Tips for international students – Choose your degree program wisely based on immigration opportunities after graduation

Every year hundreds of thousands of young students from countries around the world achieve their dream of studying in the U.S. in programs ranging from two-year associate degrees to  Phds. While most receive a great U.S. education, many are short sighted, choosing degree programs which earn them little more than a degree and one year work permit after graduation, with no hope of obtaining extended work authorization or an H-1B work visa in the U.S.

Foreign students shouldn’t cheat themselves

American students can afford the luxury of taking liberal arts programs, history, archeology and similar degrees because they can work anywhere after graduation without restriction. However, international students who do the same, and want to stay in the US after graduation, often cheat themselves from available post-graduation immigration options, which would  allow them to work up to 3 years, then allowing them to apply for an H-1B work visa or employment based U.S. Residency.

The problem is that young students everywhere often choose degree programs based upon what they want to study, not on what they should study, in order to get the best opportunities upon graduation. This is the point at which parents of international students should become heavily involved in the process and educate themselves about an investment in their child’s U.S. education and the potential payoffs, versus the high cost of international fees.

Invest wisely in a US college education

International students often pay three times or more in tuition rates than U.S. students. Parents whose children choose dead-end degree programs end up paying thousands for tuition and living expenses for their children to attend a U.S. college, only to find that their children graduate, work one year in the U.S., then must return home without any advanced career opportunities available to them in America. Students are equally shocked to learn that the liberal arts degree they hold was enjoyable, but literally useless for any U.S. work visa options following graduation.

Attain more than a bachelor’s degree

The reason is that there are very limited options for international students who have at least a Bachelor’s degree to obtain a work visa in the U.S.. The H-1B work visa allows U.S. employers to sponsor foreign workers with the minimum of a Bachelor’s degree, but only in certain professions, which the USCIS believes are considered “specialty occupations”. In addition, under new Trump policies, it is getting much more difficult to prove that a job offered by a U.S. company qualifies as a “specialty occupation”, even for typically professional jobs like those for engineers and accountants. The most difficult degrees for H-1B work visas, other than general degrees for liberal arts, graphic design, fine art, communications, music, airline pilot, etc and now even including general degrees in business and computers.

Aim for STEM courses and degrees

This is where college degree programs in “Stem” fields, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math have so much importance to international students. Stem field professions are in high demand in the U.S. technology sector and are fields which there are a shortage of U.S. workers to fill the available jobs. As such, under immigration regulations, international students who graduate with a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in a STEM field are entitled to three years of work authorization called “Optional Practical Training” or OPT, which allows them to work for U.S. companies following graduation. They are also eligible to be sponsored by a U.S. company for an H-1B work visa in the yearly H-1B lottery, and if they do not make it into the first year, they have several more years to try. Most importantly, it is much easier for graduates of STEM fields to be sponsored by a U.S. company for a Green Card.  

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