Upon graduating from university, most of the +1 million F-1 Visa holders look for alternative Visa solutions that allow them to continue living in the US while pursuing employment opportunities. However, for F-1 students, the journey to a Green Card can be very long and plagued with uncertainty.
The EB-5 Visa provides a direct path to a Green Card and is a quick solution to taking full control of your own future. It unleashes your true career potential and lets you start building your American dream exactly how you envision it.Thanks to the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA), processing times have shortened dramatically. You can receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Advance Parole (AP) for travel permit in as little as 3 months while your Green Card petition is processed. Your work authorization (EAD) permits you to work for any employer without restrictions, thereby providing a path to continuing your life in the US upon graduating.
Options for F-1 Visa Holders
OPT and CPT:
The typical path for F-1 students seeking U.S. employment often begins with practical training, whether Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT), both of which are temporary. CPT is available only if the academic program includes a mandatory internship or practicum, and using it for 12 months full-time disqualifies you from OPT. OPT allows part-time work while studying and full-time post-graduation, but is limited to 12 months, extendable by 24 months if you are a STEM student.
However, neither CPT nor OPT leads to a Green Card.Entering the job market with OPT instead of a Green Card greatly limits your opportunities. The temporary nature of OPT often excludes high-paying jobs with growth potential. Furthermore, there’s a strict 90-day window to secure employment. This can add considerable stress and restrict your job search to limited opportunities. If you are unemployed for more than 90 days, you will need to leave the US.
The next step for many after OPT is the H1-B Visa, a temporary work permit valid for 3 years and renewable for another 3 years. However, this doesn’t provide a secure pathway to a Green Card. The H1-B Visa is not available for everyone but only for jobs requiring “highly specialized knowledge”, and USCIS can change what qualifies as such.
In order to receive the H-1B Visa, you need to win a lottery that is becoming harder and harder to win as the number of applications has nearly tripled in the last 4 years. There is an annual cap of only 85,000 new H1-B Visas, and with over 780,000 applications for 2024, only 1 out of 11 applicants will get an H1-B Visa. Also, 20,000 H1-B Visas are reserved only for master’s or doctorate students, so your chances may be even slimmer if you only have a bachelor’s degree.
|H1-B Visa Cap / H1-B Applications
Immigration Risk with H-1B:An H1-B Visa is restrictive as it binds you to your employer, carrying additional risk as being fired leaves you just 60 days to find a new job in the same field or you must leave the US. Unfortunately, this happened to many H-1B Visa holders in 2022 and early 2023 as at least 85,000 H-1B workers were laid off.
EB-2 and EB-3 Green Cards:
If you’re lucky enough to receive the H-1B Visa and would like to pursue a Green Card by way of employment, you’d likely focus on the EB-2 and EB-3 Visas which are employment-based Green Cards. You would need a company to sponsor you, and this can be difficult as the employer needs to show that they could not find a qualified US worker after spending thousand of dollars in local newspaper advertisements which could take months to produce you a Labor Certification (PERM).
Qualifications for EB-2 and EB-3:
Also, not everyone qualifies for EB-2 and EB-3 directly upon graduation. For EB-2, you either need at least a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree with 5 years of experience, or you need to show exceptional ability through awards, work experience, or with other evidence. The EB-3 Visa has less strict requirements but longer wait times, and you need to show that you have at least 2 years of job experience, possess a bachelor’s degree, or are capable of performing unskilled labor that requires less than 2 years of training.
Unprecedented Wait for Chinese and Indian EB-2/EB-3 Green Cards:
For F-1 students from India or China, receiving an EB-2 or EB-3 Visa can take decades. This is because there’s a 7% country cap on these Visas, limiting each country to only about 2,800 Visas out of the 40,000 available annually. Since the Visas also cover spouses and children, in reality, only approximately 1,000 to 1,200 applicants per country can receive these Visas each year.
The Visa Bulletin might show current processing for applications from 4-5 years ago for China and 12 years ago for India, but this is misleading. It doesn’t account for the huge backlog of approved EB-2 and EB-3 applications waiting for Visa numbers to become available. For reference, there are over 438,000 approved EB-2 applications and more than 156,000 approved EB-3 petitions for Indians. For China, there are over 43,000 approved EB-2 applications and more than 22,000 approved EB-3 petitions for Chinese. An independent study by the Cato Institute think-tank projects waits times of at least 54 years for new Indian EB-2 and EB-3 applicants, and at least 13 years for Chinese applicants.
|Estimated Wait for Indians
|Applicants Waiting for Visa
|Per Year Visa Allocation
|Years to Clear Backlog
|Source: USCIS Data (September 2023)
|Estimated Wait for Chinese
|Applicants Waiting for Visa
|Per Year Visa Allocation
|Years to Clear Backlog
|Source: USCIS Data (September 2023)
A faster Green Card alternative with EB-5
Due to the difficulty in obtaining an H-1B Visa or EB-2 and EB-3 Green Cards, many F-1 Visa holders are applying for the EB-5 Visa which is one of the fastest paths to US residency. It can provide a Green Card in as little as 1-2 years, and Work Authorization and Advance Parole for Travel in as little as 3 months.
