Unless they find a job, international students with a student visa will not be allowed to stay in the U.S.
BY ALEXANDRA BRANDT
(Webster Groves, March 3, 2011) Ibrahim Wali has double the pressure to find a job than other graduates — if he fails to get hired, he may have to leave the country.
Graduating international students with student visas have only a short time to find jobs in the U.S. before no longer being able to reside here legally. To be able to work in the U.S., students must apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), which grants them a year to work in a field related to their degrees. However, they must find a job in the first three months of that year or risk going home.
Wali, from Nigeria, graduated last December with a master’s in marketing. He said he applied for OPT on Feb. 15, which cost $380. He also said students who graduate have 60 days from graduation to go over their options, which can include going back home, changing their legal status, or applying for OPT.
Wali said students can apply for OPT before or after they graduate.
“It depends on your situation,” Wali said. “If you know you’re going to get a job, that’s when you apply before.”
Wali said he does not have a job lined up yet, but he has applied to companies such as Merrill Lynch, Charter Communications and Edward Jones.
“I’d like to find a job in New Jersey or Dallas,” Wali said. “I’m not a country kid — I need noise.”
Wali said there is always the chance that a student might not be able to find a job. He said if that is the case, students either have to go home, change legal status, or continue with their education and live on a student visa. Changing ones legal status means going through another application process.
“I’m trying to stay positive about (finding a job),” Wali said. “But I’m going for my doctorate in management at Webster, and Ph.D. courses are only offered in the fall. What else am I gonna do until then?”
Recent graduate Kalika Sood, who received a bachelor’s degree in business, said she is not sure if she will apply for OPT.
“I’ve not really pushed it too much because I don’t know whether I’m going to get a job in the U.S. or not and if I don’t get a job here, I just don’t want to waste $400,” Sood said. “So, I’m taking it slow; waiting to see what kind of responses I get from potential employers.”
Sood said international students hope that, after finding a job with a company through OPT, the company will hire them long-term. According to the Online Database of American Employers for International Professionals, companies are required to sponsor hired students and petition for an H-1B visa, also known as a work visa.
“Employers are hesitant right now in employing people — international people,” Sood said. “I was looking for jobs online and a lot of them specifically say that if you’re not a U.S. resident, please do not apply to us because we’re not going to sponsor you.”
Like Wali, Sood said she is also nervous about finding a job.
“Being somebody who’s just out of school with no experience — which first of all is a big barrier — and then putting that stipulation (company sponsorship) on top of that really limits what your eligible for,” Sood said. “Unless you have some inner connections with companies or something or somebody working somewhere, it’s hard.”
Even though Sood is bilingual, has studied abroad and has completed an internship with Ship Your Own Metals, she said none of that matters when it comes to finding a job.
“I speak Hindi, English, and little bit of Mandarin,” Sood said. “You would think this gives me an advantage, but I think companies are still fiscally conservative. They don’t want to take on an extra expense, and I don’t blame them. If for a job I have ten candidates that I don’t have to pay extra for and one who I do have to, I’m gonna pull from the big pool and not the other one.”
Having traveled so much in her life, she said she does not mind getting a job outside the U.S.
“I’ve lived out of a suitcase long enough not to care where I get a job,” Sood said. “I’m ready to move anywhere around the world.”