Studying in the US: Foreign Graduates and Jobs


    This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

    We answered a question last week about how American college students find jobs after they graduate. Now, we discuss foreign graduates. The process for employing foreign workers in the United States is long. It involves different government agencies. It also involves a hot political issue.

    President Obama signing the $787 billion federal stimulus bill into law on February 17
    President Obama signing the $787 billion federal stimulus bill into law on February 17
    For example, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that President Obama signed into law in February dealt with this issue. It included conditions against foreign workers displacing qualified Americans at companies that receive federal stimulus money.

    Job cuts have slowed in some industries. But the economic downturn has cost millions of jobs and recovery will take some time.

    Foreign graduates need a job offer to get an H-1B visa. This is a non-immigrant visa for work in the person's area of specialty. The employer is the one who applies for it. The visa is good for three years and may be extended for another three years.

    Cheryl Gilman directs visa services at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She noted that H-1B visas were still available for next year. This tells her that the recession is preventing employers from sponsoring as many foreign nationals as they have in the past.

    Sixty-five thousand H-1Bs are awarded each year to graduates with a bachelor's degree. Bill Wright at the Department of Homeland Security says fewer than forty-five thousand applications for these visas had been received as of this week.

    There was more demand for twenty thousand other H-1Bs for those with advanced degrees. In addition, thousands of the visas are awarded to other groups, such as university researchers.

    Amy Ramirez is an administrator at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. She says foreign students who work for their school or at an internship probably have the best chance for a job after graduation.

    She points out that many foreign graduates ask to stay for what is called optional practical training. This lets them accept temporary employment in their area of study for twelve months after graduation.

    Many times, the employer will then apply for an H1B. But Amy Ramirez and Cheryl Gilman both say foreign students should understand that visa rules change often. That can make it difficult to plan ahead for what to do after graduation.

    And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. Earlier reports in our Foreign Student Series are at I'm Steve Ember.