International students looking for a job in the U.S. after graduation face the added challenge of procuring the appropriate visa requirements.
To stay in the U.S. post-graduation, most international students need the H-1B visa — a non-immigrant visa that allows employers to employ highly-skilled foreign workers for up to six years.
This visa requires a sponsor, which is usually provided by a prospective employer, making it difficult for international students who have not secured work after graduation to obtain the documents they need to stay in the country.
2017 College and Wharton graduater Anny Hu is from Shanghai, China and will be working for the consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, after graduation in New York. She said she is still unsure whether she will be able to stay in the U.S. long-term given the restrictions of her national visa.
“Short-term plan is to try as best as I can to stay here,” Hu said. “Luckily, [on-campus recruiting] worked out [for me].”
Hu said many of her international friends struggled to secure work for after college because sponsoring international workers is costly.
She explained that smaller firms are often reluctant to sponsor — and hire — international students compared to larger firms that have the ability to place foreign employees in other international offices if their visa applications are not successful.
Even after international students secure a sponsor for the H-1B visa, they still have to enter a lottery system for the visa which is known for having a low acceptance rate. In 2016, only 85,000 visas were granted out of 236,000 applications.
“Even though you graduate from a top university like Penn, you still have to go through the lottery system in terms of getting the visa,” said 2017 College graduate Maaya Murakami, who is returning to her home country of Japan after graduation to begin a career in consulting.
“If you don’t get it within that year, you have to get out of that country, and I think that’s really not fair for someone [who] graduated from college, who is really qualified,” she said.
Hu agreed, adding that because the lottery system is so selective, it’s a risk for companies to sponsor the H-1B application for internationals students.
Hu said that this was why, during OCR, she was not permitted to interview with a couple of consulting firms that prefer not to hire international students.
2017 College graduate Andres De Los Rios said that while Penn provides many resources to help students find jobs, the outcome of students’ job searches is more dependent on the “bureaucratic system” that governs who will be granted work visas, rather than the extent of resources Penn invests into helping students get work.
“I have gone to many workshops and presentations on the topic that do explain how one can look for jobs as an international,” De Los Rios said. “But, no matter how informed you are [about the process of securing work visas], the process won’t necessarily be easier or more convincing for the companies who are doing the hiring and sponsoring of foreigners.”
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