Visas and employment prove to be obstacles for international students


After graduation, international students could be forced to leave the country unless they have found employment and have applied for their Optional Practical Training process (OPT).  OPT is a visa that allows a student to stay in the U.S. if they have found a job.

Naoko Onishi, an international student from Osaka, Japan, began her college career at Kansai University and stayed there for two years. She then travelled to the United States and studied at Webster University to complete her degree in. Naoko graduated with a bachelor’s in both media literacy and commerce. She is now finishing her graduate degree in media literacy at Webster University.

After she received her bachelor’s degree, Naoko applied and received the opportunity to work for up to a year in her field of study. However, she must return to Japan if she does not find employment or a sponsor 60 days after graduation.

“I’m not planning to go back, but if that’s the case, I have to do the job hunting in Japan” Naoko said.

In Japan, seeking employment is fairly different from the United States. Unlike in the U.S. where job experience is needed, employers prefer graduates and other employees to have no job experience.

“In Japan, they want to teach you everything about how they do (work) in a particular company” Onishi said. “For example, here you apply for specific positions in the company, whereas the job hunting in Japan…you apply for the company and they pretty much decide what you do.”

Training in Japan can last anywhere between 2-3 years. During that time frame, there are various people who quit and the companies then hire employees to fill lower positions for low wages, Onishi said.

Kelsey McClure, a 2011 media communications graduate, said she wanted to study abroad to travel and experience different cultures. She studied at the Thailand and London campuses. Afterward, McClure had to return home for 10 months in order to work and save money. Then she returned to London.

While traveling abroad, McClure found a talent that she did not know she had: stand up comedy. This uncovered talent developed into her own show: Thursday Night Mic Night. She also worked in several hostels in London.

When McClure returned home from London after her study abroad trip, she had to find employment or sponsor to return to the U.K. It usually requires a company to sign an agreement to hire that person for approximately two years.

“It’s really hard to get companies—or anyone really­­—to commit to that,” said McClure. “I wasn’t able to do that, so I came back to the United States to find out what I had to do in order to go back.”

Currently, McClure is working in Ireland, because there are not many job opportunities in London.  She hopes to land employment in a mixture of fields involving photography, social networking and video production.

McClure received an Irish work visa, which is available only for students. Upon graduation, former students have a one-year grace period to stay in Ireland to find a job.

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