Campus / News / February 5, 2014

Work visas pose problem

The Bastian Family Career Center and Office of International Student Services invited international students to a workshop about searching for employment in the United States.

The Bastian Family Career Center and Office of International Student Services invited international students to a workshop about searching for employment in the United States.

All soon-to-be-graduates at Knox face the pressures of looking for employment after they finish their undergraduate studies. International students face the additional stressor of visa timeframes and trying to stay in a country that they have come to call home.

After graduation, international students have the option to apply for optional practical training (OPT), during which time they are allowed to gain work experience in the United States.

During OPT these students must find employment in their field of study within 90 days of graduation.

“From what I’ve heard it’s really really really stressful because if you graduate and you plan to stay here, and you do not plan to go to grad school … and you do not have a job, it’s obviously going to be frustrating because you are on a deadline to find a job that is in your major,” Senior Nana Opoku said.

Upon gaining employment students can extend their stay up to 12 months. Special extensions are available for students in the STEM fields.

Senior Kwesi Addo-Yobo has reconsidered his post-graduation plans in part due to the constraint of trying to stay in the US. Instead of looking towards grad school he is now more interested in working after college.

“I kind of know I want to take a break from school. I don’t want to just go straight from undergraduate to a harder program because I want to do engineering,” Addo-Yobo said.

“Mainly because I know I can buy myself time.”

Opoku is also looking towards employment as he is unsure what he wants to study in grad school. He currently plans to use OPT to remain in the US and seek employment with a company that might eventually bring him on long term with an H1-B visa.

H1-B visas are not easy to obtain as they are not provided by all US companies and represent some cost for the employer that would not be accrued hiring an American citizen. This visa extends the possible stay time up to 3 years and allows for the holder to apply for a green card.

However, Opoku has taken to heart the advice of recent international graduates and seek a job that will offer him long-term employment.

“People do not want to just jump in to any OPT opportunity, if you don’t get a job that is going to sponsor you in the future you might end up doing OPT and still have to go back home,” Opoku said.

Junior Guillaume Dadey expressed some concern about eventually entering the job market as an international student.

“I think definitely a disadvantage, what I’ve heard from other [international] students who have graduated, it seems easier to get a job over here if you have American citizenship. I feel like every company wants to give its own people jobs first before worrying about everybody else,” Dadey said.

While Addo Yobo shared Dadey’s feelings about preference being shown to domestic candidates, but also said that his experience as an international student would be an asset.

“Definitely it makes me open, and generally it makes an international student open, to being able to go and live somewhere else and work cause I’m living somewhere else and going to school,” Addo Yobo said.

At the same time Addo Yobo said, “I like the working environment here better, I think I’m comfortable here and at the same time I see my future here.”

Opoku thinks that the experience he gets in the US will be invaluable for him, though he eventually sees himself moving back to Ghana.

“One of the main reasons I do want to stay here for at least the short term is because for my major going back to Ghana might not pay me as much and also it might not be too helpful for me if I don’t build enough experience in the workforce before going back home,” Opoku said.

Opoku said that he expects some difficulties in gaining employment but is confident as a STEM student. As far as companies shying away from international students, he believes that there are companies that will be doing just the opposite as well.

“It’s not all negative because some companies actually want to represent different cultures and people from different parts of the world in their companies and that is why some people actually pay for the H1B,” Opoku said.

“If you are well rounded, have lived in different parts of the world, and are doing very well academically your chances of getting an H1B are very high.”



Tags:  graduates international STEM United States

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Julian Boireau
Julian Boireau is a senior majoring in international relations and minoring in French. This is his fourth year working for TKS, having served as co-news editor during his sophomore and junior years. He has been involved in journalism for seven years, serving as opinions editor of the newspaper and editor-in-chief of the literary magazine at Palisades Charter High School in Los Angeles, California. In September 2012, Julian received press credentials to attend the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, where he reported on remarks by President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He is also the recipient of back-to-back first place awards from the Illinois College Press Association for front page layout.

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  • Lance

    Beingan international student isn’t easy, given our complex culture and language. Assistance must come from various sources, including guidance like this. A new award-winning worldwide book/ebook
    to help anyone coming to the US is “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” It
    paints a revealing picture of America for those who will benefit from a better understanding, including international students. Endorsed worldwide by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it also identifies “foreigners” who became successful in the US and how they contributed to our society, including students.

    A chapter on education identifies schools that are free and explains how to be accepted to an American university and cope with a new culture, friendship process and classroom differences they will
    encounter. Some stay after graduation. It has chapters that explain how US businesses operate and how to get a job (which differs from most countries), a must for those who want to work for an American firm here or overseas. It also has chapters that identify the most common English grammar and speech problems foreigners have and tips for easily overcoming them, the number one stumbling block they say they have to succeeding here.

    Most struggle in their efforts and need guidance from schools’ international departments, immigration protection, host families, concerned neighbors and fellow students, and books like this to extend a cultural helping hand so we all have a win-win situation. Good luck to all wherever you study!

  • masher

    Why is it the US government’s job to find labor for employers? Its called a “labor market” for a reason. More labor in the US market means employers know they can pay you less. When you support work visas and student visas you are saying “I want to make less money and have fewer opportunities.”

  • Alfredo Lozano

    It’s difficult for anyone to find employment within 90 days of graduation today. The economy is improving, but it’s still not great. This added pressure can force international students to be more likely to go home after graduation.

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