Can a former student apply for permanent residency after their student visa has expired?

Someone who is temporarily in the United States on a student visa may be able to apply for permanent residency or citizenship, but not usually based solely on his or her status as a student. Whether a foreign student can obtain permanent residency or citizenship will depend on his current status and whether converting to a status that is eligible for adjustment to permanent resident status is possible.

If you are eligible for a change in status, you must file an application to change your status to that of a permanent resident. The current filing fee for adjusting your status to permanent resident is $1070.00. This fee is non-refundable if you are declined. 

Determining Eligibility for Permanent Residency

Before a student files to change status, it is important to make sure he or she is eligible to do so. The first factor to determine eligibility for permanent residency is a student’s current status. If you have finished your studies and your visa has expired, your status has officially been changed from legal status to illegal status. 

Unless a compelling reason exists for a student falling out of legal status, a person who is in illegal status cannot apply for permanent residency while in the United States. Instead of adjusting your status while in the U.S., you may have to return to your native country and apply for a new visa to re-enter, and then apply for permanent residency once your status is legal again.

Obtaining Permanent Residency with a Valid Student Visa

If your student visa has not expired, there may be ways for you to obtain permanent residency. Only certain categories of immigrants can apply for permanent residency. Usually the qualifying categories include asylum based, family based, and work based. A student visa will not automatically qualify, but while your status is legal, you can convert your status to another type.

Your newly-converted status will allow you to remain in the United States and make you eligible to apply for permanent residency. For example, if during the time you have attended school in the United States, you and your family have become political targets of your native government, you may be able to apply for asylum. Once you are granted asylum status, you may then apply for permanent residency.

Consulting an Immigration Attorney

Immigration laws provide other exceptions for student aliens that may apply to your situation. If you are close to losing your status, you should immediately contact an attorney who specializes in immigration law. An immigration attorney can help you review all of the options available to you based on your individual situation.