Immigration Path : International Student to U.S. Citizenship (several years)

foreign student to American citizenshipSeveral thousand students come to USA every year and handful of those students go through the long, hard process of getting U.S. Citizenship. International student to U.S. Citizenship can take several years. Sometimes people wait for several years even to get their green card.

Green Card 101 Series

  1. Wait Time to Get Green Card in USA for Eb1, EB2 and EB3
  2. Green Card Steps for  EB2 and EB3 Explained
  3. Green Card Visa Numbers availability for E1, EB2 and EB3
  4. US Green Card Waiting Time Based on Pending Applications
  5. Immigration Path : Steps for an F1 Visa to Become U.S. Citizenship (this)

Lets take a journey to various steps a foreign students have to go through to get American Citizenship. Initial steps involve decision making about studying abroad in USA.

When I  started my Engineering back in India, it was almost pre-decided that I want to study in USA. But, it was matter of cost involved and when my parents should arrange for large amount of money for bank statements and visa.

Before Coming to USA

  • Decide to study in USA
  • Take college admission tests ( SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, IELTS, etc)
  • Apply to Universities
  • Get Admission (I-20)
  • Attend Visa Interview and get Visa
  • Travel to USA

Student Life in USA

  • Reach University
  • Start attending college/university
  • Search for job, internship, financial aid
  • Graduate with degree
  • Apply for Job
  • Attend Job interview

Corporate World

  • Get a Job
  • Move to new place
  • Get H1B Visa
  • Get Married
  • Spouse could be in H4
  • Green Card Application
  • Long wait ( for India and China)
  • Change Jobs ( restart Green Card Process)
  • Get Green Card
  • Wait for about 5 years
  • Apply for U.S. Citizenship
  • Become an U.S. Citizen.

This whole process can take several years.

  • Before USA : 2 years
  • Student Life in USA : 2 to 5 years
  • H1B to Green Card : Long wait ( EB2 for India – 10+ years)
  • Green Card to Citizenship : 5 More Years
  • Total : About 20+ years.

Don’t you think 20+ years is long time?  But, that is he reality for several foreign students who came to USA.

I considered worst case scenarios for this calculation.

If  employer files for Green Card in EB2 in second year of your H1B, then the wait times to get GC will be  less than 10 years.

If you happen to file your green card application in EB3, then you might have to wait for LONG time. I mean several years ( like 20 or may be more). Unless Immigration laws are changed, this green card process is time consuming.

Do you have any questions about the wait times and steps listed above?


  1. Hasson Syed says

    Hi Raghu,

    It’s a great article explaining the dauntus road to become a US citizen. But, I am also eager to know about steps involved in changing citizenship say after working for some years I ought to become Indian citizen again. Are there problems involved in gaining back citizenship in India since India allows for a single citizenship whereas USA allows dual. I hope an article on gaining back Indian citizenship and all problems involved will also help people with a perspective of going back to india. Thanks.

  2. says

    I think it’s the allure of the bright career and economic prospects which motivates people to stay on and obtain their green card against all odds. But the entire process is dotted with phases where you need to fill embassy forms and go through complex interviews. Most importantly, you will need to avoid visa violations such as inviting family members when you are not authorized to, working on a tourist visa, etc.

  3. Samit says

    After hearing lots of answer like Why you want to go USA?, what difference it will make in you ? I just came to some conclusion..

    It is self inflicting burden to study in US , if you wish to study in US its good , but if you wish make real difference this not best way ,you should look for opening a big company from scratch.The reason is in USA you still be guided by your professors in highly structured manner which Indian profs aren’t capable of as of now.I mean even Bangladeshi’s ,Zimbabwe guys do well in USA because US management system is so organised well that it shapes out talent from anybody.If you had stayed here possibly you would have felt much more difficult circumstances like  , handling traffic , dust, rains , managing people , chaos , difficult work culture etc.There more tougher problems in India .The only reason behind studying in USA is craze and nothing else.You are ready to pay 30 lacs for 2 -3 years and that too with rigid schedule .It is adventurous but is pure dilettantish.Conclusion is never complain if things go wrong in USA

    • sabrina says

      Dear Samit,
      it was a very good short article.but was that necessary to comment on any particular nationality like Bangladesh,Zimbabwe and so and so.and i have attended a very decent US school,but i have seen lots of students from the countries you have listed with talents that do not require to be shaped by USA.i appreciate your opinion but i think the example was unnecessary and should be more researched because it might be linked to someone’s own country or people

  4. prs says

    Hundreds of thousands of students go to the US to pursue masters, as stated nt many get through the whole process with ease in the shortest period .What do those guys can do after their temporary visas get expired .Can they really move to a country say the UK or canada if the employer there is willing to hire him or what can be done if the wait is too long ??

    regards :D

    • Raghuram Sukumar says

      Employer in USA will have to start your Green card process before your H1 expires.