Tag Archive | "Visa Options"

Options for International Grads

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So, you’re an international student over on an F1 visa, and like throngs of other recent grads, have no clue what to do after graduation. Further complicating things are the added restrictions you face, which the average grad is not subject to. What are your options?

Fortunately, even for procrastinators, the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s (INS) black book of do’s and don’ts – which every international student is painfully familiar with — provides a few options for international students who have completed their degree and are wondering what’s the best step to take into that nebulous thing called reality. Many of these options require advance planning, and if at the point of graduation you have not taken any steps towards making arrangements, it may be difficult. But fear not, all is not lost.

The first option is perhaps the most obvious. For those of you who just came to get that degree and skedaddle, the INS generously gives the happy graduate sixty days to get his or her stuff together and go back to the paradise otherwise known as home. This is an uncomplicated procedure, used frequently by students who have suffered four years of homesickness, and whose greatest wish is to lay eyes on the families and loved ones they left behind.

For many, though, returning home is not a major priority — employment is. In this case, the INS also generously provides the year-long Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows students to work for one year after graduation. The trick with this is that the permit expires exactly one year from the requested start date, whether you have landed a job or not, so it is advisable to select a start date that gives you enough time to find a job. Since the permit can take anywhere from three weeks to three months to process, it is a good idea to explore this option early, or at the very least, during the sixty-day grace period.

The OPT is a complicated issue and many things have to be considered. For example, it is important to note that the OPT is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and, as such, one should consider carefully how and with what intentions it is utilized. The INS extends this opportunity mainly so that students can gain experience in their field of study before returning to their home country. However, in some instances the student’s long-term interest is in obtaining an H1 visa (i.e. permanent work permit) or sponsorship for permanent residency. If this is the case, it is important to use the OPT in a company that extends these opportunities to their employees. Also, it is to one’s advantage to ensure that the company in question does not have reservations about hiring non-citizens, or the attending legal strictures, should they decide to take you on permanently.

Graduate school is also a natural progression for students after college, regardless of their nationality. For international students this option is certainly open, but, as is to be expected, it is slightly more restricted. The student must have been accepted to a program beginning in the semester immediately following graduation to maintain F1 status. The application deadlines run from early December until early July. The process for obtaining a student visa for graduate school is not much different from the undergraduate process, and all the same documentation is required.

Finally, travel abroad is another option that students may want to look into. There are many channels open, each of which depends on the student’s reason for going abroad, as well as the desired travel destination. Some of these channels include: teaching English as a second language, securing post-baccalaureate funding for research, pursuit of graduate study abroad, or just getting a work visa and toiling abroad. Information on all these options is usually available at the consulates or on their websites. Other research avenues, such as the Web and your college library, can also be immensely helpful.