PULLMAN, Wash. – Hiring international graduates benefits employers as well as students, according to the Office of International Programs (IP) at Washington State University. And the process is simpler than employers might expect.
“Fortunately, there is little paperwork for an employer who hires international graduates through Optional Practical Training (OPT),” said Cheryl Hansen, IP’s director of global services. “All employment authorization is handled by the student, IP and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This often surprises students and employers.”
“OPT is an excellent way for a non-citizen to enter professional life in the U.S.,” said Vincent Fricaud, a recent WSU graduate from France. “My company was thrilled about the minimal paperwork and fees. It made their life and mine easier.”
“International students can offer employers a wide range of skills and abilities,” Hansen said. For instance, they bring language skills, unique cultural perspectives and connections to potential partners abroad. Additionally, the limited supply of trained professionals in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) career fields can sometimes be augmented by international graduates.
OPT allows international graduates to work with a U.S. employer for up to 12 months – with 17 months more possible for STEM graduates. However, international graduates only have three months to gain employment once their OPT is approved in their field of study; after that time, they are no longer in compliance with their immigration status.
Many international students are unable to gain internship experiences before graduating because of work restrictions on their immigration status. This lack of experience creates an additional challenge in finding a job within the three month window of opportunity after they graduate. One of the services of IP is to assist international students and explain the benefits of hiring them to potential employers.
“The goal of OPT is to provide international students with practical on-the-job experience by applying their academic knowledge to a position directly related to their area of study and degree level,” said Kim Steinmetz, international student advisor with IP.
“This really helped me to get the job I have today, said Shiva Ramini, a recent WSU graduate from India. “I think OPT plays an important role for an international student to gain some experiences in the U.S. and easily start a career.”
WSU’s international graduates have been successful with OPT placements at organizations including Nestle, Siemens, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Micron Technology.