Optimizing Your Job Search Strategy as an International Student

Finding a job can be intimidating, especially for international students facing unique obstacles like work authorization and visa sponsorship. Finding and applying to jobs abroad can be a challenging process, and some employers are reluctant to front the costs of sponsoring international students for permanent positions. So how do you increase your chances of landing the perfect job in the country of your dreams?Luckily, the right framework and job search strategies can help anyone overcome these challenges and receive an offer to work in the U.S.

Managing expectations

Many international students arrive in the U.S. with expectations that don’t quite match the reality of their situation. For instance, some students assume that employers will reach out directly with internship offers or full-time opportunities. They take a passive approach and wait for companies to come to them, only to be disappointed when they don’t hear anything. What’s the problem here?

Unless you’re looking exclusively for on-campus employment, employers won’t come to you.

Once you arrive in the U.S., it’s your job to build a network and reach out to prospective employers. Most companies won’t come looking for entry-level candidates, so it’s up to you to build an effective job search strategy. The Career Services Office at your university can provide you with a variety of resources, information, and even leads on networking events.

Looking for jobs

When looking for jobs, it’s important to focus on your interests as well as your value to potential employers. Employers are looking for value in the following areas:

  • Professional experience – This includes internship experience, part-time or full-time roles, academic projects, and relevant degrees or classes.
  • Industry knowledge – Do you have specific knowledge of a particular industry because of your past academic or work experiences?
  • Functional experience – What roles are you best suited for? Consider any experience or skill you have in areas such as marketing, finance, sales, technology, etc.
  • Culture – Most companies want to maintain a specific company culture or identity, and they prefer candidates that fit this culture.

INTERNATIONAL ADVANTAGE: Now more than ever, U.S. companies are emphasizing diversity in the workplace. This makes applicants from foreign countries and underrepresented minorities especially attractive, especially if they speak multiple languages or have specialized regional experience or knowledge.

It’s also important to target companies with plenty of employment opportunities and a proven record of sponsoring entry-level international candidates. You can use the following opportunity assessment matrix to gauge the best target employers.

How do you go about finding open jobs? While traditional job boards can be a helpful place to start, they should never be your only search tool. Most open positions at U.S. companies are never even advertised on job boards – more often that not, entry-level and mid-level jobs are filled through networking or internal referrals. If you’ve worked or interned for a U.S. company in the past, you can reach out to your contacts there to request an internal referral for open positions in the company. For the rest of us, it’s time to network.


While networking can seem intimidating, it’s ultimately the best way to find new job opportunities and meet potential contacts at target companies. Luckily, there are plenty of different ways to network (including on Interstride). Networking opportunities include:

  • LinkedIn
  • Existing professional and personal network
  • On-campus career fairs, clubs, and employer events
  • University job postings
  • Off-campus networking and recruiting events

At the end of the day, networking just means meeting new people, learning about their company, and collecting their contact information.

While it can be scary to put yourself out there, recruiters at career fairs and off-campus events are there to help you. When it comes to individual networking outside of a set recruitment event, most people are happy to talk about their jobs and offer advice to young professionals.

Before you reach out to employers and potential contacts at target companies, it’s important to focus on connecting with hiring managers rather than human resources teams.

What’s the difference?

Hiring managers are typically department heads or business division leads who make final hiring decisions. Human resources employees usually screen candidates and provide administrative support to hiring managers, but they don’t make the final call.

Furthermore, hiring managers are the ones with the authority to lobby for your visa sponsorship. So while you may speak with HR representatives during a preliminary phone screen, hiring managers are the real networking powerhouses.

Alright – you’ve gone to some networking events, met some people, and collected some phone numbers and email addresses. Now what?

Informational interviews

Once you’ve met contacts at some of your target employers, you can learn more about the company and develop a professional relationship with your contact by requesting and attending an informational interview.

These are not formal interviews, even if you’ve already applied to a job at the company where your contact works. In fact, you should almost never ask for a job up front during an informational interview.

Rather, these interviews are more like short meetings where you can get to know your contact and gather information about the company. So how do you go about requesting an informational interview?

