According to the Institute of International Education, there were almost 725,000 international students studying in the United States in 2011, a 32 percent increase compared to a decade ago.  While it can be relatively easy for international student to find a school to attend in the U.S., getting a job here is a very different story.

Each year, the U.S. government sets a cap on the number of H1-B visas it issues, the most recent cap for the 2013 fiscal year (FY) was 85,000 (65,000 regular, 20,000 advanced degree); and every year the limit is reached rather quickly, after opening the process April 1, the FY 2013 cap  was reached in early June.

Besides the limited amount of visas, international students wanting to stay and work in the U.S. face other barriers – most difficult is finding companies that are open to hiring foreign workers, given the convoluted process and additional expenses involved.

What can an international student seeking employment in the U.S. do to improve his or her chances of finding a job here?

  1. Be open about your visa status upon getting an interview opportunity.  You shouldn’t include your visa status on your resume.  The best time in the process to bring it up is when you get the chance to actually talk to someone – so either during a phone screen or face-to-face interview.
  2. Target companies with the reputation for hiring H1-Bs.  The website is a great resource for finding companies that hire H1-Bs.
  3. Target global or multi-national companies.  Companies with an international footprint are going to have more experience and openness to hiring foreign workers.
  4. Target global or multi-national companies that are headquartered in your home country.  The opportunity to work for the U.S. operations of a company based in your home nation can create excellent career paths for you should you want to transfer home.
  5. Pay for application and legal fees. If you can afford the fees involved in the H1-B visa application process, let potential employers know that you are willing and able to pay part or all of the fees.  This will make companies with less financial resources, or less experience with this process, more willing to hire an H1-B.
  6. Use Career Services.  Make your university’s career services department your new best friend.  These folks are best-positioned to help you with your job search.  They know which companies are willing to hire H1-Bs and can often connect you directly with recruiters.

Finding a job in the U.S. is not the easiest thing to do, but it’s absolutely doable.  If you target your search and utilize resources like Career Services, you’ll greatly improve your chances of finding a job here.  Good luck!