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My Immigration Journey: From F1-Student to Full-time Work Visa Sponsorship

July 17, 20234 min read

“Journey of a Thousand Miles Begind with one Step .” - Lao Tzu

In 2018, I decided to migrate to the U.S. on a study visa. While I have some friends and family members in the US who made the process seamless, I have my sheer experience with myriad complexities and challenges involved in navigating the U.S. immigration system. From obtaining my F-1 student visa to moving into the world of full-time work sponsorship, my persistence, resilience, and unwavering belief in the American dream helped in forging a unique career path. Today, I want to share my story with a focus on some critical milestones along the way: the uncertain world of OPT, H-1B visa lottery, and my triumphant self-petitioned National Interest Waiver (NIW) application. 

The F-1 to OPT Transition: My First Foray into the U.S. Workforce

The journey began with my F-1 student visa, which allowed me to study in the United States while completing my Master's in a technical field (I will save the details of my full scholarship from multiple universities and a monthly stipend for another day). Upon graduation, like many international students, I applied for Optional Practical Training (OPT) - a program that allows F-1 students to work in their field of study for up to one year (or three years for STEM graduates). Prior to graduation, I had an internship in a fintech company and after graduation, I returned to the same organization using OPT. This was my first foray into the U.S. workforce, and it was a critical stepping stone toward finding a more permanent role.

The H-1B Visa Lottery: A Gamble I Had to Take

Next came the dicey world of H-1B visas, a program designed for employers to hire foreign professionals in specialty occupations. But the H-1B is notoriously tricky to secure. With a strict annual cap, the process often feels more like a lottery (or gambling) than a strategic employment decision. Uncertain if I would be one of the lucky ones selected, I found this stage to be particularly stressful and unpredictable. Unfortunately, the first and second attempt failed. At this point, I knew that I need to re-strategize and use another approach.

A Self-Petitioned Victory: The National Interest Waiver (NIW)

Despite the uncertainty, I knew there had to be other routes to secure my future in the U.S. After extensive research and soul-searching, I decided to take a leap of faith and self-petition for a National Interest Waiver (NIW). This option is for foreign nationals who can demonstrate that their stay will benefit the U.S. What made this path unique was that it didn't require employer sponsorship or a labor certification (I worked as a research assistant during my Masters and I was able to capitalize on my research as a national importance). This step was daunting, to say the least. The paperwork was overwhelming, the legal jargon confusing, and the stakes were higher than ever. But I was determined to pursue this without the expense of an attorney, a decision that was intimidating yet empowering.

Against the odds, my NIW application was approved. I felt a surge of relief and accomplishment; I had navigated this complex system and came out successful - on my own.

Immigrant 360: The Beacon in My Journey

However, I wasn't entirely alone in this journey. I had the constant support of a remarkable group: Immigrant 360. Their members were instrumental in helping me navigate this complex process. Their professional coaching and expertise turned an otherwise challenging experience into a manageable one. 

The Immigrant 360 team became my guiding light in the often murky waters of U.S. immigration. Their personalized approach, attention to detail, and unwavering support provided much-needed reassurance throughout my journey. Whether it was understanding complex immigration regulations, filling out extensive paperwork, or providing emotional support during times of uncertainty, Immigrant 360 was there every step of the way.

Through their comprehensive coaching sessions, they equipped me with the knowledge and tools necessary to self-petition my NIW successfully. The Immigrant 360 team's depth of experience and understanding of the U.S. immigration system was invaluable, ensuring that I was well-prepared and well-positioned to take this significant step.

If you're starting your immigration journey, I hope my story has shed some light on the process. Always remember, while the journey may be challenging, with the right support and determination, the destination is well worth the effort!

A community of people helping people made my American dream come true.

## The Journey Continues...

Victor A. (Ph.D. Candidate)


Immigration, journey, success, students, internationalimmigrationjourneyinternationalprofessionalsimmigrants
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