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How International Students Can Prepare to Work in the U.S. After College

Friday | February 28, 2020 | by Maddy Lavoie

study in the states OPT

Many international students seek to extend their stay in the U.S. following graduation. In this blog post, WES Ambassador Maddy Lavoie describes the work options available to international students, including Optional Practical Training (OPT) and employer sponsorship.

Keep reading to see her advice for those who want to stay and work in the U.S. after completing their studies.

After I graduate from Delta State University, where I am finishing up my sophomore year, my goal is to stay and work in the United States rather than return to Canada, my home country. I want to stay because there are more job opportunities in the U.S. in my chosen field—professional sports—than in Canada.

My older brother now works in the U.S. Our family has learned a lot because of the long process he had to go through. I am writing this post to help other international students, many of whom want to stay and work in the U.S.

Following these four guidelines may help international students stay in the U.S. to work, once they have graduated with a bachelor’s degree:

Plan Ahead

During your senior year, you will need to prepare in advance if you want to work in the U.S. after graduation. At the beginning of the academic year, start searching for jobs. You can do this yourself online, but it’s best to get guidance from the Career Services Office at your college.

In fact, many Career Services experts recommend that you visit their offices starting your freshman year. Staff there can:

  • Review and edit your résumé
  • Help you prepare for job interviews
  • Assist you in finding available jobs

My résumé, which emphasized my high school accomplishments, needed updating. Career Services helped me by advising that I only include relevant information that would stand out to employers.

They also recommended that I create a LinkedIn profile so I could meet prospective employers. You can even apply for a job directly from the site. LinkedIn, an international professional networking site, also helps you find jobs from companies you don’t know about. I received several emails from companies I had never heard of. This exposure helped to expand my horizons on possible work opportunities.

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Know the Rules and Regulations of Working in the U.S.

Visit your international advisor on your college campus to gather all the information you need regarding working in the U.S. after graduation. Find information about the visa process and deadlines to make sure you are eligible to work in the U.S.

You have 60 days after graduation to either enroll in another college program to continue your studies or to enroll in Optional Practice Training (OPT). OPT lets international students gain paid work experience in the U.S.

Learn More

What You Need to Know About Optional Practical Training

My campus international advisor suggested I look for an employer that would sponsor my visa application. The best way to get an employer to sponsor you is to show that you are a valuable asset, as reflected through your work. Your work needs to be outstanding enough to demonstrate that a U.S. citizen could not replace you.

If a question is asked about sponsorship on an online job application, don’t lie about your sponsorship status. Many U.S. employers do not understand the sponsorship needs of international students and, therefore, appreciate knowing whether you will need sponsorship as early in the hiring process as possible. If a company sponsors you, they will likely need to pay for and file your visa application and accompanying paperwork.

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Use Your College Resources

Make sure to continually visit Career Services and the International Office on your campus. Both of these departments can help to answer any questions you might have, and both have likely had experience assisting international students’ efforts to get a work visa. You are not alone in this process, but don’t let their support stop you from doing your own research.

I visited both of these offices at least once a week to make sure I was on top of everything. At home, however, I continued doing my own research. I wanted to find companies that interested me and I thought would be a good fit.

Career Services was particularly helpful during the later stages of the job search process. They helped me find clothes appropriate for interviews and for the jobs I was seeking. They also helped prepare me for interviews by holding mock interviews with me one-on-one. I felt so much more prepared and less nervous for interviews because I had practiced with the Career Services Office so many times.

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Give Yourself Multiple Opportunities

Apply to a lot of jobs—20 or more. The higher the number, the higher your chances of being accepted. If you apply to only a limited number of jobs, you are putting yourself at risk. You don’t want to enter panic mode if you get rejected by all of them. This can be very stressful because you have to go through the job search process again.

Start the process early so that you aren’t overwhelmed at graduation. Your college provides you with many resources, so make sure you take advantage of them. Your college can also guide you and prepare you to apply for jobs. Good luck to all the international students who are hoping to work in the U.S. after they graduate!

Keep Reading

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Maddy Lavoie is an international student-athlete at Delta State University in Mississippi. She is also a WES Ambassador.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).