For international students hoping to live and work in the US after they graduate, there are many challenges to overcome; more so than in most other countries, in fact.

Battling other graduates in a tough job market is even harder when you’re an international student, and if you don’t find a position quickly, you could find yourself without a visa and on a plane home.

Nothing is impossible, and with a bit of research and forward planning, you’ll be in with a chance of finding an American company to sponsor your stay in the states. Here’s the guide to making a life for yourself in the US after you graduate.

Getting permission to stay

The US immigration system can be confusing for those who intend to stay on after study, not least because there are almost as many visa options as there are stars on the American flag. Most international students will be studying in the US on an F-1 visa, which means that once their course finishes, they’ll have just 60 days to get a new visa, or will have to return to their home country.

Employment-based immigration in the US comes in various shapes and sizes, but they can all be summarised in this way: if you want to continue living in America after graduation, you’re going to have to find a job with an employer who is happy to sponsor your stay.

Finding work

There’s no getting away from it: finding a job in the US as an international graduate is extremely tough.

However, there are things you can do to increase your odds of bucking the trend after graduation. Here are our top tips:

  • Don’t wait for graduation to start applying

It might be tough to balance your last term of classes with job hunting, but you’ll need to find time to do this, as it may take time to find an employer that will sponsor international graduates.

You can start applying for work up to 90 days before you finish your course, and there’s another compelling reason to make the most of this period: visas can take up to three months to process, and will occasionally hit some stumbling blocks along the way.

  • Network

You don’t have to wait to your final term to start work on finding employment, and you should be looking for opportunities to make connections throughout your time at university. Attend as many job fairs as you can and speak to recruiters, but don’t stop there. While opportunities to work while you study are limited for international students in the US, there is nothing to stop you taking internships and volunteering. Give yourself a headstart on graduation day by using these opportunities to get your foot on the ladder and to show companies what you’re made of.

  • Be persistent

It won’t take long for the job hunt to become a grind, and it can be easy to lose motivation. For international students in the US, even finding an unpaid internship can take time. Take the time to maintain relationships you build through networking and follow up with all your contacts when you come to start applying for work.