Students hoping to stay in the U.S. after practical training have few options. They can get married to a U.S. citizen or find a job and apply for an H-1B or an E visa. Recent university graduates usually qualify as professionals for H-1B status. Experience is not a requirement for H-1B visa professional or specialty-worker status.
Students may qualify for E visa status if they are hired by a treaty company controlled by members of their nationality. For example, a Japanese student could obtain an E visa as a professional or manager through a Japanese-owned company.
Quite often, students and employers assume that E visas only apply to transferees from the treaty country, as when managers transfer from the home office to a U.S. subsidiary. A treaty company may hire any qualified treaty national even if they were not previously employed by a related company abroad.
All students who wish to leave the U.S. must obtain an endorsed Form I-20ID from a designated school official each time the student leaves the U.S. The school’s endorsement proves that the student is still in school and making satisfactory progress under the approved educational program.
Students who try to enter the U.S. with a student visa but without an endorsed I-20ID risk denial of entry. At a minimum they must convince the INS at the port of entry of their intentions to maintain an approved course of study.
Students may travel without a visa, provided they have a valid I-94 and an endorsed I-20ID to Canada or Mexico for up to 30 days. All other overseas destinations require a visa. This means that the student who obtained student status in the U.S. must ultimately return home to obtain a visa if they want to leave North America and re-enter.
The following programs allow students to work while attending a school in the U.S:
Any full-time student in good academic standing may work 20 hours a week at an on-campus facility during the school year and full-time between quarters or semesters.
Pilot Off-Campus Employment Program
This program permits 20 hours a week of off-campus employment at a private business. Onerous paperwork and recruitment requirements often deter employers from this program.
Curricular Practical Training
This training must be offered in connection with a field of study. Generally, students must arrange curricular practical training with academic advisors, with the school processing the necessary paperwork. Students who work for a year or longer in this program lose eligibility for post-completion practical training.
Post-Completion Practical Training Program
This popular program permits students to work off-campus for one year after completion of all degree requirements. Application for this program must be made between 90 days before and 30 days after completion of a course of study. To become eligible for this program, first find a job and then seek the school’s approval of the employment. The school files the necessary forms with the INS.
After INS approval, obtain an Employment Authorization Card (Form I-765) to work legally. File Form I-765 and go to the nearest INS office for photographing. The Employment Authorization Card should be available in one or two days.
Students cannot leave the U.S. after graduation and then apply for post-completion practical training. Practical training must be approved before leaving the U.S., and students may travel after practical training approval. Students have 60 days from the end of the practical training period to depart the U.S., resume studies or change to another visa status.
Students use F-1 visas for academic programs and M-1 visas for vocational programs. To be eligible for either of these visas the student must first be accepted by a school. Once the student is accepted the school will prepare Form I-20 for the student to submit to the INS or to a consulate. The I-20 Form provides information about the student’s course of study and his means of financial support.
Students use F-1 visas for academic programs and M-1 visas for vocational programs. The key difference between the two categories is that M-1 holders may not change to another nonimmigrant status while in the U.S. Generally, both visa categories are issued for the duration of the approved educational program. In both cases, visa procedures may be initiated from the U.S. or abroad. The procedure for obtaining an F-1 student visa is as follows:
- Step 1. Be accepted by a school.
- Step 2. Obtain Form I-20 from the school. Form I-20 details the proposed course of study and estimates the financial resources necessary to complete the course of study.
- Step 3. If in the U.S., send Form I-506 Change of Status, Form I-20 and proof of financial support to the appropriate INS Regional Processing Center. If the INS approves the petition, the INS will respond with an endorsed I-94 evidencing student status. If abroad, fill out the consular application forms, supply Form I-20 from the school as well as proof of financial support. The consul will signify approval by issuing an F-1 or M-1 visa.
Three Key Questions, The Same Answer: Yes
The consuls and INS ask three key questions when reviewing student visa applications. These questions, along with the recommended answers, are listed below.
- Do you intend to complete a full-time course of study?
Be prepared to submit past school records and letters of recommendation from teachers as evidence.
- Do you have financial support?
Produce proof of adequate funds and/or show the financial statement of a sponsor on Form I-134, Affavidit of Support.
- Will you return to your home country after your studies are completed?
Prove this intention by demonstrating close family ties in your home country and/or a network of friends, relatives or job prospects. A course of study related to a prospective job in your home country also helps indicate your plans to return. For example, the father owns a ski lodge and resort and sends his child to the U.S. to study hotel management. In this case, the job logically relates to the course of study.
Students must prove a source of adequate financial support. Parents, guardians or benefactors should supply an Affidavit of Support, Form I-134, and supply proof of sufficient funds to support the student for the duration of the approved course of study. The person signing the Affidavit of Support guarantees the student will not use public assistance or welfare. Theoretically, this is rarely enforced; the signer of the I-134 is responsible for reimbursing the government in the event the student uses public assistance.
Since many students drop out of school, work illegally or never attend classes, the INS and consuls carefully monitor F-1 or M-1 applications. Good students attending academically-respected institutions experience few difficulties. But students with average or poor grades, along with English as second-language school applicants, experience greater scrutiny. The consuls and INS want to make sure the student indends to study and not use the student visa to disappear in the U.S. Students must prove their credibility.