Last Update: 21st August 2018
Reading time: 14 Min
Student Visa USA Requirements and Working in the US of A
The United States (U.S) is full of internships and work experience opportunities, but securing graduate jobs is a difficult process for non citizens. The United States issues different types of student visas, the most popular being the F1, a nonimmigrant visa for full-time academic study and the J1, a visa for intern programs. We will cover both of these options a little later.
Despite the challenges that international students face, America is still the land of “Milk and honey” and many students want the chance to live the “American dream”. To qualify for a student visa to the U.S you must have a residence abroad and the intention to return to that residence upon completion of your education program. You must also have sufficient funds to support your course of study. These are the basic requirements and we will now go into more detail of what exactly is required to enter the U.S as a student or recent graduate.
The Job Market in the U.S
What are your chances of getting a job?
The U.S economy is starting to recover from the global downturn, with a number of industries expected to expand over the next few years. The job market remains competitive but this steady growth in employment is great news for non-US citizens. Keep in mind that companies and organizations with an international focus often need employees who speak other languages and may be able to sponsor a work visa. That said, international graduates will still really need to sell their qualifications and experience to employers. If you struggle to find work in the US, you could always look into employment opportunities with UK based employers who also have offices in the U.S. Over time you could work towards a transfer to the U.S.
It is also important to note that your success in finding a job in the U.S will also depend on your field of work, your performance – grades, quality of projects and skills, quality of university attended and your communication skills. You will need to have a good level of English but you will also need to display great soft skills, such as teamwork, attitude, etc.
Where can you work?
- Top industries: Finance, pharmaceutical, healthcare, software, electronics, entertainment, telecommunications, electronics
- Top companies: Wal-mart, Chevron, General Electric, Ford Motor, Bank of America Corp, Citigroup, Apple
- Recent growth areas: Healthcare, electronics, software and finance. In the electronics and software industries, the demand for graduates is higher than supply
- Industries in decline: textile manufacturing and paper based industries, including production, printing and publishing
- Shortage occupations: engineering, science, education and healthcare
Searching for vacancies
As an international student, job hunting will be a little more complicated for you than it might be for U.S students. Here are a few tips to make your search a little easier:
- Start early: It will take you longer to find employment with a company that will sponsor employees who need work visas. The sooner you start searching, the better.
- Research your situation: Ensure that you know which visa you need, including the different possibilities, deadlines and potential costs.
- Network: It is a known fact that around 70% of jobs are found through connections. Build up relationships with professors, students and professionals in your area.
If you are already eligible to be working in the U.S you can search various vacancies on job portals such as Indeed.com, Craigslist, ZipRecruiter, SmartRecruiters, FlexJobs and CareerBoard.com.
You can also approach recruitment agencies including Kelly Services, Aerotek, Rath staffing, Integrity Staffing Solutions, Randstad.com and Primary services
Gaining Work Experience
1. Work Placements and Internships
Internships are a great way for students to enter the job market and are beneficial to both students and employers. Students’ careers are enriched by the experience while employers can benefit from the specialist skills that students can bring. There are a number of internship programmes available in the U.S that generally include help with visas, accommodation and finding work. You can look into the CIEE internship USA program and BUNAC for more information.
2. Casual Work
Unlike many other countries, the United States government doesn’t issue work visas for casual employment. If you wish to work here for a temporary period you will require a nonimmigrant work visa. There are however a number of short term opportunities available such as, Camp America, Summer Theme Park jobs, Ski instructor work and various other work and travel experiences.
Gap year and Volunteering Opportunities
There is a lot more to the U.S than corporate America or Hollywood would have you believe. Holiday work is a popular option for students and gap year travellers who want a taste of the American dream. Real Gap Experience lists a number of pla
cements and opportunities for those looking for gap year work. There are also many opportunities to volunteer in a range of projects with animals and wildlife in various sanctuaries as well as environmental conservation projects. BUNAC and Volunteers for Peace are two of the organisations that arrange volunteering projects.
The U.S has a number of work and study abroad exchange programs on offer. USEH International covers the broad field of business with paid internships for international students in sales, marketing, human resources, and finance. For more opportunities, you can have a look at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) website for a list of organisation that are approved as sponsors for exchanges. The ECA aims to build friendly and peaceful relations between the people of the United States and the people of more than 160 countries through academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges.
J1 and F1 USA Visa Options
The J1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa with the purpose of cultural exchange, for people who wish to take part in work-and-study-based exchange and visitor programs in the U.S. These programs are sponsored by an educational or other nonprofit institution, with an objective to provide students with further education in their field of study combined with new cultural experiences. The J1 visa allows participants to come to the United States for a temporary stay and falls into a number of categories. We will be covering two of these categories; intern program and college and university student program.
The purpose of the J1 Visa intern program is to allow foreign students and recent graduates the opportunity to come to the U.S to gain exposure to the culture and to receive practical experience in their occupational field.
