Employment After Graduation for International Students in the US

Employment After Graduation for International Students in the US

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Many international students pursue higher education in the United States with the hope of finding employment opportunities in the country after graduation. However, being granted a visa to study does not guarantee a visa to work.

After completing their studies, international students may face uncertainty and challenges in securing a job and staying in the US.

Fortunately, the US offers several options that allow international students to gain work experience and explore career opportunities after graduation. These options vary depending on the type of visa, degree, and field of study of the student. Some of these options require prior authorization from the US government, while others are more flexible and accessible.

This article explores five viable options available to international students seeking employment in the US after graduation. It also provides tips for finding a job and the significance of planning ahead for a successful career transition whether you want to work temporarily or permanently in the US.

Importance of Understanding Visa Requirements for International Students

You’re an international student who wants to have post study work in the US after graduation. But do you know what visas you need and how to get them?

Each visa option has different rules and steps to follow. You need to learn these rules and steps so you can plan your post-graduation steps and avoid trouble.

Apart from reading this article, think about your own situation and talk to immigration experts to find out the best visa or training option for you.

Let’s get started with the 5 best options to work in the US after graduation.

1. Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

As an international student in the US, you can benefit from Curricular Practical Training (CPT), a work authorization program that lets you work in a job that is related to your field of study.

You can choose to work part-time or full-time, either during the school year or during breaks. But before you can start working, you need to meet some requirements.

  • Be enrolled in a US institution for at least one academic year (the first 9 months after you enroll)
  • Get approval from the Designated School Official (DSO) who knows your program requirements

CPT is a great way to get hands-on experience and use your academic knowledge in real-world settings. It also helps you build professional networks and get ahead in the job market.

2. Optional Practical Training (OPT)

As an international student in the US, you can also work in your field of study for a certain time, usually up to 12 months, after finishing your academic program. This is called Optional Practical Training (OPT).

You can do OPT either before (pre-completion OPT) or after (post-completion OPT) graduation.

Pre-Completion OPT

You can work in your field of study before finishing your degree program with Pre-completion OPT. You can work part-time during the school year and full-time during breaks.

But you need to meet some requirements to do pre-completion OPT. You need to have completed at least one academic year of study and keep your F-1 student status.

Post-Completion OPT

Now Post-completion OPT allows you to work after completing your degree program. It is typically full-time and can last for a maximum of 12 months.

But you need to meet some requirements for qualifying for this training. You need to have finished your program of study and apply for the employment authorization document (EAD) from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides international students like you with an opportunity to gain practical hands-on work experience and learn closely about the US job market. It helps you connect your academic study and professional employment, improve your employability and explore potential long-term career opportunities.

3. STEM Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)

If you are a STEM graduate, you can work for longer in your field of study with STEM Optional Practical Training Extension (STEM OPT). This is a special extension of the regular OPT program for students who have completed a degree in a STEM field.

STEM OPT lets you work for an extra 24 months, making it a total of 36 months of OPT.

But you need to meet some requirements to do STEM OPT. You need to have a degree in a STEM field and a job offer from an employer who is part of the E-Verify program.

You also need to have a formal training plan from your employer that shows how the job will help you achieve your practical training goals.

The STEM OPT extension is very helpful as it gives you more time to work and learn in your field of study. You can get more work experience and possibly find long-term employment opportunities in your chosen field.

STEM OPT also gives you a chance to discover and contribute to the exciting fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

See also How to Work as a F1 Student

4. H-1B Visa

The H-1B work visa program is one of the most sought-out pathways for international students seeking long-term employment in the United States. If you want to work in the US for a longer period, you can apply for the H-1B visa program. This is a non-immigrant visa category that lets US employers hire foreign workers in specialized occupations.

Many international students use the H-1B visa as a way to continue working in the US after their OPT period ends.

The H-1B visa usually lasts for three years, and you can extend it for another three years.

But you need to meet some requirements to get the H-1B visa.