  1. Reach out to a company contact through any of your networking channels (someone you find on LinkedIn, someone you meet at an event, etc.). Send them a short and simple email inquiring about their availability for a brief phone call or in-person
  2. Prepare a set of questions for the meeting. Focus on your contact’s work history, their role at the company, and any other information you find
  3. Meet with your contact. Be courteous, ask plenty of questions, and don’t ask for a
  4. Send a follow-up email to thank the contact for their
  5. If you find relevant job openings at the contact’s company, you can apply for these roles and request an internal referral of your

Internal referrals are a way for existing employees to refer or recommend candidates that could be a strong fit for the open role. Because of this referral, the candidate’s resume is pushed to the top of the “pile” and receives extra attention from the hiring team.

Resumes and cover letters

No matter what kind of company you’re applying to, most initial applications will ask for a resume and a cover letter.

It’s important to cater your resume to the exact type of role you’re applying to. Don’t include any information that seems irrelevant, and try not to exceed a page or two at most. If you’re applying to jobs in two different sectors (or even two slightly different roles), your resume may look completely different for each application.

Similarly, each cover letter you write should be totally unique. While you can start with a base template for each role you apply to, it’s important to demonstrate a specific interest in each individual role. Employers like to see that an applicant has done their research on company policies, achievements, and culture. Furthermore, the relevant skills that make you an attractive candidate for a corporate finance role might be completely different from the skills you need to succeed in an FP&A analyst role.

If possible, direct your cover letter to the hiring manager or division lead who will ultimately be reading your application.

Work Authorization

Even if you find the perfect job, you’ll need work authorization from the U.S. government if you

want to work in the United States. The type of work authorization you’ll need depends on a few different factors, but it’s important to learn about every type of authorization so you know which options might be relevant during the course of your education. Your International Student Services Office will have all the information you need, but here’s a quick primer on some common work authorizations for international students:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) – temporary work authorization that allows F-1 students to accept part-time or full-time employment in their academic field after one year of full-time study (i.e., internships)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) – temporary 12-month work authorization for graduated F-1 students to gain practical work experience related to their field
  • STEM extension – a 24-month OPT extension for graduated F-1 students with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM)

H-1B & Green Card – long-term work authorization options. H-1B visas, which are subject to annual quotas, allow international employees to work in the U.S. for up to six years. Green cards, also known as Permanent Resident Cards, allow people to live and work permanently in the U.S.

Backup options

No matter how much energy you put into your job search, there is no guarantee that you will be able to work in the U.S. That’s mainly because the H-1B visa—which is typically the work authorization required after you complete your Optional Practical Training (OPT)—is lottery- based and capped at an annual quota.

If you are unsuccessful in your visa process, you have a few different options:

  • Explore other visa and immigration options – Consult your immigration lawyer to look at other immigration options that might be applicable to your situation (i.e., OL, L1, NIW).
  • Ask your future employer to relocate you to their international offices – If you receive a job offer from a U.S. company but don’t win the H-1B lottery, you can request that your employer relocate you to one of their international locations. Oftentimes, multinational companies can easily relocate a candidate to their London or Toronto offices.
  • Explore international options – Seek out opportunities in countries with less stringent immigration processes. For instance, Canada has favorable immigration policies and plenty of opportunities for high-skilled international students and

As an international student, staying flexible is the key to success! Continue to build your professional network wherever you can, and remember that the value of your U.S. education is global – the scale of your future work will most likely be global as well, regardless of where you work.

Hunting for the perfect U.S. job can be a tricky process, but it’s important to remain focused, stay positive, and keep pursuing new opportunities wherever they arise.

How to transition from an H-1B Visa to a Green Card

If you are looking to transition your status within the U.S. from an H1B visa to a Green Card, you likely already know what the H-1B Visa is. If not, knowing the goal of the H-1B is an important part of the transition process. Here is a short description of the H-1B Visa.

The H-1B Visa is a popular work permit program for international students who have completed their higher education in the United States and plan to work within the country.

The program allows employers to hire international talent, as long as the applicants hold a university degree and have a well-defined skill area that an American employer can benefit from.

