International students studying at universities in the United States often have questions about staying in the country after graduation.
Fortunately, there are pathways that allow international graduates to remain in the country and make a living. Exploring your visa options can help you make an informed choice as you pursue your dreams.
Explore optional practical training
One of the most common avenues for international students to work in the United States after graduation is through Optional Practical Training. This program allows F-1 visa holders to engage in temporary employment related to their field of study for up to 12 months after completing their academic program. An extension is available for students in certain science and engineering fields, allowing for 36 months of work authorization.
To apply for OPT, students must work with their designated school official to submit the necessary paperwork to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. OPT provides valuable real-world experience. Graduates who participate in OPT are often more competitive in the job market.
Look into H-1B visas
The H-1B visa is another option for some international graduates looking to work in the United States. Professionals in specialty occupations often use H-1B visas for work authorization. For many graduates, it provides a pathway to secure long-term employment in the country. To qualify, candidates typically need a job offer from an American employer willing to sponsor their visa.
While the H-1B visa is a popular option, obtaining one can be competitive due to annual caps on the number of visas issued. Therefore, it is advisable for international students searching for jobs early, network with potential employers and consult campus career services to maximize their chances of securing an H-1B visa.
Consider other options
Apart from OPT and the H-1B visa, international students can explore alternative visa options, such as the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program or O-1 visa for individuals with extraordinary abilities. Some students may qualify for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program if they have significant capital to invest in a business based in the United States.
Although you face many uncertainties as an international student, there are programs that can help you stay in the United States and find work.