How to find a job in the U.S. as an international student

Working as an international student in the U.S.

For many students, an international English education in the U.S. turns into a pathway to a new life and career.

Alex Letichevsky, our friend from UAdmit, works as a career coach and education consultant. So we asked him for some advice on getting hired in the U.S. and he gave us 4 main tips:

1.   Getting an interview

According to UAdmit, networking is one of the most important parts of getting an initial interview. Because of steep competition, employers rely heavily on references. Often this will be digitally, or through professional relationships and meet-ups. He recommends getting started building your connections right away. LinkedIn is a very powerful tool that is used more and more by companies who are hiring.

You can also meet people in person by getting in the habit of saying “yes” to opportunities that come your way. Always be ready to volunteer or take internships. Go to professional events your college or school organizes like job fairs and career advising events.

The more people you know, the better chance you have of getting a good referral from someone in a company. Alex told us, “Referrals account for 25-50% of hired workers and those with a referral that receive an interview are 40% more likely to get the job.”

2.   Be ready for your interview

While you’ve probably been working on your English skills for a while, you must have the communication skills that will make you stand out from other applicants. Employers want people who can prove they are effective at getting things done and have good “soft skills”. Your first interview may be in person, but is common for it do be done over the phone. Many international students still dread speaking on the phone, even when they are advanced speakers of English. Prepare your answers ahead of time. It’s good to have a piece of paper in front of you, but be careful not to read your answers off like a robot. English intonation is very varied with rises and falls. This will also help you sound more friendly, enthusiastic, and sincere. Of course the same thing is true for in-person interviews, but leave your notes at home. You should have the answers memorized for in-person interviews. Practice your interview skills with a friend or consider getting a career coach for highly competitive jobs. Alex mentioned that these initial interviews help to quickly eliminate candidates that do not have good “soft skills”, and can’t communicate their experiences effectively.

3.   Selecting a company

Fortune 500 publishes a 100 Best Companies to Work For list (#1 being Google).  These companies are competitive, but their large size means there are almost always new jobs available. If you don’t like large companies, you can check out Fortune 500-1000 companies or work in a start-up. It’s also good to know what companies offer the most VISA sponsorship. Large companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft apply for thousands of visas a year. Once you find a list of companies or job that interest you, you can research the job descriptions and salaries on websites like

4.   Knowing the visa requirements

There are two main types of visas that international students will typically need to know about: The Optical Practical Training (OPT) under an F1 visa or The H-1B Visa

  1. The Optical Practical Training (OPT) under an F1 visa: This visa is available to students who have either completed or are near completing a 4-year Bachelor or a 2-year Master program in the U.S. Students must quickly find employment and work at least 20 hours a week. OPT allows you to work in the US for 1 year, and there is a 24 month extension for STEM.
  2. The H-1B Visa: The H-1 visa lasts 3 years and can be renewed once for a period of up to 6 years. Like with OPT, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree in a specialty occupation: chemistry, architecture, engineering, mathematics, medicine, health, etc. However, it does not have to be from a U.S. institution (although that usually helps). To receive this visa, you will have to find a company who is willing to sponsor you. It can be expensive for the company and there’s a limited amount of visas that can be given out each year in the U.S. Alex mentioned there are 65,000 H-1B visas allocated for 2017, plus an additional 20,000 for US Master or PHD graduates. The H-1B visa is the pathway to a Permanent Residency (Green Card). Employers often offer to sponsor employees for a Green Card upon renewal of an H-1B visa.

While it can feel like a long process, getting a job in the US is possible, as thousands of international applicants do it every year. To increase your chances of success, consider seeking guidance from your University Pathway counselor at ILSC, your Universities Career Services Department, or a career coach like UAdmit.