Foreign students who are attending a U.S. college on a student visa can have concerns about their future in the country when graduation time comes around.
The authorization to be in the U.S. that student visas, such as F-1 visas, grant generally gives out soon after a student graduates. However, a student visa holder's desire to be in the U.S. doesn't necessarily end with the completion of their studies. They may want to live and/or work in the U.S. post-graduation. So, major immigration matters can come up for student visa holders when they graduate.
There are various options that may be available for a student visa holder to legally stay in the U.S. post-graduation.
One option is to participate in Optional Practical Training. OPT allows a student visa holder to temporarily extend their stay in the U.S. to do work within their field of study.
Another option is to get another type of nonimmigrant visa to authorize a continued stay. This strategy can be seen in a recent PRI article on a musical group called Night Lights. The band's four members all went to college together here in the United States. Three of the members are from other countries, and went to the college under student visas. Following graduation, these three band members used an OPT extension, and then decided to pursue O-1 artist visas. Musical artists have to meet certain requirements to qualify for this class of nonimmigrant visa. One of the three members has been granted such a visa, while the other two are still seeking approvals.
O-1 visas are just one of the types of nonimmigrant visas a student visa holder may be able to pursue for a post-graduation stay. Which particular visas might be an option depends on a graduate's particular situation.
Another option a student visa holder may have post-graduation is to pursue a green card, if they meet the requirements for one of the paths to permanent residency.
When graduation time is coming close and a student visa holder wishes to remain in the U.S. post-graduation, they may want to speak to an immigration attorney about what specific options are available to them and which of the available options it would make the most sense to pursue given their particular goals.
Source: PRI, "These young musicians are hoping the US government likes their 'exceptional abilities'," William Troop, July 22, 2016