  • Be an international student with a job offer from a US employer who is ready to sponsor you
  • You have specialized knowledge and skills that are hard to find among US workers

One challenge with the H-1B visa is the limited number of visas issued each year. The US government issues 85,000 new H-1B visas each year. Out of these, 65,000 are for employers in the US, and 20,000 are for employers who hire foreign workers with a master’s degree or higher from a US institution.

This is called the H-1B Cap. Because of this cap, the H-1B visa application process is very competitive, and not all applicants may get approval. For more information visit What is H1B Cap and Who Qualifies for Exemption.

5. Employer Sponsorship and Green Card

Another option for a work permit for students in the USA after graduation is employer sponsorship for Green Card.

This option allows you to stay and work in the US with Green Card, but it also requires a strong commitment from both you and your employer.

To get a permanent residency or international student Green Card through employer sponsorship, you and your employer need to follow a few steps.

  • First, your employer needs to file a petition for you, stating that they want to hire you.
  • Next, your employer needs to prove that they could not find any qualified US workers for your position.
  • Then, you can apply for permanent residency under a specific category, such as employment-based immigration.

See also Employment-Based Green Card options

Getting a Green Card with employer sponsorship can be challenging and lengthy. You should consult an immigration attorney who can help you with the process and make sure you meet all the requirements.

Finding a Job in the US After Graduation

Finding a job in the US after graduation can be a rewarding but challenging goal. You need to plan ahead and take action during your studies in order to have a clear picture of what to do after graduation.

Here are some helpful tips for you to land a great job opportunity:

Do Some Networking

Building a professional network is crucial for finding job opportunities. You should attend career fairs, industry events, and join professional associations related to your field of interest.

Networking involves connecting with alumni, professors, and professionals physically, or virtually through platforms like LinkedIn. It is a must that you have a professional online presence that helps you actively showcase your profile and portfolio.

Your successful networking can lead you to desirable job referrals, internships, and valuable insights into the job market.

Leverage University Career Services

Leverage the career services offered by your university. Almost every career cell of a university provides guidance on job search strategies, resume and cover letter writing, interview preparation, and tips on ways to connect with potential employers.

So take advantage of workshops, mock interviews, and resources provided by your career cell to enhance your job-securing skills.

The career cell can also inform you about recent job fairs and upcoming recruitment events. Always keep a check on the latest updates on their websites, or notice boards.

Thoroughly Research Companies

A thorough research on companies that sponsor international employees can lead you to opportunities you might not be even aware of. So always search for organizations with a history of hiring international graduates and providing visa sponsorship.

Your focus should be the companies that align with your career goals and values. Explore their websites, company culture, and available job opportunities.

Tailor your application materials to each shortlisted company so that you can demonstrate your enthusiasm and thus fit for the role.

Participate in Internships and Co-Op Program

s Participating in internships and co-op programs during your studies can provide valuable work experience and potentially lead to full-time employment. Many companies use internships as a pipeline for hiring new graduates.

Seek out internships and co-op opportunities that align with your career interests. During the selection process, make a positive impression to increase your chances of being hired.

You should ideally look out for job opportunities while you are in college. Preparation for great career opportunities after graduation may also involve getting a good GPA, participating in extracurriculars (leadership, skill-building activities), and permitted volunteering.

It might be challenging for you to land a post study work opportunity quickly after graduation, however, if you keep persisting, applying, following up, and improving your skills, no job would be out of your reach. So don’t give up after rejections, or challenges. Always remember why you started and why you came to the US, that is, to fulfill your American Dream.

Professional and Experienced Help - Grape Law

As an international student studying in the US, you have many choices for finding work opportunities after graduation.

The Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) programs enable you to gain practical work experience during or after your studies. If you’re a student in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field, then the STEM OPT extension can give you more time to work in the US. Moreover, the H-1B visa allows you to work for a longer term, while employer sponsorship for permanent residency lets you pursue a career in the US permanently.

By exploring these options, and planning ahead, you can maximize your opportunities for employment in the US after graduation and embark on a rewarding professional journey. Send a message or schedule a video call today for your next step in the US.


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