F-1 to EB-5: A Pathway to Greater Security and Freedom

The Transition from an F-1 Visa to an EB-5 Visa: A Pathway to Greater Security and Freedom

CanAm recently hosted a discussion with Pete Calabrese, CEO of CanAm Investor Services, and Niral Patel, Business Immigration Partner at KLD, LLP.  The focus of their conversation was the transition from the F1 student visa to the EB5 visa, a topic of significant interest for many international students seeking a more permanent presence and greater flexibility in the U.S.  You can watch their full discussion here:  https://vimeo.com/961372152 .  Below are some of the highlights from their conversation.

Understanding the F1 Visa

The F1 visa is a student visa that allows foreign nationals to pursue education in the United States. To qualify, students need an I-20 form from their educational institution and must demonstrate financial stability to support their studies. The F-1 visa grants access to U.S. schools, universities, and postgraduate courses. However, its work authorizations, like Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT), are limited to the student’s field of study. For instance, an engineering student can only undertake internships or jobs related to engineering.

The H-1B Challenge

Upon graduation, many F-1 visa holders aim to remain in the U.S. through employment, typically via the H-1B visa. However, the H-1B process is competitive, with only 60,000 visas available annually against over 200,000 applicants. This lottery system presents a significant challenge, as those not selected must either leave the U.S. or find alternative ways to stay.

The EB-5 Visa Solution

The EB-5 visa program offers a more secure and flexible pathway for F-1 visa holders to transition to permanent residency. The EB-5 visa requires a substantial investment in a U.S. business, which in turn must create at least 10 full-time jobs for American workers. One of the major advantages of the EB-5 visa is the concurrent filing option, which allows applicants to file for employment and travel authorizations simultaneously with their EB5 petition.

Benefits of Concurrent Filing

Concurrent filing provides immediate benefits to F1 visa holders:

  1. Work Authorization: Students no longer need to rely on CPT or OPT for work authorization. The Employment Authorization Document (EAD) obtained through concurrent filing allows them to take on internships or jobs without restrictions tied to their field of study.
  2. Flexibility in Employment: Unlike the H1B visa, which ties the worker to a specific employer, the EAD offers complete freedom to work for any employer, switch jobs, or even start their own business.
  3. Travel Authorization: The advance parole document obtained through concurrent filing grants the freedom to travel in and out of the U.S. without needing to renew the F1 visa, which can be a lengthy and complex process in many countries.

When to Consider the Transition

The timing for transitioning from an F-1 visa to an EB-5 visa varies depending on individual circumstances. This transition can be beneficial at various stages of a student’s academic career:

– High School Students: Starting the EB-5 process early can ease the college application process, as students can apply to universities without needing an I-20 or special admission.

–  University Freshmen and Sophomores: These students can benefit from the EAD to secure internships critical for their future careers.

– University Juniors and Seniors: For those nearing graduation and facing the uncertainty of the H-1B lottery, the EB5 visa provides a secure alternative to remain in the U.S.

Additional Considerations

While the benefits of transitioning from an F-1 visa to an EB-5 visa are significant, there are also considerations and potential challenges to be aware of:

– Visa Backlogs: If there is a visa backlog, applicants may need to wait longer for their priority date to become current, delaying the adjustment of status.

– Project Location: Applicants do not need to live near their investment project. As long as the project is sound and managed by a reputable regional center, location is not a constraint.

– Financial Means: The EB-5 visa requires a substantial financial investment, so it is essential to assess one’s financial ability to meet this requirement.

Conclusion

The transition from an F-1 visa to an EB-5 visa offers international students in the U.S. a pathway to greater flexibility and security. By leveraging the benefits of concurrent filing, students can secure work and travel authorizations, providing them with broader opportunities and reducing the uncertainties associated with the H-1B visa process.

For those considering this transition, it is crucial to consult with immigration experts to navigate the process effectively.

 

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