference categories.