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Tips for international students seeking jobs on OPT status

It is no secret that the current political climate in the United States may make it seem more difficult than ever before to find employment as a non-citizen. If you are an international student graduating from a U.S. college or university and are seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) status, you may be anxiously searching for companies that would be open to interviewing you. Although it may feel like all hope is lost, applying a good strategy can help maximize the effectiveness of your job search. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Find the right time to apply for OPT status: The OPT processing time can take up to 90 days, which means you could end up waiting a while before receiving work authorization. While it can be tricky to predict when you might receive a job offer, applying for OPT earlier has its advantages. Having your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in hand can make it easier to accept job offers as soon as they come your way. You may also not have to turn any hard-earned offers down simply because you are still waiting to hear back on the status of your OPT application.
  • Know how to present your visa status: While an employer does not have the right to inquire about your nationality during an interview, he or she may ask if you need sponsorship. It may seem tricky to imply your immigration status during a job opportunity, but it is important that you know how to talk about it confidently. Many employers may not be familiar with the various employment visa categories. You may need to clarify that you are not currently seeking sponsorship from them but that you will be legally able to work during the coming year.
  • Network as much as possible: Apart from looking at posted job vacancies online, networking can help open hidden doors. Your college or university's alumni network can be a great place to connect with people who work in industries you might be interested in. Reach out by sending an email or attend alumni networking events. Similarly, attending job fairs can be a great way to get your name out there and your resume widely viewed. While networking may not guarantee you a job, you never know who you could end up meeting and who they may be connected to.
  • Consider contract jobs: Employers who are looking to hire on a contract-basis may be less concerned with the fact that you may only have one year of work authorization, as they may only be looking to hire someone for only a couple months or even a full year. Applying to contract opportunities may save you the time and stress of having to plan your career around your immigration status.

Your determination can pay off

As stressful as the process of finding a job can be, remaining persistent can pay off. There are still employers who are willing to hire qualified international students, and it may take effort to find these opportunities.

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