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A student visa (F-1) allows a person to come to the US and stay here for the purposes of studying in a university or a program. F-visa is made through the HR department in the college, university or program of the applicant choice and does not require attorney’s assistance. F-1 visa allows a person to stay in the US until the program is over and as long as the applicant maintains good standing at the school or program. F-1 allows the visa holder to travel but not to work for more than 20 hours, and only on campus of the university where the visa holder studies.

After graduating an F-visa holder is awarded an OPT, if he files timely for it. OPT (Optional Practical Training) is a one-year period during which a former F-visa holder is allowed to stay in the US and try to secure employment. Graduates who major in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (the so-called STEM list) are allowed for a 29-month OPT. Check the STEM-list to see if your major allows for a longer OPT.

B1-B2: Visitors for business and pleasure

This category includes visitors for business and tourists.

B1 is a temporary visa available to business visitors: foreign nationals visiting the United States temporarily to conduct business that benefits for a foreign employer. Most often, B-1 visas are obtained so that an alien may consult, sell products, attend conferences or business meetings, evaluate investments, etc. in the United States. A B-1 may receive no compensation from a United States employer, nor may a B-1 perform productive work in the United States that United States workers could perform. In order to obtain a B-1 visa, the applicant must show that he or she has the ability to support him or herself in the United States, provide proof of the purpose of the business trip and demonstrate an intent to return to an unabandoned foreign residence.

B-2 visa is designed for visitors who come as tourists, to visit the United States, spend time here, live and travel. It does not allow the visa holder to work in the United States at any time. In order to obtain a B-2 the applicant needs to get the appropriate package from the consulate in his own country and submit it with the appropriate fee and underlying documents. The applicant would need to prove that the applicant’s current employment in his/her home country and the applicant’s residency there is not going to be affected by the travel; the would need to prove ties with the home country and show that s/he has sufficient financial means to support him/herself throughout his stay in the United States. An invitation from a sponsor would help to show that someone in the United States is willing to take care of the applicant, provide food and lodging and would not let the applicant become public charge.


If someone came on a student visa, graduated successfully, lived through the OPT time without securing the job and still wants to stay in the US – what should he do?

What about someone who dropped out from the university or program – can he still stay for a bit longer?

A person who came on a work-and-travel and would like to extend the period of stay – could he do that?

There are multiple options, strongly depending on the circumstances of your case, so the best thing to do is probably to schedule an appointment and discuss your particular situation.

One of the many possible answers is: in all the above cases you can file for change of status to a tourist visa (B1-B2.)

An applicant who has legally entered the United States can file to change his current status to a tourist visa while remaining in the United States.

An applicant currently holding a tourist visa can request a further extension.

In order to change or extend your status you would need to show the purpose of your stay (what would you do here as a tourist.) You would need to prove that your current employment in your home country and your residency there is not going to be affected by the extension of the stay. Last but not least, you would need to show that you have sufficient financial means to support yourself throughout your stay, or have a sponsor to help you out.


Each year fifty five thousand people apply for green card through the diversity visa lottery: a lottery open for applicants that come from countries with low rates of immigration and do not immediately qualify for immigration to the United States through family or employment (a pending petition does not prevent participating in the lottery.)

The applicant does not have to physically be in his country or even outside the United States when applying.

A winner can bring along spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age and they will also get their green cards.

Eligibility requirements:

  1. Applicant has to be born in a qualifying country.
    The State Department publishes the list of countries that are eligible to participate before each year's lottery. If the applicant was born in a country that does not qualify, s/he can use the spouse’s place of birth; or one of the parents’ places of birth if the applicant’s parents never resided in an ineligible country.
  2. Applicant needs to have at least a high school diploma or over two years of work experience in a profession that requires over two years of previous training.

If you were lucky enough to win the diversity lottery there is still some paperwork to be done. You will receive a letter with the instructions in the mail. Normally you will be required to go to the embassy, present your information, undergo some formalities and enter the United States (you will receive the actual green card in the airport.)

If you won the lottery while being in the United States you will have to file for adjustment of status; you don’t necessarily have to leave.

A green card holder is allowed to apply for citizenship after four years and nine months from the date he received his green card. A spouse of a citizen, if still married to that citizen, can apply for citizenship after three years of receiving the conditional green card. If the marriage dissolved, the four years and nine months term applies.

Remember: a green card holder needs to spend at least six months every year in the United States, or obtain a re-entry permit if he plans to leave for a term of less than two years. Failure to do that can cause revocation of the green card.

To check how the actual process of obtaining the green card works click here.


In 2000 the US Congress passed the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act Amendments, also known as LIFE Act. That is a law that allows certain aliens who arrived illegally and managed to remain in the United States until today to legalize and obtain the green card.

In order to receive the green card alien must have been physically present in United States since 2001 and have either a family-based or an employment-based visa immediately available for him. That means that such alien must either be married to a US citizen or have a child over 21 years of age, who is a US citizen, or have a labor certification filed between January 14, 1998 and April 30, 2001. The advantage of such adjustment is that if the alien is arrested and ordered out of the United States he is barred from coming back for the next ten years.

The application is filed with a penalty fee of $1,000.