The Cleveland State University students who gathered recently at the offices of Global Cleveland represented nearly a dozen nations. More important to Cleveland employers, they represented as many technical fields—from mathematics to computer programming to mechanical engineering.

In pursuing advanced degrees, they were honing skills in short supply in the local economy. Yet all voiced a similar frustration. Though many hoped to stay on after graduation and launch careers, they were having trouble getting local companies to give them a chance.

One young man from India, who expects to graduate with a master’s degree in engineering, said he had applied for dozens of internships without a single response.

He could be approaching the job search incorrectly, a common situation with professionals from other cultures. But employment connection specialists at Global Cleveland think another dynamic is at work.

With anti-immigrant rhetoric high, and the Trump administration proposing new visa restrictions and even nationality bans, some employers may have grown skittish. They are passing over international talent because they fear a complicated hiring process. Or they never understood the process to begin with.

In reality, most international students are authorized to work upon graduation, and the hiring process is no different than for a domestic student. But in these tense times, employers may need extra assurances.

Wenzhu Sun, an employment specialist for Global Cleveland, instructed the students to be ready to explain the U.S. visa process to employers who may know less about it than they do.

“A lot of times, employers back away as soon as they hear ‘international hiring’ because they think it always means a super expensive sponsorship, which is not really the case,” she said.

Sun reminded the students that those earning scientific and technical degrees can work for three years before needing an employer to sponsor a visa. The cost for that visa, including attorney fees, is about $5,000—often less than the cost of recruiting someone with similar skills.

She also advised them to point out that international students are associated with company loyalty and a low turnover rate.


Work Ready

The key work-readiness program is called Optional Practical Training, better known as OPT. It allows international students to work for a year in their field of study without a visa. If the graduate earned a degree in a STEM field, they can work for three years before their employer needs to sponsor a visa.

In other words, international graduates have one to three years to prove to their employer that they are worth the modest investment a work visa requires.

“Our colleges and universities are attracting top students from around the world,” said Jessica Whale, the director of global talent and economic development at Global Cleveland. “Our region is stronger as more of these students are able to find internships and gain work experience, as well as contribute to the organizations they are working for.”


High Skill Visa

The most common work visa for international students, the H1B, is designed for immigrants with special skills. They cost an employer $2,500 and are good for three years, after which they can be renewed for another three years. (Attorney fees will push the cost of this visa to about $5,000).

The H1B can lead to a green card, or permanent residency. Thus do many H1B visa holders become long-term employees.

Tianyi Liu, a Beijing native with excellent English skills, graduates in May from Cleveland State University with a marketing and international business degree. She said she has succeeded in landing eight or nine interview and that most of the hiring managers seemed to value her bilingual skills and multicultural background. But they seemed puzzled and a bit intimidated by the visa process.

“Most companies seemed very confused about how to deal with international employees, but they really do want to learn more,” she said.

After the workshop at Global Cleveland, she said, she knew to explain that she is eligible to work at once.

“After 12 months, I will need a sponsor. But by that point I will have made a favorable impression,” she said confidently.


More Information

Global Cleveland holds workshop for international students to explain the hiring process and the relevant visa programs. To find out about the next workshop, contact Wenzhu Sun via [email protected].

Global Cleveland is also ready to talk with employers who want to know more about the international talent pool and the basic steps for hiring internationally. Learn more at .