Limited work options for international students

International students need more defined careers as H-1B visa holders.

Riham Feshir

While some seniors have time to spend on their post-graduation job hunt, those with student visas will have to fly back home – unless they apply for a different type of visa.

Graduating international students will have to either leave the country within two months of graduation or find a job that will grant them a one-year work permit – called an H-1B visa – to stay, said Mark Schneider, assistant director at the International Student and Scholar Services Office.

International graduate student Leila Sadeghi is finishing her master’s degree this semester in nutrition.

She said she’s happy to return to her native Switzerland and see her family, but is sad to be leaving this country.

“I will definitely miss it here,” she said.

Sadeghi said she’s looking for the best opportunities, whether in the United States or Switzerland, but it’s all about planning ahead.

If Sadeghi and other international students decide to stay in the United States, they have to find a sponsoring employer and compete with other applicants for an H-1B visa, which allows them to work for up to one year after graduation.

For 2008 H-1Bs, a student would have had to apply by last April. Additionally, the number of H-1Bs is limited to 65,000 nationwide.

Some employers aren’t interested in spending time and money to rush through the application process when the student can only work for one year, Schneider said.

Additionally, with the H-1B status, jobs are specific to students’ degrees, narrowing career options.

Saudi Arabian economics junior Abdulaziz Alsalim isn’t graduating this year, but he already decided he won’t be looking for a job in the United States.

“It’s complicated,” he said. “It’s not as easy as a person who has a green card.”

Alsalim said it’ll be difficult to find an employer who can offer a job specific enough for his economics degree.

More than half of the University’s international students pursue technical and business degrees, Schneider said.

“They want more marketable fields to get a job in their home country or in the U.S.,” he said, adding that it might be more difficult for international students to get jobs in the United States when their H-1B permits require major-specific careers.

“I have to go back,” Alsalim said. “There is not many options when you’re an international student.”