International students learn about work after graduation

Lindsay Greifzu

International students interested in staying in the United States after graduating from Iowa State learned about their options with JoAnn L. Barten Bigelow, managing attorney for Barten Law, P.C.

Barten gave a presentation Tuesday to about 35 international students about the H-1B visa.

Barten Law, P.C. is a U.S. immigration law firm in Ames. The U.S. H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows companies to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. These occupations typically require expertise in specialized fields such as engineering, mathematics, science and medicine.

The length of the visa begins at three years and can be extended to a maximum of six years. Once an H-1B expires, the person must leave the U.S. for one year and then can return to the U.S. and file for a new H-1B.

Barten gave a thorough overview of how to acquire an H-1B, and she also touched on permanent resident petitions. International students who currently have the F-1 student visa will need to start thinking about their options for other visas after they graduate.

Barten recommended starting as soon as possible. With roughly 4,000 international students attending Iowa State, access to this information is vital to those looking to reside in the U.S. after graduation.

The requirements for obtaining an H-1B visa are fairly long, she said. Once a student has graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree, he or she must begin the application process.

The only way a student will be eligible to acquire an H-1B is if their degree is considered a specialty occupation. These typically include the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Students must also be sponsored by the employer and cannot do any outside work except for said employer.

A student with a J-1 visa cannot switch the H-1B status without fulfilling other requirements. A J-1 visa is used for students participating in cultural exchange programs.

Obtaining the H-1B visa can be a rather daunting task to try and complete. The government is strict on deadlines and only 85,000 are granted per year in the entire U.S. Not everyone who applies will receive an H-1B, so Barten encouraged students to complete a master’s degree or Ph.D., as this gives them a competitive advantage.

If a student does not receive a H-1B, there are still other options. One Barten recommended is Optional Practical Training. Optional Practical Training is a period when undergraduate students are permitted by the government to work for one year to get training in their field of study. Non-STEM students are granted 12 months and STEM students are typically granted 29 months.

The applications for H-1B are due April 1 and applicants typically will know their status around May.

“Right now is H-1B season for immigration lawyers,” Barten said.

Barten also gave some tips for getting a sponsor and how to get an employer interested to the point where he or she will help students apply for a H-1B.

“Have a great résumé. Make yourself desirable to the employers,” she said.

Optional Practical Training and internships are a great thing to have experience with because it shows experience and training that makes a potential employee very valuable, Barten said.

The International Students and Scholars Office has full information on all of these processes. Contact its office for full information and details.