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Visas and long term stay, immigration pathways


eia
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Hello, I may have posted this on the wrong section of the forum.

 I am an international prospective student studying my PhD in NA ( USA or in Canada), and I would like to know visa applications, types of visas, and a pathway for a PhD student to fully immigrate and settle after finishing the program.  I'm from SE Asia, so any resources will help. 

Thank you, always stay safe and wear your masks!

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  • 1 month later...

A student visa is not an immigrant visa. I suggest you go to the State Department's website and the International Scholars website at the institutions where you are thinking of applying. Unless you get a permanent job after graduation with a work visa, the student visa will not be a path for immigration. Further, some student visas, like the J-1, have other requirements, like waiting a period of time before getting a work visa. And finally, immigration paths are relative to where you are from, hence, look at the State Department's website for information on your particular country. 

Whatever information you find here, including this, should be taken with a grain of salt. 

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  • 5 weeks later...

Going to share what I know in case other people are interested. Don't take my word 100% - rules keep changing, I might have misinterpreted something. All this information is based on what I've learnt from the State Department's website.

For the entirety of your PhD or graduate program, you will have a guaranteed student visa. After graduation is where this gets dicey. To stay in the US, you need to get a H1B visa. You'll have one year of "free stay" called Optional Practical Training. You get three years if you're in a STEM field. Ideally, this year should be spent trying to get a job which will sponsor your visa. The good news is that if you're working at a research institution - pretty much any big university - it's easier to get the H1B visa. That's because research institutions are considered "cap-exempt" - usually, H1B applicants have to go through a lottery process, where there's a 30-80% chance of getting a visa depending on your country of citizenship and your qualifications. At research institutions though anyone can get a H1B visa without going through the lottery.

Now, the bad news is that getting you the visa is still a pain in the ass for the university. It costs them a substantial amount of money (about $6,000 minimum just in application fees) and could take many months to process. They're unlikely to do this, imo, for someone who they don't see as a long-term employee. So if you're working as an adjunct or such it will be very difficult to get them to sponsor you. Ideally you want to land a TT position ASAP because they will sponsor you.

There's also a visa called the J-1 visa, which some universities might give you instead of the H1B for shorter academic fellowships and postdocs. This visa really isn't ideal because in some scenarios you may have to go and live in your home country for two years after the visa ends. (The requirements for this vary per country).

In terms of longer-term immigration, if you land a TT job, it becomes very easy to get a green card (permanent residency). As long as your employer is willing to sponsor you, you can apply for a green card under what is called the "EB-1" category, which is used for specialized academic researchers. If you are from a country with a lot of green card applicants like China or India, getting a green card under the regular work category is practically impossible nowadays as there is a per-country cap on the number of green cards given out each year, which means the wait time for a green card for those citizens is around 50-60 years. The EB-1 (professor) green card is not included under that cap, so you can get the green card in as soon as 2-6 years after you apply for it. This doesn't confer an advantage to you if you're from a country with less green card applicants, because it would be easy for you even if you were doing a non-academic job.

Finally, on Canada: I'm not an expert but I believe you can get permanent residency super easily while you're still a student. If your primary goal is to immigrate to NA, I'd pick Canada over the US for sure.

Edited by Submarina
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  • 4 months later...

I'll add some comments/points of clarification in bold to complement this exhaustive post:

On 2/11/2022 at 4:58 AM, Submarina said:

Going to share what I know in case other people are interested. Don't take my word 100% - rules keep changing, I might have misinterpreted something. All this information is based on what I've learnt from the State Department's website.

For the entirety of your PhD or graduate program, you will have a guaranteed student visa provided you abide by the conditions of the visa, eg. do not take full time employment, be enrolled full time in the program that sponsors your visa, etc. As far as I know (AP), F1 visas are for 5 years so you will need to renew if you stay longer in the program (I did). After graduation is where this gets dicey (yes!). To stay in the US, you need to get a H1B visa. You'll have one year of "free stay" called Optional Practical Training (note: you have to pay for applying for OPT, like any of your visas or visa renewals). You get three years if you're in a STEM field. Ideally, this year should be spent trying to get a job which will sponsor your visa. The good news is that if you're working at a research institution - pretty much any big university - it's easier to get the H1B visa. That's because research institutions are considered "cap-exempt" - usually, H1B applicants have to go through a lottery process, where there's a 30-80% chance of getting a visa depending on your country of citizenship and your qualifications. At research institutions though anyone can get a H1B visa without going through the lottery. (My understanding was that if you go to work on an academic institution, not if you came from one).

Now, the bad news is that getting you the visa is still a pain in the ass for the university. It costs them a substantial amount of money (about $6,000 minimum just in application fees) and could take many months to process. They're unlikely to do this, imo, for someone who they don't see as a long-term employee. So if you're working as an adjunct or such it will be very difficult to get them to sponsor you Actually, you have to be a full time employee, so adjuncts wouldn't qualify for H1B visas. Ideally you want to land a TT position ASAP because they will sponsor you.

There's also a visa called the J-1 visa, which some universities might give you instead of the H1B for shorter academic fellowships and postdocs. This visa really isn't ideal because in some scenarios you may have to go and live in your home country for two years after the visa ends. (The requirements for this vary per country). Yes!

In terms of longer-term immigration, if you land a TT job, it becomes very easy to get a green card (permanent residency). As long as your employer is willing to sponsor you, you can apply for a green card under what is called the "EB-1" category, which is used for specialized academic researchers. If you are from a country with a lot of green card applicants like China or India, getting a green card under the regular work category is practically impossible nowadays as there is a per-country cap on the number of green cards given out each year, which means the wait time for a green card for those citizens is around 50-60 years. The EB-1 (professor) green card is not included under that cap, so you can get the green card in as soon as 2-6 years after you apply for it. This doesn't confer an advantage to you if you're from a country with less green card applicants, because it would be easy for you even if you were doing a non-academic job. All of this!

Finally, on Canada: I'm not an expert but I believe you can get permanent residency super easily while you're still a student. If your primary goal is to immigrate to NA, I'd pick Canada over the US for sure.

 

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