Preeya Malik, an award-winning US Lawyer, highlights why learning about the US EB-5 Green Card can help GCC families make strategic choices about their children’s education and career path
Preeya has spent the last 13 years educating individuals across the GCC region about the path of an F-1 international student, including strategies post-graduation such as an OPT, H-1B, and US EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program – a direct pathway to permanent residency which many have not heard about. In this article, she has put together a comprehensive overview of options available for students looking to work and live in the US after obtaining a US degree.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a first opportunity to acquire full-time and paid work experience in the US after graduating from a US school. While all students must find a position in their major area of study, the duration of OPT can vary between one to three years depending on the degree obtained by each student. An F-1 student must secure employment within 60 days of the F-1 expiry date or graduation date. Those who cannot find an adequate position, will have to leave the US and return to their home country.
After the expiration of the OPT period, an H-1B visa via an employer sponsor is often the only option which will allow the graduate to stay in the US, as often the individual does not yet have enough skills and work experience to fall into any other category of US employee visa such as an EB-2 or EB-1C.
H-1B Employment Visa
The H-1B visa allows immigrants to work in high-skilled job positions. To obtain an H-1B visa, students have to overcome two major difficulties: find an employer willing to sponsor them and then to be selected in the H-1B lottery system. “Many of our clients believe their children’s skills and achievements will be enough to obtain a work visa [H1-B visa] in the US after graduation. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Being the most talented student is not enough. Having studied in the US myself as an F-1 International student, I am all too familiar with the struggles F-1 students often face.” states Preeya.
Due to the high demand of H-1B visas, the category has become oversaturated and H-1B visas are now allocated through a lottery system. In 2023, over 480,000 applicants applied for H-1B visas and only 85,000 were selected as per the annual quota. The selection is random and is not based on merit of the applicant. The draw is based on luck.
In the optimal scenario that one finds a sponsor employer and is also able to secure an H-1B visa it is important to know that this visa category comes with its own limitations. Under the H-1B visa, if one were to lose their job, they have limited time to find another position after which they must leave the country. Recently, many individuals working in the tech industry in the US under H-1B visas have faced mass layoffs, and thus have had to leave the country that they have called home for several years.
“The economy is very unpredictable and so is the job market. I graduated from law school in 2008, the worst time in history for finding employment in the middle of the global financial crisis and worldwide recession. It was a difficult time for citizens to find employment, and almost impossible for international students,” states Preeya of her experience as an F-1 graduate. “Planning and securing the ability to carry out those plans will leave anyone in a better position should there be another time like 2008, the tech downsizing of 2022 and 2023, or immigration policy changes which may or may not be introduced tomorrow.”
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program: A Permanent Option
Since March 2022, the EB-5 Program has become increasingly popular for F-1 international students. “It is safe to say that 90 per cent of our clients over the past year have been those families who have children studying in the US, are planning to have their children study in the US, or have children who are fresh graduates from US Programs,” explains Preeya.
For those families who have the ability to invest a refundable amount of $800,000 into an EB-5 approved project, this program offers a rather straightforward and certain path to the US Green Card when compared to other routes. The US EB-5 Program is a direct route to obtain permanent residency in the US and also has the benefit of eventually leading to US citizenship.
Under this scheme, the application may include the investor, the investor’s spouse, and any children under the age of 21. In the event that a child is over 21 years old or if a parent is only considering the program for the benefit of their child who is a US student, the child can be made a primary applicant having the funds for the investment gifted from a parent. This strategy is being used from many families across the GCC who may already have a child studying in the US on an F-1 visa or who may be on OPT post-graduation. More and more families are also using this route if their child who has graduated from a US university has tried to apply for and unable to secure an H1-B visa.
When Should You Start The EB-5 Green Card Process?
It is tempting to wait until a student graduates from University to find out if they actually want to stay in the US, if they will have superior employment opportunities, or if they are lucky enough to be drawn for an H-1B visa. This is understandable as the investment sum is not small. However, more often than not, international students do end up with the great desire to stay in the US after completing four years or more of study. If they have worked hard, they will have doors opened to a vast array of career building opportunities with only a visa status standing in the way. As a result, international students and their families can benefit from learning about how the US immigration system works before the child starts his studies in the US or before graduation from a US program. With this knowledge, students can more easily outline a realistic career path. The EB-5 allows families to unlock more benefits, such as domestic tuition rates and the ability to gain valuable work experience during their studies, the earlier they choose to start the application process before the child goes to the US for their studies.
Contact Step Global To Assist In Planning For Your Future
The GCC’s leading immigration advisory firm, Step Global, headed by Preeya Malik, is offering free consultations to anyone interested in the US EB-5 Green Card Program. Preeya along with her team will advise families on future planning and strategising for optimal success for international students studying in the US. Step Global is privileged to be the only firm in the GCC working with the top five most reputed EB-5 regional centers, hence being able to provide clients with all the best EB-5 project options available in one place.
Contact Step Global today at [email protected] or call us at +971 4 770 7825.