You must first ask yourself the following questions and depending on your answers, develop a strategy to get a job and work visa after your graduate and your work visa expires.
- When are you graduating?
- What industry do you want to work in? Is it a competitive field?
- Can you afford to spend several months to a year or longer without a job after you graduate in general?
- If you’re on an international visa, can you secure a job before your 60 day grace period expires and you have to leave the country?
- How long would the relevant work visa petition take to get approved?
- Are you willing to return to your home country while you continue the job search and have an employer sponsor you for a work visa?
Begin the Search At Least A Year Before You Graduate
You should not wait until the last minute to come up with a plan on securing a job. The ideal is to get a job offer at least a year before you graduate. Very few people will secure a job as soon as they begin applying. For the average student, it takes several months to secure a job. Why? An offer of employment is usually a meeting of the employer’s job needs in an employee’s qualifications and an employee’s desired work experience. Not every job is a good fit for you and you may not be a good fit for every job you apply to. This is important to remember in first securing the job. Additionally, you must always keep in the back of your mind that as an international student, you must also 1) find an employer willing to sponsor you for a work visa, and 2) most work visas will take at least several months to a year to get approved, and 3) if the visa petition for some reason does not get approved, you must have enough time to implement a back-up plan before your student visa expires. Therefore, you should begin looking for a job as soon as possible, and seek to get a job offer at least a year before you graduate.
What if You Cannot Secure a Job A Year in Advance
If you are not able to get a job offer at least a year before you graduate, do not despair. Work visa petitions, such as an H-1B or O-Visa, have the option of premium processing, with an expedited fee, to get a decision in 15 days. However, keep in mind, you, your employer, and an attorney, if you are working with one, will take on average a month to start the visa conversation and complete the application before you can submit it, and request the 15 day decision. Therefore, you must aim to get a job offer and start the work visa process at least a few months before your student visa expires.
Of course, if you are open to returning to your home country while you undergo the job search, apply for a work visa, and can afford going some time without a job, then there may be less urgency in your job search. However, if you would like to continue staying in the U.S. and have a visa petition approved before you graduate or before the grace period on your visa expires, begin the job search at least a year before you graduate.