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I am an international student; what are my options after graduation?

A foreign student is studying in the typically under an F or M visa. The length of time you are allowed to remain in the U.S. on this visa, is tied to the length of your program of study. That information is noted on the I-20 document that is generated by your school’s foreign student advisor, when you are admitted into the school. Once you decide to remain in the U.S. after graduation, you will need to ensure that they stay in lawful immigration status to protect your ability to continue to travel to and from the U.S. It is best to make this decision soon after you begin your studies. This will allow you to put a plan in place that will broaden your options after graduation. You can then revisit the plan every few months to see if you are on track or to adjust it if your goals or other external factors require that it be changed.

Two of the most popular options after graduation, are working or taking a short internship. I recommend that either should relate directly to your program of study, to allow you to start to build your professional knowledge and credibility. Therefore, before graduation, you will need to factor into your timeline; seeking to be hired, applying for and receiving approval to work from the U.S. citizenship and immigration services. You have to be careful that you are not unemployed for more than ninety days during this time. Ancillary decisions about where you will live, how you will get around and taking care of your daily expenses, will need to be factored into your plan as well. You will initially be granted work authorization for a number of months based on the length of your program of study and your area of study. This time may be reduced if you worked during the semester. If your employer is interested in having you remain with them, the latter can sponsor you to work temporarily or permanently with them.

Another option is to reenroll in school and continue to study. This new program of study could be for a lateral program, for example another bachelors’ degree or a program that awards a certificate or another higher degree. When you reenroll, you are not limited to remaining in your field, your course of study could be unrelated to one you have already completed.

Students can also be sponsored by a family member, leading to their obtaining permanent resident status. The permanent resident status application can be filed concurrently while you are studying or at the end of the program. The filing will impact your student status based upon the immigration status of the sponsoring family member and when the application is filed.

Once the program ends and all the grace period has been used, you may decide to leave the U.S. This would protect their ability to return to the U.S. at a future date.

The above is general information about options for students.. For further clarification and to fully explore your situation in particular, it is best to obtain an individual consultation. Sherna Spencer has been an immigration attorney since 1996, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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