The USA is a top destination for Indian students pursuing higher education and settlement.
In 2023, Indian students seeking higher education and settlement in the USA should explore all options available to them and not just straight fly to the USA to study as soon as their study is finished in India.
To study, work and settle in the USA, Indian students and family must understand the process and timeline for obtaining a green card.
Step 1: If you plan to study in the USA after completing 12th grade for a bachelor’s degree or after completing a bachelor’s degree in India for a master’s degree in the USA, you must first take an English language or other exams, such as TOEFL or IELTS, and either the SAT or GRE/GMAT. Then, you can apply to various educational institutions and receive your I-20 admission letter. Based on this letter, you can apply for an F1 visa, also known as a student visa.
Step 2: With an F1 visa, you can study in the USA and may also work part-time. After completing your studies, you can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows you to work in the USA. At this point, most students and parents feel the child is settled in America but in fact, this will be the start of real wait-and-watch time.
Step 3: Once your OPT work permit expires, you need to find a company in the USA to offer you a job for H1B visa sponsorship. If selected, you may work in the USA for the same company for six years, and in some cases, seven years.
Step 4: After obtaining an H1B visa, you can ask the same company or look for a new company to sponsor you so you can apply for USA green card. All students from all over the world apply under Employment-Based (EB) five categories, as shown in the table published by USCIS in December 2022.
For the past 30 years, the worldwide annual quota for green card visas in the employment-based category has been 140,000. However, as the number of international students increases, this quota is quickly being filled. Of the total quota, 40,000 green cards are allocated to the first three categories of EB, and 10,000 each to the EB4 and EB5 categories.
The majority of Indian and international students apply for the EB2 and EB3 categories, which currently have 351,436 and 112,859 approved green card petitions pending as of December 2022. Due to this backlog, the waiting period for the EB2, EB3, and EB4 categories is estimated to be 11 to 12 years. USCIS is currently processing green card petitions made in 2011 and 2012.
To check the latest priority date for April 2023, please refer to the updated information from USCIS click here
The following is an April 2023 priority dates:
|Certain Religious Workers||01OCT18||01OCT18||01OCT18||01OCT18||01OCT18|
(including C5, T5, I5, R5)
|5th Set Aside:|
(Rural – 20%)
|5th Set Aside:|
(High Unemployment – 10%)
|5th Set Aside:|
(Infrastructure – 2%)
Stage 5: If you are fortunate enough to have received an H1 visa and green card sponsorship under the EB2 or EB3 categories, it will still take 20 years before your child can obtain a green card for the USA, and an additional five years after that to become a citizen. With the increasing number of international students applying under these categories, it is possible that the waiting period could extend to 30 years or even longer.
What are the options for Indian students?
Option-1: If you have conducted research during your education and work in the USA and can demonstrate that you possess the exceptional ability or are an outstanding professor or researcher, you may apply for the EB1 (a) & (b) categories. Indian students applying under these categories do not have to face any waiting period.
Option 2 and 3: If you come from an Indian family, you can return to India and work for your family business for a few years, striving to become a senior manager or technical expert. This may open doors for an L1 visa in the USA. Alternatively, if your family’s company in India can take over an existing business in the USA, you may apply under the EB1(c) category for a direct green card for the USA, along with your spouse and children under the age of 21.
Option 4: If you and/or your family are prepared to invest in a NEW business in the USA under the EB-5 visa program, with an investment of US$800,000 or $1,050,000 and the creation of 10 jobs for Americans, you may apply for a green card under the EB-5 category. If you are in the USA on a legal status, you can apply for adjustment of status at the same time as the EB-5 petition.
Option 5: Many Indian and international students have applied for the Canadian Express Entry program to obtain Canadian immigration. The Canadian government is eager to welcome these immigrants with American degrees and experience as new immigrants.
The author of this article is Mr. Prashant Ajmera, an Indian immigration lawyer and Canadian citizen. He is the founder of Ajmera Law Group and the author of two books, “Millionaires On The Book” and “How to Plan for Your Child’s Foreign Education.” Over the past 30 years, he has assisted and advised over 30,000 students and families on planning their foreign education and settlement. He regularly speaks at various forums on this subject.