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3 Ways to Stay in the U.S. After College for International Students

Are you an international student that just graduated and not sure what to do next?

Do you want to stay in the United States? If so, this article covers 3 options that may be available for you.

If you came to the United States with an F-1 student visa, you have 3 way to stay in the United States:

3 ways to stay in the U.S. after college

1. OPT – Optional Practical Training

Working with VR
Certain science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, qualify for a two-year extension of OPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an option for F-1 Visa students who have recently graduated.

OPT is temporary employment authorization, and your employment must be related to your F-1 area of study. Students who are eligible may apply to receive up to one year of OPT employment authorization.

If your degree is in certain science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, you may apply for a two-year extension of your OPT.

2. Apply for a Non-Immigrant Work Visa

Employees at Computers
H-1B visa are required to have specialized knowledge

H-1B Specialty Occupations

The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows immigrants to temporarily work in high-skilled occupations. Immigrants applying for an H-1B visa are required to have specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent.

Most H-1B occupations are in fields such as science, engineering, and information technology.

E-1/E-2 Treaty Trader and Investor

The E-1 visa is a treaty trader visa, and it is for immigrants who come from countries that have a treaty of commerce with the United States. Applicants must have “substantial” trade in goods between the United States and their home country.

The E-2 visa is also for immigrants who are from countries that have a treaty of commerce with the United States. They must have invested, or are actively in the process of investing, a “substantial” amount of capital in a U.S. enterprise.

L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa

The L-1 is another nonimmigrant visa, and it is for workers who are employed outside of the U.S. and are transferring to the U.S. This visa also allows a foreign company to send an executive or manager to the United States to establish a U.S. office.

While these visas will allow you to remain in the United States, they will not allow you to stay permanently. If you wish to stay in the U.S. longer, obtaining a Green Card may be necessary.

3. Apply for a Green Card

Holding a Greencard
If you wish to stay in the U.S. longterm, obtaining a green card is necessary.

Adjustment of status is the process through which temporary immigrants in the United States (such as students, tourists, foreign employees, etc.) can become lawful permanent residents (Green Card holders) without ever having to leave the U.S. (If you are outside of the United States, the only path to immigrate to the country is through consular processing).

The best options for obtaining a Green Card as an international student are through immediate family sponsorship, asylum status, the Green Card lottery, employment sponsorship, or select military service.

For more info about getting a green card, go to our Comprehensive Guide on How to Get a Green Card.

Are you eligible to apply for a Green Card?

Are you currently living in the United States?

Have you lived in the US for more than 3 months?

Did you enter the United States with an active visa or green card?

Are you married to a US citizen?

Do you have an immediate family member that is a U.S. Citizen or is a Green Card holder?

Analyzing Eligibility

We're sorry.

You are probably not eligible to apply.

If you would like to apply for a Green Card, instead of a Renewal, we can help you.


You are eligible to apply for a Green Card with SimpleCitizen!

Photo Credits:

Billetto Editorial


Juan Ramos

Updated on January 15, 2020

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  1. If a graduated student is not employed within 90 days of OPT and there is no permission for extension, what is your suggestion in this period of COVID-19

    1. continue higher level/degree if possible. If not, try to find a company from the usa that’s also present in your country. Apply and maybe in the future you may be able to return to the us

  2. I have F1 visa having valid through 2023 and now in OPT ,which is to be completed on 10th of July ,can I stay till 2023 without filing i539? Please

    1. no. i am a f1 student too. to us, what matters most is our i-20, as long as our i 20 is still vaild. then even your visa is expired, you are still good. after graduation, then it is your opt. once your opt is done, you will be out of status. you will have to leave the us within 60 days or go back to school

  3. Where to get more information about military? As I know the Manvile program have been closed since 2017

  4. Excuse me I have a question, can international students stay in usa with buying a house ?

    1. No. If that was the case I guess you would have already stayed in so many countries just for buying house. And wouldn’t be asking this question

  5. I’ve lived in the US for over 20 years, i’ve obtained multiple college degrees up to a masters, have never been arrested, have paid taxes, and my parents are residents of the US. What would be my best options to stay in the US after my OPT expires?

  6. Valuable information,Thanks lots for sharing them with us.

  7. At what point during opt can I apply for a work visa when I have a company willing to sponsor my visa?
    Can I apply directly for a work visa or just a few months after the opt is over

  8. Welp for me I am gonna be attending a small college at LA probably next year. And honestly I don’t want to go back to my home country after that. I will just overstay if there is no option for me i guess

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