Working in the US
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
(USCIS), formerly the INS, students with F-1 visas who have
completed at least one year of full-time academic study are
eligible to work full-time for 12 months. Optional Practical
Training (OPT) must be directly related to a student's academic
major and can be used prior to or after graduation for a paid
internship, part-time job and/or full-time position. If you choose
to obtain an unpaid volunteer and/or internship position, you are
not required to apply, or use, any portion of your OPT.
While you may or may not have a job offer at the time of
graduation, the USCIS requires that international students apply
for a work authorization card approximately three months BEFORE the
last day of classes through the International
Student and Scholar Services Office. Your 12 months of OPT must
begin within 60 days of your last day of classes, with or without a
If an employer wishes to hire a foreign national employee following
his/her OPT, the employer may be able to sponsor the individual for
an H-1B visa, or temporary worker status. The foreign national must
have at least a Bachelors degrees or its equivalent in a particular
field, and this degree must be a requirement for the job. However,
an employer does not have to provide proof that the foreign
employee is unique in his/her industry. To obtain an H1-B status
for a foreign employee, an employer must file a petition with the
USCIS. This process can take anywhere from two weeks to five months
to complete, so an employer should submit the application
approximately six months before an employee's OPT expires. An H-1B
visa permits a foreign national employee to work an additional one
to six years in the U.S.
For information on employers who have submitted sponsorship
applications to the Department of Labor, click here.
Hiring Foreign Nationals
When an employer makes a hiring decision, he/she does so with the
hope that this new employee will devote several years to the
position and company. It is very costly to hire and train a new
individual; therefore, employers are often reluctant to interview
or hire international students because of restrictions on length of
Some employers, however, may be convinced to change their
policies if given a clear understanding of the process to "sponsor"
a foreign national on an H-1B visa. In order to properly educate an
employer, it is imperative that you clearly understand the process
You must have complete, current and accurate knowledge of your
options and both your, and the employer's, responsibilities.
You must also be able to clearly explain the process to an
employer so that he/she does not see sponsorship as an obstacle in
the hiring process.
While the employer must legally pay the majority of the H-1B
visa filing fee, you may offer to pay for all attorney fees and any
additional costs associated with the H-1B filing process.
To review this process in greater detail, meet with an advisor
in the International
Student and Scholar Services Office early and often, as
regulations may change.
Cultural Differences in the Job
|United Stated Employment
|Punctuality is important. Arrive 15 minutes prior
to an interview and arrive to work on time each day.||Personal relationships may be more important than
|Eye contact is expected - it shows confidence and
honesty.||Eye contact may be disrespectful.|
|You must confidently discuss your accomplishments,
strengths, skills and interests relevant to the position.||Discussing your accomplishments and skills may be
seen as too boastful.|
|Research the organization and industry prior to an
interview. Be ready to discuss your knowledge about the
organization||Discussing what you know about the company may be
seen as too forward or independent.|
|Appearance is important - both men and women
must wear a business suit to the interview and dress appropriately
once hired.||Appearance may not be as important as skills or
|Job seekers must use a variety of techniques
(networking, Internet, University Career Services, classified ads,
etc.) to find employment opportunities.||Often rely on family or government to secure
Preparation for the Job Search
The key to gaining work experience in the United States is to PLAN
Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written, are at the
top of the list of employer expectations. You should be fluent in
English, as you will be expected to communicate clearly with your
co-workers, clients and supervisors. To strengthen your
communication skills, speak English as often as possible - in your
home, with your friends and at your job. Take a public speaking
class to develop your presentation skills and read newspapers on a
Since many employers are reluctant to interview or hire
international students, you must be able to confidently discuss
your strengths and skills and how they will benefit the
industry/company. You can start by learning anything and everything
about your industry and the companies to which you will apply. Find
out what skills and qualities are in demand and decide if and how
you have developed these same skills and qualities.
Focus on your bilingual abilities, unique cultural background,
knowledge of overseas economies and business practices and
adaptability to new environments and cultures. This self-knowledge
will make a lasting impression on an employer.
This will be the first evidence of your written communication
skills. Make sure your resume is well written, reflects your
accomplishments and has perfect grammar and spelling. Some tips
Provide more details on foreign companies you worked for and
foreign schools attendedi.e. How large was the company? What do
they do? What is the company's products or services? How large was
- Emphasize your strong English skills
- Review how to construct a Resume
- Learn how to write an effective Cover
- Meet with a Career Advisor for a
resume and cover letter critique
The job interview will be your first opportunity for an employer to
witness your verbal communication skills. Practice your interviewing
skills in a mock interview so you make a great first
- Practice your eye contact and handshake
- Express your skills confidently
- Use examples of your accomplishments and how you developed your
- Review additional Interviewing Skills
The Job Search Process
Of all jobs available at a given time, only approximately 20% are
ever advertised. The remaining 80% are found through networking.
Make sure you understand this process and use it daily, beginning
many months before you want to start working.
Networking is reaching out to friends, family, classmates,
faculty, co-workers and anyone with whom you come in contact to
gather information about industries, companies and
opportunities. Networking is asking for information and
advice, not a job.
The University Career Services has networking workshops
to help prepare you to use this very important job search
method. Click here to read
more about networking.
Obtaining an Internship
Internships help you gain valuable work experience related to your
field of study and introduce you to American employers. If you make
a great impression on an employer during this experience, your
supervisor may be more willing to hire you full-time once you
Additional Tips and
Searching for a job is a time consuming task. In addition to the
methods discussed above, there are several job search
methods that should also be used for the most effective
- Utilize your embassy located here in the U.S.
- Review related job search links
available on our web site.
- Concentrate on employers who have offices, plants, subsidiaries
or sales forces in your home country.
- Use resources in the University Library - conduct a
search for "international employment"
- Use the University Career Services library
Disclosing Your Visa Status
Employers have a high regard for honesty so you will want to
discuss your visa status with them at some point in the job search
process, but when is the best time?
Opinions vary, but we feel it is best to discuss your status
after you have had the chance to make a positive impression on the
employer. This could be at the end of the first interview or during
the second interview.
Before an interview, be sure you are comfortable discussing your
Optional Practical Training as well as H-1B options. This will be
your only opportunity to convince the employer that you are a great
match for the position and that sponsorship is a simple