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Find a job or head home


Paula Jimenez-Sanchez Antelope Staff
Paula Jimenez-Sanchez
Antelope Staff

The challenge for international graduate students in U.S.

The struggle is real: foreigners in the U.S. face challenges after graduation, says international student Paula Jimenez from Barcelona, Spain.

Jimenez completed a business administration degree in spring 2016 but opted to stay, starting an advertising and public relations degree while continuing with the UNK tennis team. She played for the Lopers on 2013 through 2016 and is now the student assistant men’s and women’s tennis coach.

The pressure is on for international graduate students when their undergraduate college career is over. There are about one million international students seeking their degrees in the United States. More than three-quarters of these students want to stay in the U.S. after they graduate. The land of opportunities is able to provide foreigners with a variety of life options that they would not have been available in their own countries.

 But how easy are these opportunities to get? Do foreigners actually have chance to live the “American dream”?

After four or more tough years of studying in a different country with challenges such as adversity, cultural factors and language barriers, all international students hope for upon graduating is to get a job. However, the job hunting process is never easy. Foreign students who want to stay in the U.S. after finishing their education must find a job or at least an internship within three months after their graduation in order to obtain Optical Practical Training (OPT) status. OPT status allows international students to stay legally in the U.S. for another year. The job can only be in their field of study, which means that international students are not allowed to go work as a bar tender in order to “survive” that year of OPT.

By the day that OPT expires, if foreigners are still not able to find an employer that wants to hire them and that is willing to sponsor their working visa, they have to say goodbye to their dreams and leave the United States.

“International graduate students are forced to work twice as hard to manage staying in the United States in order to find a job.”

 As an international job-seeker, you need to make yourself more valuable than any other possible candidate for the position. If you are lucky enough to make it through the first selection process and get an interview, foreigners need to convince and assure the employer that they are the perfect fit for that position. Most employers ask themselves: why should I hire a foreigner and pay thousands of dollars to sponsor their visa when I could just hire a U.S. citizen and not pay a penny for them? Therefore, companies can only sponsor foreigners if they can show that they cannot find an equally qualified American citizen for the job. With this in mind, international graduate students must step up and prove why they are the ones that should be hired.

If an employer decides to hire an international graduate student, they must apply to the government for a working visa on behalf of the student. When this visa, called H1B, expires in three years, the foreigner must apply for another type of visa or green card to retain legal status in the United States. Another way of becoming a U.S. citizen is marrying an American citizen. Even though it can seem an “easier” way to obtain a green card, this method can come with a lot of dangers. In order to get the green card after marrying a U.S. citizen, the government goes through all different sorts of processes and initiates an investigation to make sure the marriage is real.

U.S. employment opportunities for international graduate students are very limited right after graduation. Foreigners need to be realistic because not all international students will find a job in the U.S. It is important to be aware of all the deadlines through all the processes because once you are do not have a student visa anymore, your time in the United States is running out and the countdown begins. Being brilliant, different, exceptional and incomparable are the traits that will let you live the longed-for “American dream.”

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