Job Searching for International Students

International Student Job Search Tips

Things to Think About:

As an international student, there are some important considerations as you search for internships and full-time employment. Making time to gain experience is equally important as your studies. You can start on campus through involvement in student groups, doing research with professors, volunteering, on campus jobs, or internships.

Before you begin your job or internship search you need to get information on work permission regulations and immigration requirements. This information can be found at ISSS, located in 190 Hubert H. Humphrey Center (612-626-7100, Give at least four months to get petition for internship approval approved. Below are some ways international students get experience:

Student Employment:
In general, international students in F-1 and J-1 status can work up to 20 hours a week on campus without a change in visa status. Working on campus can be a great opportunity to build experience and skills. Search for student jobs on campus.

Internship/Field Experience:
A field experience or internship is an individualized, experiential learning opportunity where students apply their knowledge and skills in a non-classroom setting. Several field experience sites will sponsor international students as field experience interns. Visit the Field Experience page for more information.

Research/Teaching Assistantship:
These awards are typically in the form of graduate teaching or research assistantships, which carry a salary, full tuition benefit, and the option to participate in a health insurance plan for which the University covers 95 percent of the premium. About 10 to 15 graduate assistantships are awarded to new students each year and are extremely competitive.

Off-Campus Work Authorization

Before working in any position off campus, F-1 and J-1 students need to get work authorization. Below are descriptions of different types of authorizations. Visit International Student Scholar Services (ISSS) for more information and/or if you have any questions about work authorization. To find out more about CPT, OPT, and Academic Training, go to the ISSS website.  Do not begin any off campus job before you have the required work authorization.

F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT):
CPT is work authorization allowing an F-1 student to work in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study before degree completion. The internship must be for credit and part of your academic program. CPT authorization is provided by ISSS and can be granted within 7 business days of application submission.

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT):
OPT is work authorization allowing an F-1 student to work up to 12 months in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study either before or after degree completion. The large majority of students use OPT to work after degree completion. OPT authorization is provided by USCIS and is usually granted within 2-3 months after the student submits an application.

J-1 Academic Training:
Academic Training is work authorization allowing a J-1 student to work up to 18 months (36 months for doctoral students in postdoc positions) in a job directly related to the student’s major field of study.  It can be used before and/or after graduation.  The J-1 student’s program sponsor authorizes the work on the DS-2019. If UMN is your J-1 program sponsor, submit your Academic Training application to an ISSS adviser at least two weeks before the employment start date.

H-1B Visa:
The H1B Visa is the primary U.S. work visa available to international professionals. The job must require a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree and the prospective employee must have the required degree in the required field of study. The process to obtain an H1B visa is to first find a job with a US employer and then to have your employer file an H-1B petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on your behalf. Additionally, they provide an H-1B Employer Data Hub with information on employers petitioning for H-1B workers.

How To Market Yourself

When it comes to marketing yourself to employers, here are a few benefits of hiring international students:

  • The ability to speak two or more languages and embodying diverse cultural backgrounds are especially appealing to companies planning to globalize their business.
  • Living and studying abroad enables international students to demonstrate a number of skills such as tenacity, problem solving, responsible risk taking, decision making, and resourcefulness.
  • Communicate how you have overcome some of the challenges you have faced; as these types of skills can be directly linked to the skills desired for the position you are seeking.

When To Discuss VISA Status With An Employer

If the position is short term and you are using F-1 CPT or OPT or J-1 Academic Training, it is not much of an issue for the employer.  If asked, inform your employer of your status.  Often an employer will ask verbally or on an application if you are eligible to work in the U.S.  If the employer requests the information, you should inform them of your visa status.  For example, “my visa allows 12 months of work.” If they do not ask and you are seeking long-term employment, mention it before an offer of employment is made, possibly during second/third round interviews.  Make your employer aware so they can decide whether they will ultimately sponsor your H-1B visa petition.

Paying Attention To Cultural Differences

Being aware of the work culture of the organization you are engaging with can make your job search process go smoothly. Here are some tips for you:

  • Don’t be afraid of sharing your achievements: Due to the cultural differences, some international students may feel uncomfortable talking about their past achievement in front of the interviewers. However, in the U.S, it is common for interviewees to use their past achievements to prove their talent.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the interview: Interviewing is a two-way conversation. Interviewers expect you to ask questions which show you have done research and passionate to work at the company.
  • Sense of Time: Arrive 10 -15 minutes prior to the interview time can show your personality and work ethic.
  • Non- Verbal Communication: Give a firm handshake to show confidence, maintain good eye contact, and respect their personal space.
  • The following resources provide various information on cultural norms, educational requirements, obtaining visas, and transition information:

Job Search Resources

Going Global:
Going Global is a great resource for international students looking for information or work opportunities in the US, check out the H-1B database, the employer directory, and city guides.  To access Going Global, visit Handshake, the U of M’s database of jobs and internships.

“The Directory of American Firms Operating in Foreign Countries” and “The Directory of Foreign Firms Operating in the United States” can be found in the Wilson Library Reference Room along with many other resources to help you research organizations.

Other Resources:

Connect with Professionals and Peers

Meeting with professionals working in your career area of interest, especially people who once worked with previous international students, can be a great way to get career advice. Approximately 80% of jobs are found through networking (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Calling a stranger and asking for advice makes most students nervous. To get help, simply visit the Career & Professional Development Center and make an appointment with a career counselor.

We will help you prepare what to say when you call a professional, what kinds of questions to ask, and how to make the best impression during an informational interview.

Your Legal Rights

As an international student, you may have concerns about experiencing discrimination within your job search or career and how to handle this should it arise. Below, you will find some resources to help you understand your rights if you encounter discrimination in a job interview or in the workplace.

To learn what constitutes an illegal interview question and how to handle an illegal interview question in a job interview, read the article titled “How to Handle Illegal and Inappropriate Interview Questions”, written by Alison Doyle with Balance Careers in March 2018. If you experience discrimination once you are in a job, check out Dealing with Discrimination: Tips for Employees.

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