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Students in the US on visas can extend their stays after graduation

Students in the U.S. on F-1 visas have options for staying in the U.S. after they compete their schooling.

Thousands of students from around the world come to the U.S. each year to complete their education. Many foreign students enjoy their time in the U.S. so much that they wish to remain in the country after they finish their studies. Student visas do not permit people to stay in the U.S. after the students graduate, but there are some steps that foreign students can take to extend their time in the U.S. after graduation.

F-1 student visas

In order to study in the U.S., students need to obtain visas. An F-1 visa allows a foreign student to attend a college, university, conservatory, seminary, language training program, high school or elementary school in the U.S. In order to qualify for an F-1 visa, a student must be:

  • Enrolled in an "academic" or language-training program
  • Attending a school approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, Immigration & Customs Enforcement
  • A full-time student
  • Proficient in English or enrolled in a program designed to lead to English proficiency
  • Financially self-supporting for the entire course of study
  • Intending to return to a residence abroad

Options after graduation

Students who wish to remain in the U.S. after they graduate may want to take advantage of the optional practical training (OPT) program, which allows them to work in the U.S. in fields related to their areas of study and build their skills. Students with F-1 visas may apply for 12 months of OPT after each level of education they complete. For example, a student who completes a bachelor's degree can apply for 12 months of OPT and then apply for 12 more months of OPT after completing a master's degree.

Students who graduate with degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, the so-called STEM fields, can apply for an additional 17 months of OPT. Students may only have one OPT STEM extension.

Speak with a lawyer

The U.S. encourages foreign students to come to the country to study, and student visas are not supposed to be difficult to obtain. However, many students seeking visas to study in the U.S. find their applications rejected because they do not fill out the applications properly. Those looking to study in the U.S. should consider seeking the assistance of a seasoned immigration attorney in completing the student visa application process. An experienced attorney can help ensure that the application is complete and the process is painless. If you have questions about student visas, talk to an immigration lawyer with a record of successfully obtaining visas for foreign students.

Keywords: immigration; visa; student visa