Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Work Authorization and the US Job Search

Written by Emma Rafaelof, senior Chinese, English, and Asian Studies major at CU-Boulder

As an international student, you have a specific set of talents and obstacles that set you apart from native job searchers when entering the US job market. Your talents likely include some combination of good grades, previous work or internship experience, publications, research projects, multilingualism, cross cultural communication, or volunteer work. Your international status already demonstrates your willingness to travel, seek new experiences, and adapt to a different culture.

The key to getting positions at your most-desired companies is to sell your skills and experience first; you need to show them what you can give them before trying to get something from them (aka visa sponsorship). If they can see your talents first, or find you to be a good fit for their company culture, then they will probably be more willing to discuss sponsorship with you in the future.

While it is better to leave the sponsorship question out of your initial encounter, you also don’t want to waste your time trying to sell yourself to a company that has a strict policy or aversion to visa sponsorship. If the company’s representative shows a marked interest after you introduce yourself, then that would be your time to ask. 
  • Inquire about work authorization for past international employees – how was it handled? Are there future opportunities for sponsorship?
  • As always, use tact and professionalism to get information. Desperation is one of the last things an employer wants to see.
Getting Authorized

Remember that if you are currently on a student visa, you have options to obtain work permission depending on your visa status.  If your work permission is set to expire, you will need direct sponsorship from the company, which in most cases would be the H1B. Not all employers know about it, but they are responsible for filing the H1B sponsorship when your CPT/OPT/Academic Training expires.

Make sure that when the topic arises, you’ll want to demonstrate some knowledge about work visas and/or work permission (CPT, OPT, or Academic Training). If the employer gets the impression that it’s too complicated, they may be less willing to sponsor or hire.

When you have a job offer, as with anything, get your work authorization paperwork done as early as possible. If you are using CPT/OPT/Academic Training, advisors in ISSS will help you complete the paperwork. You’ll want to know how long that authorization will take so that you can negotiate an appropriate start date. You don’t want to make an employer wait for the authorization to be complete.

For more information on work authorization, go to http://www.colorado.edu/oie/scholar-resources/visa-options-working-cu or visit an ISSS advisor.