If you’ve been studying hard to get your degree in the USA then perhaps your post graduate options haven’t been that much on your mind. Well, now that you’ve graduated - congratulations! You have earned yourself many more choices than you did before you got that degree. Whether you decide to stay on and travel, to apply for graduate school, work or return home, obtaining that degree is a fantastic achievement that will no doubt lead you on to bigger and better things.
Before you start making any plans after graduation make sure you know what restrictions there are on your visa. The US immigration system is complex and constantly changing – and you will need to look at your own documents to understand exactly what applies to you – but, in brief, below are some of the most common visas and their terms.
Practical Training on an F-1 Visa - one year of post-completion practical training is allowed for an F-1 student. Get the forms from your university.
Non-Immigrant H3 Visa (Trainee) – only covers training with a U.S. employer who has an established training program. Aimed at those who will train for two years then return home.
Non-Immigrant H-1B Visa Specialty Occupation – available for three to six years with a sponsoring employer, the right qualifications and a job that correlates to the course studied. Prior approval from the Department of Labor is required.
Non-Immigrant R-1 Visa Religious Worker - aimed at ministers and those who have worked in religious professions for at least two years.
Non-Immigrant Obtaining a Green Card – a Green Card is permanent residency. Depending on individual circumstances you might be able to apply for citizenship 3-5 years after obtaining a Green Card. You could apply for a Green Card via a family member or you could try the Green Card Lottery.
For more information on visas see the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Medicine, business and law are just a few of the options for graduate school in the US – some of the institutions here are the most revered in the world so it’s a fantastic place to apply. It’s also very competitive and very expensive. Very little financial assistance (if any) is likely to be available from the school itself so your decision should take into account your income, debts and what kind of salary attending the graduate school is likely to generate for you when you start looking for a job.
Fellowships and assistantships are a good way to fund your graduate school adventures. A fellowship will cover living expenses and tuition but they tend to be rare. An assistantship will require you to work for a professor or department and tend to be more commonly available.
Scholarships can also be used to help fund your education. Again, these are rare and hard to secure and they vary in amounts from as little as $500 to thousands of dollars.
Loans are available to pay for your post graduate education but bear in mind that as an international student you might require a US citizen or permanent resident to cosign.
Start the process of applying for graduate school with research on the schools that interest you – look for information on courses, tutors and professors, curriculum details and any corporate affiliations. Remember that you may have to interview for a place on the course and don’t miss the deadline for submitting your application.
Looking for employment
While the US job market is an exciting place it can also be difficult, particularly for foreign students. There may be visa complications, issues with spoken English or an employer might be concerned about hiring someone who could return home at any time. However, it’s certainly not impossible – here are a few tips on how to navigate it:
1. Remember it will take time. The right role isn’t just going to fall into your lap so start as soon as you can.
2. What does your school offer? Whether it’s careers advice, practice interviews, tracking down recruiters or finding out about careers fairs your school should be a valuable resource.
3. Networking is key. Around two thirds of jobs are found through connections so get out there and meet and connect with as many people as possible.
4. Don’t give up. Stay positive and confident. Even if you don’t see results initially don’t give up – if you really want that job then you most probably need to be more persistent than anyone else.
5. Job hunt effectively. Have you researched your potential employer? What are you strengths and weaknesses? Do you know how to prepare for an interview? These are all valuable points to consider with any job search.
If you decide that you’ve enjoyed your study in the US but it’s time to return home then remember to give yourself some time to adjust. Jet lag, different time zones and a degree of culture shock if you’re returning to a country very different to the US can all make you feel rather strange initially. Stay in touch with those you have met during your studies and remember the experience, but be sure to throw yourself into life as soon as you get back as this well help you to adapt more quickly.