Eligibility for intern program participants
Interns must be foreign nationals who are currently enrolled in and pursuing studies at a foreign degree or certificate-granting post-secondary academic institution outside the United States; or
Who have graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to their exchange visitor program start date
Practical Experience – The program bridges the gap between formal education and practical work experience
Interns cannot work in unskilled or casual labor positions, in positions that require or involve childcare or elder care or in any kind of position that involves medical patient care or contact. Nor can interns work in positions that require more than 20 percent clerical or office support work.
Internships are available in the following sectors:
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing; Arts and Culture; Construction and Building Trades;
Education, Social Sciences, Library Science, Counseling and Social Services;
Health Related Occupations;
Hospitality and Tourism; Information Media and Communications; Management, Business, Commerce and Finance; Public Administration and Law; and The Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics and Industrial Occupations
College and University Student Program
The purpose of the college and university student program is to allow foreign students the opportunity to study at an American degree-granting post-secondary accredited educational institution, including colleges and universities. Alternatively they can participate in a student internship program that will fulfil the educational objectives of the students degree program in their home country.
Eligibility for College/University Student Program
Source of funding:
Students must be financed by any source other than personal or family funds but directly or indirectly by the US government, their home country government or an international organisation of which the US is a member by treaty or statute (like the United Nations).
The program must be carried out according to an agreement between the US government and a foreign government or according to a written agreement between America and foreign educational institutions, an American educational institution and a foreign government, or a state or local government in the US and a foreign government
Or the student is participating in a student internship program that will fulfill the educational objectives for the student’s degree program in his or her home country
Or the student will pursue a non-degree program by enrolling full-time in a prescribed course of study. The maximum duration of a non-degree program is 24 months inclusive of academic training
Students may engage in degree-granting programs until completion or non degree-granting programs for no more than 24 months
Employment – Students will have the chance to engage in part time employment in some circumstances such as when they have good academic standing at their host institution
Academic training – Students may participate in academic training with or without pay during their studies with the approval of the academic dean or adviser and the responsible officer at their sponsor organisation
You can find more information on how to apply for a J1 visa here.
F1 Student Visa USA
The F1 visa is a non immigrant visa for those wishing to study in the U.S. You must file an F1 visa if you plan on entering the U.S to attend a university or college, high school, private elementary school, language training program, or other academic institution. Students who hold a F1 visa are allowed to work in the U.S but only under certain conditions and in accordance with complex guidelines and restrictions issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The Basic Requirements to Qualify for an F1 Visa
Admission to an approved school – you will need be accepted to a US school that has been approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). It’s therefore important to verify that the school you would like to attend is approved well before filling out an application
Official residency in a foreign country and intentions to return home – Students must have plans to return home after their studies have been completed. The intention should be to further educate yourself in the US and then take your newfound knowledge back to your country of citizenship
Ties to your home country – Students should have strong ties to their home country, including family, job offers, bank accounts or other assets
Sufficient financial support – F1 visa holders must be in the position to cover their living and study expenses while in the US.
Step 1: Get accepted to a SEVP school – Before you can apply for the F1 visa, you must apply and be accepted by a school approved by the SEVP
Step2: Pay you SEVIS fee and receive your I-20 Form – Once you’ve been accepted, you will be required to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee in order to be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Your school will then provide you with a form I-20.
Step 3: Completion of I-20 Form – This form covers all relevant information including the selected university and housing information. This form will allow you to schedule an interview appointment with a local US embassy or consulate to be granted an F1 visa. It is however important to note that compiling all relevant information is not as easy as it sounds. It might be a good idea to get assistance from a qualified immigration attorney.
Step 4: Completion of DS-160 Form – There is an online visa application form available, which allows you to complete and print the DS-160 form to take to your visa interview
Legal employment opportunities will be limited
How to Apply for an F1 Student Visa USA
F1 Visa Interview Process
Once you have prepared all the appropriate documents and completed the relevant forms, you can schedule your F1 visa interview with the U.S. embassy or consulate. If accepted, you can expect your visa to be issued up to 120 days in advance of your course of study start date.
The following documents are required for your F1 interview:
- Valid passport
- The Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160
- The application fee payment receipt
- A passport photo
- A Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status (Form 1-20)
You may also be requested to submit additional documents to prove your eligibility for the F1 visa including, academic transcripts, diplomas, degrees or certificates and you may even be requested to supply proof of your intent to depart the US after your program is complete as well as proof of your financial stability.
Designated Sponsor Organizations
Program sponsors are responsible for selecting participants for the Exchange Visitor Program, supporting them and monitoring them during their entire program stay. The Form DS-2019 is the basic document used in the administration of the exchange visitor program and only State Department designated sponsors are authorized to issue this form. The Form DS-2019 identifies the exchange visitor and their designated sponsor and provides a brief description of the exchange visitor’s program, including the start and end date, category of exchange, and an estimate of the cost of the exchange program. This form is the basic document used to support an application for a J1 visa.
You can find a list of designated sponsors here.
Don’t Worry It’s All Worth It
The United States is a prime destinations for students who are looking to benefit from a top notch and widely recognised international education. As you might have learned from this article, obtaining a visa to work in the U.S is no easy task. It requires a lot of hard work, effort and determination. But it will be worth it. The experience gained in the U.S has the possibility to make you a major asset in your home country.