International students face hurdles after graduation

Jennifer Zhang, a chemistry graduate student from China who will graduate in the summer from the University of Minnesota, said sheâÄôs nervous about the possibility of having to leave the country if she doesnâÄôt receive an H-1B work visa. Zhang, like many international students, will have to find a job and apply for the H-1B. The visas are for temporary employment that can last up to six years, typically for âÄúspecialty occupationsâÄù such as architecture or engineering. Students who need the visa can be unattractive candidates for open positions because employers have to pay the fees to get the visa, whose price tag that can easily reach $5,000, said Craig Peterson, an attorney who deals with companies with foreign workers and leads campus workshops about work visas. Only 65,000 new H-1B visas are available in the U.S. each year , he said, but there are individuals and employers who arenâÄôt included in that number. Students who have received a work visa before are more likely to receive another, and students with a U.S. masterâÄôs degree or higher are eligible for an additional 20,000 spots. Additional spots, designated as H-1B1 visas, are reserved for students from Chile and Singapore âÄî 1,400 and 5,400 spots, respectively. The visas go into effect on Oct. 1, but applications must be received on the previous April 1 âÄî no earlier âÄî and if theyâÄôre a day late, the applicant isnâÄôt likely to get the visa, said John Meideros , another attorney who came to the University last week. Because of the short timeframe, thereâÄôs a mad rush on April 1, Peterson said. âÄúIn the last several years, the 65,000 and 20,000 exemptions have been gone within a day or two,âÄù Peterson said. If employers miss the deadline, problems can arise. âÄúWeâÄôll get calls in May or June saying, âÄòOh, weâÄôve got this student; what do we do?âÄô Well what you do is you wait until next April,âÄù Peterson said, âÄúAnd you try to see if thereâÄôs a way if that person can remain here until then.âÄù But students do have a grace period to find a job after graduation. Graduates usually have work authorization for one year after they finish school, but the employer will want them to stay for longer than that, Meideros said. Because there are so many pieces to the puzzle and frequent changes in the process, Meideros said itâÄôs become difficult to get through the process without hiring a lawyer. If students donâÄôt get the H-1B, they can go back to school to extend their student status or return to their home country, but those arenâÄôt the options that people want to take, Peterson said. Alisa Eland, the assistant director for counseling and advising for international student and scholar services, said the University is making efforts to help these students. Eland said she sees two to three international students every week who are inquiring about finding a job in the U.S. The advising office puts on workshops and meetings to discuss the work and visa options available. Wei He , a graduate student who is also from China, said heâÄôs considering going to Canada if he canâÄôt find a job and get a work visa in the U.S. He said heâÄôs applied for Canadian citizenship to help his chances. Chang-Hee Kim, a graduate instructor from South Korea, said he isnâÄôt sure if heâÄôll be able to find a job here. âÄúI need more professional experience and practice in facilitating my future career,âÄù Kim said. Kim, who will graduate in May, said if he canâÄôt find a job in the U.S., he would go back to South Korea even though the financial situation there is similar to the U.S.