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International Students Studying in the US Need to Know Early About H-1B Visas

Especially if you are in grad school in the US, it is in your best interest to know about how H-1B visas work, if you hope to work in the US for 1-2 years after you attain your degree. The number is capped and all the slots may be filled early in the year. Even if you plan to graduate in June, your job search should begin by January or earlier, to have a better chance for one of those visas.

If you are applying to a large business organization, check to see if they have H-1B visas available before you spend great effort applying. If not, go find another employer who will have or has H-1B visas for the year when you expect to graduate.

Note that few small U.S. businesses know about the H-1B visa process. If you find a small business that wants to hire you, you may have to help them get you through the process. (The more you know about it very early in your student career, the more you’ll be able to move through the process to get the outcome you want.)

Two important points to be aware of:

  • A limited number of H-1B visas are given annually – 85,000 this year, and only 20,000 are reserved for graduates of US universities
  • US Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting H-1B applications in early April this year (for new employees to begin October 1), and all visas were gone by early June.

According to attorney Carl Shusterman, who specializes in recruiting issues, in an article in Recruiting Trends, “Of these 85,000 visas, 20,000 are reserved for persons in possession of an advanced degree from a university in the U.S. Last year, the 20,000 cap was reached on October 28, while the 65,000 cap was reached less than one month later on November 22. This year, all 85,000 visas were already exhausted in early June.”

Note that there are some exceptions to the H-1B rule, in that some kinds of organizations are exempt and can hire without the H-1B. This includes accredited public higher education institutions and their affiliated nonprofits, as well as research organizations (nonprofits and governmental).

However, in all cases, to get details that apply specifically to you, see your campus office that serves international students, and/or find an immigration attorney for clarification.

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