5 Things Every International Student Should Know Before Graduation

As we inch closer to graduation season, as an international student studying in the United States, you may be wondering, “What now?” We’ve put together a list of things that every international student should know prior to graduating. 

Group Of Students Graduating From College In Arizona

1. Check Out Your Program’s OPT (Optional Practical Training) Eligibility

If you are an F-1 student, you may be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training to allow you to remain in the United States and obtain temporary employment in an area directly related to your field of study. There are two different types of OPT: Pre-completion OPT  and Post-completion OPT. Pre-completion OPT is a program that allows you to participate in OPT if you have been lawfully enrolled by a USCIS Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) on a full-time basis for at least 1 academic year. Post-completion OPT is a program that allows graduates to work on a part-time or full-time basis in an area related to their field of study. The amount of time that you spent working on pre-completion OPT may impact the amount of time that you are eligible to work under post-completion OPT. 

Additionally, if you have earned a degree in a STEM field, you may be eligible for a 24 month extension of post-completion OPT. This would allow you to work an additional 2 years in the United States as you gain experience in your field. 

2. Choose Your OPT Job Carefully – This May Lead To More Permanent Employment In The United States!

While in the United States, you may find that you want to build a more permanent life here or that you’d like to obtain more experience before returning to your home country. Your employer may be interested in applying for you to change your status to allow you to continue working for them for a period of time. There are a variety of options – notably the H-1B and PERM programs. The H-1B program, if you’re selected, would allow you to remain in the United States for up to 3 years and then may be extended after that. The PERM requires additional steps for your employer to obtain a “Labor Certification” from the Department of Labor, but when completed, allows you to apply for permanent residency in the United States. 

3. Applicants May Wait Several Months To Receive a Response From USCIS – So Plan To File Early

If you choose to remain in the United States after graduation – plan ahead! The USCIS system is often backlogged and can lead to stressful wait times. Planning ahead and filing early will make a big difference. 

4. Preserving Relationships With Your Professors, Fellow Classmates, & Internships Can Lead To Opportunities For Long Term Employment In The United States & Significant Experience In Your Field

Employers may be more willing to do the work necessary to allow you to remain working in the United States if they know you personally or if they have a strong recommendation from someone they trust. Preserving these relationships can help you build a network of individuals to help you make your goals. 

5. Make Sure Your Status Remains Current

Though college life is busy, graduates enter into a new phase of career and professional development. As you settle into a new routine, it can be easy to miss important deadlines. Make sure that your passport remains valid and that you plan ahead to extend, change, or adjust your status as necessary. Make sure to keep your address updated with USCIS. 

Gunderson Law Group has years of experience with helping international students decide what to do after graduation. We can sit down with you (or meet via phone or Zoom) to discuss your options and help you weigh the pros and cons of each one. Give us a call!


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