The EB-5 Visa Program provides you, your spouse, and unmarried children under the age of 21 Green Cards after you’ve made an investment that creates at least 10 full-time American jobs. This may sound difficult for you to do by yourself, but government-authorized organizations called Regional Centers combine the funds from many EB-5 investors to finance large-scale projects that create numerous jobs directly in the project and indirectly in the economy through project expenditures.
The standard EB-5 investment is $1,050,000, but it’s reduced to $800,000 for investments in Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs), which include rural or high-unemployment locations. The RIA gives rural projects priority processing for one of the fastest paths to a Green Card. This benefits investors from China and India, where demand for work Visas is high, allowing them to bypass decades of waiting. If you are from China or India, we encourage you to act soon while there still Visas available for priority processing.
Most Regional Centers offer projects with a minimum investment of $800,000 USD, with options to invest in installments. Your relatives can give you the funds, or you could borrow from a financial institution or private lender. Upon the project’s success, you can expect to receive your initial investment back, along with some profit-sharing or dividends during the investment.
After you invest, your immigration attorney will file your I-526E “Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor” with USCIS, including personal documents, source of funds, and proof of investment that the regional center will provide.
With the RIA, I-526E approvals are faster with reserved Visa projects. It may take 3 to 6 months for rural investors, 8 to 12 for high unemployment TEA projects, and over 1 year for unreserved Visas. Upon approval of the petition, you will undergo Consular Processing or an Adjustment of Status to receive a Conditional Green Card that is valid for 2 years. The Conditional Green Card grants you the same benefits as a Permanent Green Card.
If you wish to continue your studies, you are now eligible for substantial in-state tuition savings at leading public universities, government loans, and higher acceptance rates. Also, you are not required to work and can enjoy life without losing your Green Card privileges.
You must invest lawful and well-documented funds with all transactions clearly recorded. You will need the guidance of an experienced EB-5 immigration attorney, and we will be glad to connect you with one.
Concurrent Filings: You can fast track your immigration process by filing three other forms.
The “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status” (Form I-485), will allow you to stay in the US, while your I-526E is getting processed.
The “Application for Employment Authorization” (Form I-765) will provide you with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in about 3 to 6 months and give you unrestricted opportunities to pursue the job you want.
The “Application for Travel Document” (Form I-131) will allow you travel abroad and come back while your I-526E is getting processed. You may expect it also in a few months.
Within the last 90 days of your Conditional Green Card 2 year period, your attorney will file the I-829 “Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions” This application demonstrates that your EB-5 funds were used as planned, the investment was maintained for the required period, and at least 10 jobs were created.
The Regional Center will provide proof of construction activity and job creation. They will use USCIS-approved economic models to show the job creation impact of the construction spending and projected revenues, including direct jobs and those created indirectly in the supply chain and those induced by wages spent in the local economy.
Once the I-829 is approved, you, your spouse, and unmarried children under the age of 21 will be converted to 10 year renewable Permanent Green Cards and will be considered Legal Permanent Residents (LPR).
You may apply for citizenship 5 years after the day you received your Conditional Green Card provided that you have stayed in the US for half the duration. Becoming a US citizen is not mandatory, but it has its advantages as you can sponsor your parents and siblings, and you may live abroad indefinitely without losing your US citizenship.
The initial step involves researching investment opportunities, focusing on Regional Centers with 100% project approval success rate in I-526E Petitions (Conditional Green Card) and I-829 Petitions (Permanent Green Card), but also a 100% success rate in repaying capital to their EB-5 investors. This is an accomplishment that only the gold-standard Regional Centers have achieved. Look for a Regional Center whose business model aligns with your interests and prioritizes the protection of your capital.
Minimizing risk will greatly depend on the business model of the Regional Center and the overall cost of capital in the project. Utilizing a 3rd-party Regional Center for EB-5 investments often leads to a notable increase to the project’s expenditures due to high sunk financing costs.
Repayment of EB-5 Investment:
As with any investment, getting your money back will depend on the success of the project. The project must finish construction and be sold at a profit or obtain long-term refinancing that will provide the developer with the capital to repay the EB-5 investors. Choosing a project with the lowest possible sunk financing cost is key to maximizing the chances of success against any possible market downturns.
With an EB-5 Visa, there are no lotteries with slim chances of receiving a Visa, no employment sponsors needed, or no risk that employers can lay you off. Our vertically integrated structure as a Regional Center and Developer with DC Partners has yielded 100% success in repaying EB-5 investments in full as well as project approval rates for both the Conditional and Permanent Green Cards. To learn more about one of the fastest and most flexible paths to receiving a Green Card, please contact us through our website, WhatsApp, or a call. We’d be happy to explain the EB-5 program and its requirements in detail, answer any questions, and connect you with an immigration attorney for a free consultation.