Foreign national living & working in the US...

Hi there,

I know this is probably a very random topic for this website but I really need some help from anyone who can offer me some constructive advice please!

Let me start by explaining my current situation to you…
I am living and working in the US on a J1 visa which is valid up till the end of July 05 and I have no residency restrictions of any sort attached to my visa.
I love the US and very much want to stay on beyond my J1 visa time period, over the past few weeks I have been researching what options are available to me in order to extend my stay and I have come up with the following:

  1. H1-B visa - Should my current employer not give me the option to stay on with them with an extension under my current visa or offer me permanent employment with an H1 visa… I have enquired and submitted my resume to possible visa sponsoring companies in the US with regard to this and possibly finding employment before I am required to leave the states. I am qualified enough with a Bachelor’s Degree and I do realize that there are a quotas to how many H1-B visas are issued each year, and that it is a lengthy process which could go beyond my current visa expiration date which does hinder my chances of finding sponsorship and employment in time.
  • Can anyone clarify for me that I would indeed be able to change my visa status to an H1 from a J1 visa?, and because I am already in the US having worked for a US employer would this make my chances of changing the visa status easier to complete provided I have a H1 visa sponsor?
  1. The second option that I have , and one which is looking like the most straight forward option is this:
    My girlfriend is an American citizen and we have talked about getting married, and would definitely consider this as an option should the H1 visa not become available to me in time. this now would be related to a K visa if I am correct?
  • My question goes like this: If my girlfriend and I were to marry in the US before my current visa expires, would this make me eligible to stay on in the US without having to leave the country and still be allowed to work under the now K visa?
  • How would I go about having my visa status/category changed to reflect that I am now married to an American citizen?

I hope my questions make some sense to you all and that you can help me with any advice or suggestions, or even an accurate resource/link/person that you could put me in contact with to assist me further with my questions.

Thanks guys!

yeah your questions on immigration are kinda random for this website, but as a foreign national living and working in arizona as an industiral designer, having gone the residency through marriage route, i can answer a couple of your questions. but i am not an immigration laywer! i advise at least meeting with a laywer (i met with one for a hour for $50 and got some good advice) and you must check out the official goverment website,

first- to clarify, you cannot change your visa from within the us. a visa is a document issued by us consulates abroad that permit a US immigration officer to allow the bearer into the country at a port of entry. from within the us you need to apply for an adjustment of status.

i am not certain if you can adjust from J1 (that is a student visa right?) to H1b, but i think you can. you just need to find an employer who will sponser you. if you apply for adjustment before your current status expires, you are not here illegally as you wait for it to be processed. i think.
the H1b are very limited, and i am not sure about all the details involved in the application.
other employment based options involve working abroad for a us based company, who would bring you back temporarily on a visa (cant remember what its called) or working for a us or foreign company that brings you as a visitor for business on a B visa (technically you are not supposed to ‘work’ on this visa, just attend meetings and stuff like that).
having previously worked in the us will probably only make things simpler if you are continuing to work for the same company.

your second option- marriage- is definitly the most complicated! i don’t advise doing it just to stay and work. anyone who marries to stay in a country is crazy in my opinion! but if marriage is where you guys are heading then the laws pretty much make it a given for you to stay and work permanently. if either of you have been married before, or if you have had criminal convictions, then things can get a bit more complicated. but here goes for a straightforward case:

once you get married, you file a stack of papers with immigration. these will include an application to adjust status, a petition for a spouse, an application for an employment authorisation document (EAD), an affadavit of support, a travel document (if you want to leave the county while the application is pending)…and some other stuff too.
the application to adjust status is a request from you to change from a J1 to a legal permanent resident (known as a greencard). this can take 6months to 3 years, depending on which state you are in. the EAD takes about 4 months to process- in the meantime you technically cannot be employed. once you recieve the EAD you can start work, but cannot be paid until you get a Social Security Number. You get the SSN at the nearset SS office, using the EAD when it arrives. that takes a couple of weeks. i got married on may 30th, and started work september 15th. i think thats a pretty standard time.
the EAD needs to be renewewd every year until you get the greencard, and cost $175! all the forms and fees have totalled $910 for me so far!

as for a k-visa, you could do things that way too. you would leave the country, and your fiance would apply for your K-visa. then, 6-12 months later you get it and come back, and marry within 90 days. then you apply for the EAD…well…no…actually i think the EAD gives you temporary (90 days?) right to work…not sure about working under a k visa.

either way, you also need an affadavit of support from your wife. this is a form that proves she can finacially support you. if she cant, she can get someone else to say they can (like her parents). if someone else does it, they are not actually commiting to financially supporting you, but if within 10 years you receive government benefits, the government has the right to claim that money back from whoever signed an affadavit of support.
i dont think an application to adjust status is rejected if you cant prove your wife can support you, but it probably makes things easier if you are abroad and trying to get into the country on the K visa.

hope that clarifies some stuff for you.