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Career fair: International students face extra hurdles for visas

International students have to find an employer to sponsor their work visas if they want to remain in the U.S. after their time in college. Credit: Yuting Yang | Lantern Reporter

In addition to the traditional challenges associated with career fairs — such as putting together a resume and preparing a resume pitch — international students often face another hurdle: visa sponsorship and work authorization. However, Ohio State’s Arts and Sciences Career Services, as well as the Office of International Affairs, can help students overcome these obstacles.

“To look for companies with visa sponsorship is the biggest challenge for international students,” said Randy Dineen, a career preparation adviser for the Career Services.

Visa sponsorship means that an employer would give foreign workers sponsorship to legally work in the U.S.

“We found that international students would come back from career fairs and say they were disappointed and frustrated about the lack of the employers who have visa sponsorship,” Dineen said.

Not all the companies provide visa sponsorship for foreign applicants. Of the 180 companies at the College of Arts and Sciences Career Fair on Tuesday, only 15 sponsor visas for foreign students, Dineen said.

“Research ahead of time will help, because we hope that those companies with visa sponsorship will be what the international students really target on, and talk to during the event,” Dineen said.

Another potential challenge for international students is communication skills when it comes to their first interaction with recruiters. Dineen said he recommended international students prepare a 10 to 20 second introduction as a form of an elevator pitch.

“English not being their first language, we want to make sure we have the opportunity to help them on preparing their elevator pitch that they are giving to their employers,” Dineen said.

International students also have to have their immigration status to reflect the necessary work authorization.

This means students need to apply for either Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training prior to their employment period, so they can maintain their legal status without violating federal immigration laws.

“CPT allows up to 12 months of internships before graduation, and OPT authorizes a one-year long employment after graduation, but STEM students can have an extension of (24 months) for OPT,” said Amanda Yusko, the program manager for the Office of International Affairs.

CPT allows students to intern during their time at OSU, while OPT is designed for students who wish to accept full-time jobs upon graduation.

“We have up to a 60-day grace period after you graduate, 90 days prior to your graduation date to apply for OPT,” said Erik Gaarder, student immigration coordinator for the Office of International Affairs. “It takes months for the government to approve, so we highly suggest students to apply weeks, or even months, earlier so that we can make sure everything gets settled.”

However, some students might not receive their offer letter until very near the end of their visa-approved stay, and this might cause them to miss the deadlines to get the needed legal authorizations. However, Gaarder said students can be proactive and apply for the needed authorizations before they receive a formal offer letter.

“They think they have to have a job offer so they wait until the last minute,” Gaarder said.

The Arts and Sciences Career Fair is slated for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ohio Union.

Correction, 2/17: A previous version of this article misstated the time number of days students have to apply for the Optional Practical Training period, as well as the extension period.

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