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I’m well educated. What are my options for U.S. immigration?

In our last post, we discussed the overall public approval of highly skilled immigrants in the U.S. Today, we examine some of the common ways that highly educated workers come here.

There are a few different ways that an immigrant with advanced skills or education can live and work in the U.S. Some many come through family reunification visas—though there is no educational requirement for such visas. Many also come through one of the various employment-based green card programs.

It’s worth noting that for both family-sponsored and employment-based visas, the U.S. government places a strict limit on the number of applicants it will accept from each country within a fiscal year. Currently, this limit is 7 percent.

There are also two other key programs that can support a highly educated immigrant who wishes to reside in the U.S. These are the Optional Practice Training (OPT) program and the H1-B visa.

Optional Practice Training (OPT)

This work program is available to foreign students currently studying in the U.S. under an F-1 student visa. Depending on the type of degree a student obtained—or is in the process of obtaining—in the U.S., OPT could enable them to stay in the country and work for one to three years.

OPT offers one key advantage over family- and employment-based visas: the U.S. places no limit on how many OPT applications they’ll accept.

H-1B Visa

The H-1B visa allows immigrants with a bachelor’s degree and a specialty occupation to work in the U.S. H1-B visas are awarded through a lottery—with a limit on how many are issued each year. Once awarded, the visa is good for up to six years, with the opportunity for renewal—if the applicant is up for permanent residency at that time.

Applying for residency in the U.S. can be a complex and uncertain process—especially in this time of ever-changing immigration policies. Consulting with an experienced immigration attorney can go a long way in increasing your chances of success.

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