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Finding your next job - The Next Step Project
3. Applying for the right role

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Navigating on a visa

When you’re on a visa, timelines for your job hunt become even more daunting.

We can’t give you legal advice - please talk to a lawyer and spend time on the USCIS website - but we can give you a few pointers to keep in mind.
Many thanks to for writing up these recommendations, and for her additional insights!

What to remember

Navigate disclosure of your visa status carefully - but never lie
Disclosure of your status (i.e. the need for visa sponsorship) can be tricky. How early in the job seeking process you reveal this varies by industry and sometimes by organization. If you are asked, never lie about your status. If you are not asked, exercise your best judgment in is to bring up visa sponsorship as part of the process, but . No one likes immigration surprises and it can significantly complicate your ability to start the job quickly.
Not all organizations sponsor
Non-profit organizations and corporations (depending on size) differ significantly in sponsorship practices. Non profits (NGOs) usually do not have the resources to sponsor immigration visas, although . Corporations may have resources, but big corporations may restrict sponsorship to mid-level or executive level employees only.
If you’re interested in international development - and depending on your level of experience and location - international institutions (the World Bank, IMF, the UN system) may be an option, as staff and consultants for these institutions fall under the which has different, and in some ways less restrictive, hiring rules.
School can be cool
In a difficult job market, you may want to consider going (back) to school to buy you more time and help you build the skills and relationships that will help you land your next role. Weigh your finances carefully and do your diligence before making this choice though, since it can be incredibly costly without financial aid.

What to do

Know the law as it applies to you
Don’t expect recruiters, managers, or even the international office at your institution (if you’re a student) to know what to do (and what limitations there are) when it comes to visa sponsorship.
If you already have an , these are employer specific. Make sure you are aware of any deadlines and procedures to transfer information to a new employer. We all know at least one person who had to leave the country while visa transfer issues were sorted out!
If you are on OPT, let the recruiter or hiring manager know - particularly if they have questions about visa needs. They may not be familiar and this can help make an easier case for you.
Network, network, network
Networking is still your best friend. Personal relationships or recommendations can help identify institutions that may be willing to make an exception for sponsorship if this is not normally the case.
Stay up to date on immigration policies and rules
These are changing frequently given the political environment and uncertainties around the world, so make sure you know what the most recent policies are by checking , which is the official government website for U.S. immigration information.

What to leverage

Your networks
These are key for finding those who have been through similar experiences and/or can point you to sympathetic organizations that may be open to visa sponsorship. These networks can include your university (undergraduate or graduate) alumnae groups, where international alumnae may be able to help.
Your relationships both in the U.S. and in your home country - or other places where you’ve lived
Be open to the idea of going where the best role is, acknowledging that may mean leaving the U.S. earlier than you planned.
Your experiences and all that you bring
Navigating a visa can be a nuisance, but who you are matters! Don’t be afraid to talk up your multicultural experiences and any language skills you have that would make you a great candidate even if it’s for a short period of time.

How to leverage OPT

Know your if you’re coming out of undergrad or grad school
How much time you are entitled to? If you’re in a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) field, you may be entitled to more time than the standard.
File your OPT paperwork before leaving the U.S.
This may seem obvious, but if you are planning to stay and work in the US immediately after graduation, . If you do, you will no longer be eligible to use your OPT.
Consider and weigh the risks of leaving the U.S., even temporarily. With various being enacted, or potential suspension of entry into the U.S. for individuals on visas, make sure you are well informed of risks you may be taking by leaving the country.
Find a role that allows you to submit your paperwork, even if it’s not your ideal role
This is especially important if you’re nearing graduation and still struggling to find a position. , so you can switch jobs when a more suitable role becomes available.

Informational resources

: breaking immigration alerts published by a large immigration law firm. Subscribe to their alerts to keep yourself up to date, in addition to checking out USCIS.

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