F1 to Green Card: Everything You Need to Know

Posted by Frank Gogol
Updated on April 27, 2022

If you are an international student living and studying in the US, there is a good chance you are interested in living here permanently, especially if you want to find a high-paying job to help pay off all of your student loans.

There are a number of ways an F1 student visa holder can become a permanent resident, but it can be hard to know which way is best for you. Read on to see which option best fits your situation.

Read on to learn more, or check out our video OPT to US Permanent Residency Steps Explained!

Can F1 Students Apply for a Green Card?

The short answer? Yes. In fact, you already have a slight leg up, since you are legally living in the US. Below are 7 ways you can transition from an F1 student visa holder to a permanent resident.

7 Ways F1 Students Can Get a Green Card

There are seven ways you can get a green card as an F1 student:

  1. Receive Employer Sponsorship
  2. Marry a US Citizen
  3. Seek Asylum
  4. Win the Green Card Lottery
  5. Receive Sponsorship by a Relative Who Owns a Business
  6. Participate in Military Service
  7. Receive Parent or Child Sponsorship

Below, we discuss each of those ways!

1. Receive Employer Sponsorship

If you attain employment while studying, you can have your employer sponsor you. Ask the company you work for to make an application for you for an EB-2 or EB-3 employment-based green card.

2. Marry a US Citizen

You can also get a green card if you marry a US citizen. Note that you will have to prove that your relationship is legitimate (not simply a ploy to get residency). The process is quite rigorous and can involve interviews, background checks, and examination of documents you provide to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

3. Seek Asylum

If returning to your home country would put your life in danger—if there is a civil war occurring or you are a member of a persecuted minority or group—you can petition for asylum. USCIS goes over these petitions on a case-by-case basis. If you can, consult an immigration lawyer as to the best way to present your case.

4. Win the Green Card Lottery

The Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery is held every year from October to November. It is sometimes called the “green card lottery”—there is no guarantee you will get a green card through this process. Note that certain countries that have sent over 50,000 immigrants to the US in the last 5 years are ineligible, including Canada, South Korea, Mexico, and Canada.

5. Receive Sponsorship by a Relative Who Owns a Business

If you have a relative who owns a business, they can sponsor you for a green card. Your business-owning relative, however, will have to prove that they are hiring you due to your qualifications, rather than because you are related. They must have a recruitment process for the position you would fill and show that they have made a good-faith effort to hire a US candidate, but that none were available or willing to do the job.

6. Participate in Military Service

Normally, you cannot join the military without a green card or work authorization. However, if you have two years of the university you might be eligible for certain high-demand positions in the military, even without a green card. Speak to a military recruiter on your campus about this possibility.

7. Receive Parent or Child Sponsorship

If you have a parent or a child under 18 who is already a legal US citizen, they can sponsor you for your green card.

8 Rights You Will Have a Green Card Holder

After going through the green card process steps and obtaining a green card, you enjoy almost all the rights of a US citizen:

  1. Right to Permanent Residency
  2. Right to Work
  3. Right to Protection Under Law
  4. Right to a Driver’s License
  5. Right to Bear Arms
  6. Right to Travel
  7. Right to Request Visas for Immediate Family
  8. Right to Social Security Benefits

Below are 8 primary rights you can expect as a permanent resident.

1. Right to Permanent Residency

You have the right to live permanently in the US. This right can be revoked, however, if you break the law or commit certain other actions that make you removable under immigration law.

2. Right to Work

You have the right to work at the business of your choosing. Some restrictions do apply, including homeland security or certain elected positions.

3. Right to Protection Under Law

You have the right to protection under the law. This includes all federal and state laws, as well as the laws of your local jurisdiction.

4. Right to a Driver’s License

Although it’s technically possible to get a driver’s license without an SSN, if you want/need to drive, you would now have the right to apply for a driver’s license.

5. Right to Bear Arms

You have the right to purchase a firearm. You can carry and use it according to the laws of the state you live in.

6. Right to Travel

You are not restricted to living in one area. You have the right to travel through the US as you please.

7. Right to Request Visas for Immediate Family

Do you have a wife, a husband or an unmarried child under 21? You have the right to request a visa for them.

8. Right to Social Security Benefits

You have the right to the Social Security benefits you’ve accrued through working. You also have a right to other benefit programs, such as Medicare.

7 Responsibilities You Will have as Green Card Holder

As a green card holder, you also have certain responsibilities to uphold:

  1. Responsibility to Follow the Law
  2. Responsibility to Register with Selective Service
  3. Responsibility to File Income Taxes
  4. Responsibility to Support the Government of the United States
  5. Responsibility to Carry Proof of Residency Status
  6. Responsibility to Inform DHS of Address Changes
  7. Responsibility to Have Health Insurance

Failure to do so can result in losing your green card. Each of these responsibilities is discussed in more detail below.

1. Responsibility to Follow the Law

The first and perhaps most important responsibility is simply to follow the law. You must obey all federal, state, and local laws.

2. Responsibility to Register with Selective Service

If you are a male between the ages of 18 and 25, you must register with Selective Services. Selective Services registers people who might be subject to the draft, though there hasn’t been one in the US since 1973.

3. Responsibility to File Income Taxes

Just like a citizen of the US, you must file income tax. You have the responsibility to report all income you receive to the IRS.

4. Responsibility to Support the Government of the United States

If you have a green card, you have a responsibility to support the democratic form of governance in the US. You must make no attempt to alter it in any illegal manner.

5. Responsibility to Carry Proof of Residency Status

Once you have a green card, you are required to carry proof of your residency status. The most common proof is your permanent residency card, i.e. your green card.

6. Responsibility to Inform DHS of Address Changes

Though you are free to travel throughout the US, you must inform the Department of Homeland Security if you do change residences. You will have 10 days from your move date to inform DHS of your address change.

7. Responsibility to Have Health Insurance

Finally, you are required to have health insurance. Note that you might be eligible for affordable health insurance offered through a federal or state healthcare marketplace.

There are many ways to obtain a green card if you have an active F1 student visa. Hopefully one of the above options is right for you. The green card will entitle you to a number of rights, as well as certain responsibilities.

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