Job Seeking Tips for International Students

I am qualified to work in the U.S. Now what?

Check with ISS to determine your specific eligibility to work in the US and the process that you must follow for authorization. In general, if you are eligible for OPT, (students on F-1 visas usually are), then you will automatically be eligible to apply to participate in 12 months of practical training upon the completion of your studies, once you have submitted an OPT application to USCIS. You do not need anything from the employer in order to start working.  If you are working in a STEM field, you are able to apply for a 24-month extension for a total of 36 months. You are eligible to apply for a STEM extension 90 days before your OPT end date.

Should I list my visa status or nationality on my resume?

Your visa status/nationality should not be included on your resume. Your educational background and work history may or may not imply that you are an international student. Hiring managers will likely ask the appropriate questions during the recruitment process. You should certainly never lie about your visa status, but given the reservations employers sometimes have about hiring an international student, it is not necessarily to your advantage to draw attention to it.  

When in the hiring process should I disclose my employment status?

This is ultimately your decision to make, and there is no one correct answer to this question. It’s important to remember that your goal when applying to any position is to get past the initial screening of applications and get an interview. However, you don’t want to wait too long to discuss this issue either. You should broach the subject before the employer has spent a significant amount of time and money trying to recruit you. It is usually recommended that students address their work status during the first or second interview, and definitely no later than the time of the job offer.  

Many employers do not know what is involved in hiring a foreign national, and it is therefore crucial that you are able to clearly and confidently communicate this process to them.  

What questions may an employer ask?

  • “Are you legally authorized to work in the United States?”  
  • “Will you now or in the future require sponsorship for an employment visa?”
  • “Which languages do you read, speak or write?” (provided that such language skills are job related)

As long as you have OPT, YES, you are legally authorized to work and should be indicating this, especially when completing applications online.

What questions can’t an employer ask?

  • What is your visa type, nationality, place of birth? or, Of which country are you a citizen?
  • What is your native language? or, What language do you most often speak?

As an F-1 student, how do I answer when asked about my work authorization?  

Start by explaining that you have legal authorization to work in the U.S. for 12 months on OPT (STEM students will have up to 36-months available). OPT does not require any financial commitment or obligation from the employer.  

If a company says they don't hire international students, should I even apply?

A lot of times when employers say they don't hire international students it only means that they haven't hired any international students yet, or they may mistakenly think that hiring international students (particularly on OPT) is a complicated or costly process. In order to convince these prospective employers, it is your responsibility to educate them about the process of hiring a foreign national.  

Some employers will be very familiar with the process, and some will have never hired an international student. In all cases, it is your responsibility to know the hiring process and to ease the concerns of the employer about any difficulties. The more clear and confident you can be, the more likely you can put the employer at ease.

Doesn't an employer have to prove that international students are not taking jobs from qualified Americans?

No. If you are working under an F-1, J-1 or H-1B visa, American employers are not required to provide such proof. Documentation that they did not turn down a qualified American applicant for the position is only required when an employer wishes to hire a foreign citizen on a permanent basis and sponsors them for future permanent resident status (a Green Card).

Even if it's legal to hire international students, won't it cost a lot of money and involve a lot of paperwork?

No. The only cost to the employer hiring international students is the time and effort to interview and select the best candidate for the job. The international student office handles the paperwork involved in securing the work authorization for F‐1 and J‐1 students. In fact, a company may save money by hiring international students because the majority of them are exempt from Social Security (FICA) and Medicare tax requirements. 

How do I give myself the best chance of being interviewed and hired?

It is recommended that you first target organizations with a history of hiring employees on a work visa.  

  • Find friendly employers. One way is to use Going Global, an online resource that allows you to search for employers who have hired H-1B visa students in the past
  • Communicate and strategize with ISS/FWT and Career Development
  • Research the positions and employers in which you are interested
  • Become thoroughly familiar with immigration regulations and the benefits attached to your specific visa status
  • Have your resume and cover letters reviewed by the FWT and Career Development Office
  • Contact the FWT and Career Development Office to schedule a practice interview and receive feedback
  • Practice speaking confidently about your skills, interests and career goals
  • Improve your English skills by speaking up in class, making presentations and expanding your circle of native English-speaking friends

What are H-1B Visas?

The H-1B visa permits U.S. employers to hire foreign employees who have at least a four year university degree (or equivalent work experience) and will work in their field of study or a closely related field in a “specialty occupation.” A specialty occupation is one that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, as well as the attainment of a minimum of a bachelor’s degree for entry into the occupation in the U.S. Specialty occupations include many positions in information technology, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology and the arts.  

In order to qualify for H-1B visa status, you must first have a job offer with an employer who is willing to file the H-1B petition on your behalf with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Generally, a foreign national can hold H-1B status and accompanying visa for a maximum period of six years at a time, unless the process for permanent residence in the U.S. is begun prior to the end of the fifth year of H-1B employment.  Barring that, at the end of six years, the employee must remain outside the United States for one year before another H-1B petition can be approved.

 

Resources

International Student Services, in collaboration with Career Development, is available to explain specific employment based immigration options to both prospective employers and job seeking students.