International Studies & Programs

Lessons from International Students: What I Learned About Job Searching in the U.S.

As an international student, you are in the U.S. on a student visa. While your student visa allows you to work in the U.S. (using CPT and OPT), there are many factors that make obtaining this work challenging.

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Published: Thursday, 08 Dec 2022 Author: Allison Fox

1.    You are limited by your field. 
F and J visa holders who wish to gain an off-campus practical experience are only eligible to apply for experiences that are directly related to their field of study. This means less flexibility and only working in jobs that align with your major. An exception to this is working at MSU while a student – on-campus work does not need to be connected to your major. 
2.    The amount of time you can work is restricted. 
CPT (internships) and OPT (post-graduation work) limit the number of hours or years you can work. This can be difficult for employers. They may want you to continue working fulltime after your OPT ends, but immigration law makes that challenging. 
3.    Some organizations are not allowed to hire foreign nationals. 
U.S. organizations that have government contracts, or provide services to the government, are not allowed to hire foreign nationals.
4.    If you aim to work in the U.S. long-term, keep in mind that the immigration system is randomized, expensive, and does not have enough open spots for the large number of applicants. 
The H-1B visa is the most common working visa for foreign nationals in the U.S. Each year there are 85,000 spots for around 200,000 applicants, determined randomly (with a small advantage for applicants with a Master’s Degree and higher). There are also considerable fees and paperwork involved with this process. Because of this, many U.S. employers may have policies against hiring employees that require this sponsorship.
5.    Internships are the key to full-time jobs, and many are not open to international students.
When many U.S. organizations hire a student for an internship, they are really hiring them to “try out” for a full-time job, whether the student realizes it or not! But, due to the restrictions above, many companies will not consider international students for internships. This makes it harder for international students to obtain internships, and therefore compete with domestic students when it is time to apply for full-time U.S.-based opportunities.