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Issues Regarding Job Searching Facing International Students

written by: Natalia Brophy•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 6/28/2011

Are you an international student looking for a job in the USA? Then this article is a must-read!

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    Finding a good job when you are a student has never been easy and it is even more challenging if you are an international student. Here are some issues facing international students job searching in the USA.

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    Lack of Connections

    Your biggest disadvantage as an international student is that you don’t have the connections that American students do. It is possible to find a job through career fairs or even a newspaper, but many students find jobs through their relatives, friends and acquaintances, so unless you are very likable and make friends really fast, you are at a disadvantage.

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    Lack of Experience

    Since you are new to the country, most likely you don’t have experience with applying for jobs in the USA. Job interviews may be completely different or even non-existent in your native country, so unless you do lots of research and possess good communication skills it may be challenging for you to make a good first impression.

    You also need to learn how to write a resume the way American employers want to see it. If you don’t have any idea where to start, keep in mind that most colleges have career services and international student advisors who will be happy to help you write a resume and cover letter.

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    Legal Issues

    Besides the issues mentioned above, there are also legal issues facing international students job searching in the USA.

    Most international students come to the United States on an F1 – student visa. This visa allows students to work up to 20 hours a week while school is in session. Students may work more than 20 hours during winter and summer breaks.

    If international students want to work on campus, they usually don’t need any employment authorization and they can choose to do any job they would like and can find. The main requirements to work on campus are:

    - being a full-time student (it usually means taking at least nine credits for graduate students and twelve credits for undergraduate students per semester);

    - having a valid passport and I-94 card;

    - having a valid SEVIS I-20 form (from the university the student is attending).

    If international students want to work off campus, they will need employment authorization such as OPT (Optional Practical Training) or CPT (Curricular Professional Training)

    Students do not need to have a job offer in order to apply for OPT, but they have to be full-time students have to have a valid F1 visa, valid passport and intentions to work only in the field of their study. OPT may be authorized for up to one year and must end at least 14 months before the student graduates.

    CPT or Curricular Professional Training, as defined by U.S. Department of Homeland Security is an “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum, which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school." In other words, CPT must not only be related to the field of your study, but must be an important part of your studies.

    All these requirements can make anyone’s head spin, but there is no need to panic if something seems unclear. Visit your academic councilor or international students office in your college and they would be happy to help you with any questions and issues.

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    Sources used:

    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement http://www.ice.gov

    More about OPT can be found on the official US Immigration and Customs Enforcement website:

    http://www.ice.gov/sevis/students/opt.htm

    More on CPT can be found here: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/students/cpt.htm