How to Convert an F-1 Visa to Permanent Residency

By Jessica McElrath

While an F-1 visa allows a non-citizen to stay in the U.S. temporarily to attend school, it does not allow you to stay permanently. A non-citizen student who wants to become a permanent resident in the U.S. must have a green card. To become a permanent resident you must have a sponsor, such as an employer.

Request a school official to recommend you for Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. Under OPT, a student on an F-1 visa can receive temporary employment in the field of his study either before or after completion of his degree program. An official at your school must provide his endorsement on your Form I-20.

Complete and submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization Document (EAD), with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS.) This form is to apply for the right to work in the U.S. You will receive an EAD if the USCIS approves your application.

Ask your employer to petition for an H-1B visa on your behalf. An H-1B visa allows an employer to employ a foreign worker that specializes in certain fields, such as science, engineering or computer programming. Your employer must complete Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. An employer cannot file an H-1B petition more than 60 days in advance of when it plans to employ you. According to USCIS rules, the employer may not file the petition prior to April 1, which means that employment will commence October 1. Normally, if your F-1 visa expires, you would have to leave the U.S. while the USCIS processes the petition. However, you can stay in the U.S. even if your F-1 visa expires based on the automatic cap-gap extension. If the USCIS approves your H-1B petition, your extension will last until September 30. You will be required to leave the U.S. before the expiration of the 60-day grace period if the USCIS does not approve your H-1B petition.

Ask your employer to sponsor you for a green card based on its intent to employ you permanently in the U.S. Your employer must complete and file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, with the USCIS.

File Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, with the USCIS once it approves Form I-140 and a visa number becomes available. Along with the form, you must submit the filing fee of $1070 and documentation, such as the offer letter from your employer, two color photographs taken of yourself within the last 30 days and Form I-693, Medical Examination. You will receive your green card after the USCIS approves Form I-485.

About the Author

Jessica McElrath has been a freelance writer since 2000. McElrath is the author of "The Everything John F. Kennedy Book" and "The Everything Martin Luther King Jr. Book." McElrath has a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of California at Berkeley and a Juris Doctor from Santa Clara University School of Law.