Student Visas and Challenges for International Students

As a follow up to graduate season, many graduates will begin their careers while those who come abroad will face legal challenges to try to remain in the United States.

In addition to looking for work in their home countries, or looking for sponsors in the U.S. many international students will seek immigration attorneys to help with the process moving forward.
After graduating an international student has 60 days from their graduation date to leave the United States before their visa expires. An international graduate has various options once they graduate. These options include leaving the United States, continuing their studies by going to grad school in the United States, or find a job after they graduate and either get a work visa or petition to be in the Optional Practice Training (OPT) program. A handful may also choose to marry their boyfriend or girlfriend if that seems the most appropriate option.

​A concern that many international students have is finding employment once they graduate. A recent graduate from Dickinson College expressed the challenges of graduating as an international student due to the process of finding a visa sponsor. U.S. Companies would choose to hire a citizen or a permanent resident even if the international graduate is more qualified. Companies do have to consider that obtaining an H1B for work a visa for these recent grads might be decided by a lottery, and even after spending time and funds to sponsor a student, the number of visas available is limited by USCIS.
One of the options students have beside sponsorship is to apply for the OPT program. If approved for OPT they can stay in the United States, in working in their line of studies, as long as they have employment or are doing an internship (paid or unpaid) and do not spend more than three months unemployed. A recent graduate who was approved for the OPT program will be doing an unpaid research internship at the University of Pennsylvania. At the current moment, she is doing this internship but must fund herself. Since this research internship is for a limited time, she must look for her next option after that or leave the United States. One of the struggles that she faces is finding a paying job or internship within her area of study. Along with that even if she does find one within this 12 month that OPT gives her it is not guaranteed that she will receive a work visa.

​As expressed by another graduate of the Class of 2014 doing the OPT program can be a risk because one must constantly think about their next move and have various backup plans. This graduate said that she has a “constant worry of whether [she] could get a job that would be stable enough that [she] could potentially be in a good position to get a working visa in a year (and the answer is most likely no).” For graduates like her the year that she has on OPT is not only a year for her to work while looking for another job after the one year, but also to look for sponsors.

​Many of the international students that could contribute to the U.S. in STEM areas, or even in the arts, will have to return to their country if there is no policy change. It is of utmost importance that any international student in the U.S. follows the visa limitations and rules to ensure they can return to the U.S. at a later time. Violating the visa rules may make them ineligible to continue to stay, or return in the future.