How to Find a Job in the USA

As an international student studying in the US, chances are you are probably already planning for your next step. It is generally advised for international students to begin planning for life after college at least a year before they receive their diploma.

If you are interested in staying in the US to work, you have two options available to you: you can enroll in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program and work in the US for a year, or you can get an H-1 B visa to work at an American organization.

Optional Practical Training

The OPT program allows international students to extend their F-1 student visa status for one year in order to gain professional training in their area of study. The application can take three to four months, so it is important for international students to begin the application process months before graduation. You do not need to have a job offer to apply for the OPT program, and your OPT employment can take place anywhere within the US.

Requirements for OPT include:

  • Employment must be “directly related” to the student’s major
  • Student must maintain lawful F-1 status
  • Student must apply for OPT before completion of all work towards a degree
  • Students who have engaged in 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) are not eligible for OPT
  • OPT is permitted for up to 12 months full-time in total – part-time OPT (while still in school) reduces available full-time OPT by half of the amount of part-time work (for instance, if you work part time for 6 months, you can work full-time for up to 9 months)

You are authorized for up to 12 months of OPT for each level of degree you have achieved—for example, you can do 12 months of OPT after receiving your undergraduate degree, go to graduate school, and then do 12 more months of OPT.

Post-completion OPT is subject to the following rules:

  • OPT work must be full time (40 hours per week)
  • All OPT must be completed within 14 months after completion of your degree
  • Applications for post-completion OPT must be received by USCIS before the completion of your degree

Working Under a H-1 B Visa

If you would like to stay in the US for a longer period of time, you will need to get a company to sponsor you for an H-1 B non-immigrant visa. This will allow you to remain employed at that company for three years.

There is a cap of 65,000 foreign aliens who can receive an H-1 B visa per fiscal year, but you are not included in this cap if you work as a contractor for a company. You must have a bachelor’s degree in a field such as Architecture, Engineering, Mathematics and Statistics, physical sciences, health, or Education in order to obtain an H-1 visa.

Many employers in the US are intimidated by the US immigration process and are reluctant to sponsor H-1 B visas. For this reason, avoid beginning an employment interview or letter with an inquiry about H-1 B sponsorship. Instead, wait until the employer brings it up or when you are offered the position. Your first order of business should be convincing the employer of your suitability for the job. Later, when the employer is convinced, is the time to discuss the H-1 B sponsorship.

Make sure that you are well informed about the sponsorship process. Being able to explain the simplicity of the process may increase the likelihood of your being hired. Additionally, try to find companies that have a history of H-1 B sponsorship.

Tips for Finding a Job

There are several things that you can do to increase your chances of finding a job after graduation. These include:

  • Market yourself positively. Be prepared to tell employers how hiring you offers more advantages than disadvantages. By living and studying abroad, you have demonstrated tenacity and resourcefulness. Tell potential employers about any challenges you’ve faced in studying overseas and how you overcame them.
  • Choose a major/specialization in demand. Because the demand for employees in technical fields such as information technology and accounting far outweighs the supply, international students who study these subjects may have more employment opportunities than others.
  • Be flexible. You may need to expand your job search by considering jobs outside your desired career.
  • Be patience and persistent.
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