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