Life after Graduation
What happens after OPT?
As a current international student or international student who graduated, you bring with you not only the skills you've acquired at Mount Holyoke, but a wealth of cultural and linguistic knowledge that enriches any workplace. Although the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) regulates the hiring of international students and graduates by field of study, many employers recognize the additional benefits of hiring international students and are willing to take the steps necessary to make such employment possible. While organizations in the business world and research institutions are most familiar with the rules and regulations governing the employment of foreign nationals, other sectors like the non-profit world are also possibilities for the international student or graduate. For a wonderful explanation of visas following graduation, see the Curran and Berger Visa Information page.
The Career Development Center (CDC) offers assistance to those organizations who need help in understanding the special requirements of employing foreign nationals. If you have any questions as you begin your job search, please feel free to contact Joanna Adler at the CDC.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is work experience at home valued by US employers?
- Are most US firms interested in hiring international students?
- What if I want to stay in the US after graduation. Do I have to have a job offer?
- Are American and international students offered the same benefits and salaries for similar positions?
As an international student or alumna from Mount Holyoke, your search for employment must be conducted keeping USCIS regulations in mind. While the list of restrictions governing on- and off-campus employment may appear daunting, please realize that the guidelines are quite clear in terms of what is and isn't permitted by the USCIS. We urge you to consult the other links above for clarification of employment guidelines in effect while you are still a student at MHC.
What happens after Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
For the graduating senior or alumna who is interested in continued employment in the U.S. after OPT, the most common option is the H-1B Temporary Worker visa. This visa allows foreign nationals to work in the United States in specialty occupations for a period of up to six years (please note that the full six year period cannot be requested from the start; USCIS will only approve a three-year petition. In addition, some employers will request the H1-B for a shorter period only). The number of H-1B visas granted each year is limited, and the H-1B visa CANNOT be obtained by the individual alone, but must be sponsored by the employer. This application process can take up to 4 or more months, so it is recommended that F-1 graduating seniors apply for OPT before the completion of their course of study. In this way, they can be engaged in OPT as their employer begins the H-1B application process.
Graduating seniors should note that the College is currently discussing whether or not students who have completed all of their degree requirements but are still enrolled at Mount Holyoke College can be issued letters certifying that they have met all requirements for the B.A. degree. Until a final decision is made, no such letters will be issued. For more information, please see the memorandum on H-1B letters from the Registrar's Office.
An important feature of the H-1B visa is that one does not have to prove "non-immigrant intent", as is necessary for the F-1 student visa. The H-1B visa is in the "dual-intent" category in USCIS classification, which means that H-1B applicants are relieved of proving that they intend to return to their home country after employment.
It is important that graduating international students and alumnae interested in the H-1B work closely with employers to determine the feasibility of H-1B sponsorship on the part of the employer. This discussion ideally begins during the interview process. Please check the following handout (written by the CDC) entitled Hiring International Students: Information for Employers which provides useful information for potential employers.
Also, as a reminder -- H-1B employment is NOT subject to the annual cap if the beneficiary will be employed at an institution of higher education or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity, or at a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization.