Jan 07 2023

From studying overseas to becoming a permanent resident in the United States

Anika (Translate and Edit)


While many people may dream of studying abroad, it's important to recognize that this is just the start of a much longer journey. In the US, for example, many students study abroad and fall in love with the country, wanting to find a job and stay. However, it can be too late to start preparing by the time they realize this. That's why, through this article, I want to help young people understand the challenges of immigrating to the US and make informed decisions for themselves.


An overview of the most popular and legal methods of immigrating through studying abroad

  • Upon arriving in the US, you will receive an F1 Visa. Some schools will assist in obtaining a social security card, but if not, you will need to seek out help from the school to obtain one. During the first 9 months of having an F1 Visa, you are allowed to work on campus for a maximum of 20 hours per week. If you exceed this limit, you may be deported, regardless of the cause.


  • Upon completing the first 9 months of your studies, you may be eligible to work full-time (over 40 hours per week) during the summer. In order to do so, you must apply for a CPT (Curricular Practical Training). CPT is granted on a subject-by-subject basis and is often required for courses that include practical training at the end or during the term. If you are enrolled in one of these courses, you can request that the school assist you in obtaining a CPT for summer employment.

  • After your first summer in the US, you may be able to work off campus for a maximum of 20 hours per week. To do so, you will need to have a CPT. In cases of severe financial difficulties, your school may grant you a full-time CPT for the entire year. However, if you work full-time on a CPT for over 12 months, it will reduce the amount of time you are allowed to stay in the country for practical training after graduation. It is advisable to not abuse this option.

  • If your goal is to remain in the US, it is recommended to intern at a large company in your country during your first year of studies, then strive for an internship in the US during your second year's summer. In your third year, if you can secure an internship with a company that is willing to sponsor your work visa after graduation, this is the optimal situation. These companies often retain top performers after the fourth year (when you graduate).

  • The process of obtaining a Master's degree is significantly shorter compared to a Bachelor's degree. In your first year, you should intern at a well-known, reputable company with a global presence or a company that will definitely sponsor your work visa. By doing so, in your second year, you may be retained by the company you interned with or have an easier time finding a job at a large company.


While this may be the ideal scenario, the reality of securing internships or employment can be challenging.


  • It is very difficult to find work in the US through the internet. Many companies have filters that disqualify candidates who do not already have a work permit in the US or who will need sponsorship in the future. Out of all US companies, only 5% both hire and sponsor visas for foreign workers. The rest either do not hire foreign workers at all (75%) or hire them but do not sponsor visas (20%). This is because the visa policy in the US is relatively strict.  

  • As you near graduation, you will have to decide whether to apply for OPT (Optional Practical Training). For each level of education after college in the US, you are only allowed to apply for OPT once. This means that if you have two bachelor's degrees, you are only eligible for one OPT, and if you have two master's degrees, you are also only eligible for one OPT, not one for each degree. Therefore, if you go straight from college to a master's degree in the US, you will lose the OPT for the bachelor's degree.

  •  I mention the choice of taking OPT because it is available in two forms in the US. One form is for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields and allows for 3 years of work, while the other form is for other fields including business, economics, psychology, etc., and allows for 1 year of work. Those with STEM degrees typically have an advantage because they have more time to work in the US. Many US companies, including those that do not sponsor visas, are willing to hire someone for a 3-year period. Non-STEM degree holders may face difficulty finding a job because companies are hesitant to hire them due to the short period of time they are able to work. As a result, some individuals with non-STEM degrees choose to pursue an additional STEM degree to qualify for the 3-year OPT in order to have a better chance of finding employment.

  • The 3-year OPT has benefits beyond just finding a job and is also related to visa sponsorship from companies. After being hired by a company that sponsors visas, they may decide to sponsor you for an H1B visa. However, obtaining an H1B visa requires a lottery system. If you have only completed a bachelor's degree, your chances of receiving an H1B application are 10%. If you have a master's degree, your chances increase to 30%. Companies may be hesitant to sponsor individuals who are unlikely to win the H1B lottery. The H1B lottery only occurs once per year, so if you have 3 years of OPT, a company may sponsor you multiple times. Students with a master's degree in a STEM field are more likely to be successful in obtaining an H1B visa. In contrast, the 1-year OPT may not be as attractive to companies because of the shorter time frame and the risk involved. To avoid this risk, some students may enroll in a full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) program at a school that offers a 17-month OPT extension (available only to students who have completed a STEM degree and received a 17-month OPT). This allows them to continue working while they wait to find a company that will sponsor an H1B or green card.  


  • Even if you are accepted for an H1B visa through the lottery system, you may still be denied by the US immigration agency (USCIS) if they request evidence to prove that you have unique abilities that Americans do not have. This can be especially risky for those with degrees in fields other than STEM. If your employer has a competent lawyer, you may not have to worry as much, but if the lawyer is not proficient, you may be at a disadvantage. In general, having an H1B visa can make it easier to continue working for your current employer or switch to a different company, but it may still be a long process before you can obtain a green card.

  • It's worth noting that the H-1B visa is a temporary work visa, while the green card (officially known as the Permanent Resident Card) is a document that allows a foreign national to live and work permanently in the US. It's generally much more difficult to obtain a green card than an H-1B visa. It's also worth noting that the H-1B visa has a maximum duration of 6 years, but it can be extended beyond that in certain circumstances, such as if the individual has an approved green card application pending or if they are seeking to adjust their immigration status to a different category (e.g. from H-1B to permanent resident). 


  • A few notes on OPT and H1B: If you are on OPT and do not have a job within 3 months of starting it, you must leave the US. Some people choose to do unpaid internships in order to maintain their OPT status. If you have an H1B and lose your job, you have 3 months to find a new job or leave the US. However, it can be challenging to find a job within this time frame.

 This article is from the source with Vietnamese version.

Tags: From studying overseas to becoming a permanent resident in the United States