The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant work permit that allows foreign workers to temporarily work in the US. It also allows applicants to live in the US for up to 6 years, and reenter as often as they like while the H-1B is active.

Why is the H-1B so popular? Relative to the standard Permanent Resident Card application process, obtaining an H-1B is usually easier and faster. The Department of Labor also has rules for how foreign workers are paid. The rate of pay must be on par with what similarly qualified talent from the U.S. would make.

Transitioning from the H-1B to a Green Card

For many foreign workers in the U.S., there comes a time when transitioning to a more permanent Green Card becomes necessary. Fortunately, making the transition from an H-1B visa to a Green Card is relatively simple.

There are several steps that Permanent Resident Card applicants must follow for a successful H-1B visa to Green Card transition to take place. As long as each of the steps falls into place as needed, the Green Card will be granted and a permanent residence within the U.S. will become a reality.

Step 1 – Employer

An employer is essential for the H-1B to Permanent Resident Card process. It is not possible to get an employment-based Green Card without gaining sponsorship from an employer.

In many cases, the same employer that sponsored the H-1B visa can also provide sponsorship for a Green Card. There are cases, however, when employers do not meet the suitability requirements to become sponsors for foreign hires.

Additionally, the job/position/role requirements for H-1B and Green Card status differ. It is important to check whether your current position is acceptable for the Green Card requirements.

Step 2 – PERM Labor Certification

Once an employer has agreed to the Green Card sponsorship process, the PERM Labor Certification is the employer’s first step to get the ball rolling.

Through the PERM Labor Certification process Green Card applicants learn their future wage and position within their chosen company. The wage requirements for the Green Card are similar the H-1B’s wage requirements. Without making these determinations, the Green Card process cannot continue.

Step 3 – File Form I-140

After the PERM Labor Certification has been filed and approved, the employer should file Form I-140.

The I-140 does a few different things, but most importantly, it proves to the USCIS that an applicant’s employer can, indeed, provide the benefits specified in the PERM Labor Certification. AS part of the application process, an employer must show proof of financial stability.

When the I-140 has been submitted, there is a bit of a waiting game that begins. A priority date is given, and an applicant must wait until that date becomes active. Once the priority date becomes current, the applicant can file the final form – the I-485.

Step 4 – File Form I-485

Form I-485 is the final step in the process of getting a Permanent Resident Card and switching an applicant’s status from non-immigrant to immigrant. In fact, the I-485 is the ‘Green Card’ form. Once approved, permanent residence is granted.


H-1B to Green Card Timeline

The H-1B to Green Card timeline is straightforward and there is an average rate at which Permanent Resident Cards are granted through the process. As many applicants have differing circumstances, however, there are some variables that can either quicken or slow the process.

In general, applicants should expect their H-1B to Green Card application process to take up to 6 months under normal conditions. That timeline can extend well beyond the 6-month expected Green Card application process for several reasons.

Avoid Waiting to Begin the Green Card Process

It is wise not to wait too long before initiating the H-1B to Green Card application process. There are several reasons for getting the application started as soon as you can, but here are a few of the most common considerations that applicants are often faced with:

  • Potential issues with paperwork causing the Green Card application process to slow down.
  • Application audits can add a considerable amount of time to the application approval timeline. While audits are somewhat uncommon, they do occur, and it is wise to allow for these when deciding when to apply.
  • Applying too late. The process for transitioning from H-1B status to a Green Card can take up to 6 months. If an applicant’s H-1B has expired, the transition from the H-1B can no longer take place.
  • Mistakes on the government side. While it is not that common, many immigration lawyers point out that mistakes can happen on the .gov side. These types of mistakes can result in denials of applications. When an application is denied at no fault of the applicant or sponsoring employer, the applicant can file an appeal. An immigration lawyer can file the necessary documents.


Considerations When Filing for Permanent Residence

Making the switch from a temporary, non-immigrant visa to a permanent residence can be extremely exciting. Despite that excitement, always be sure to dot your ‘i’s and cross your ‘t’s when it comes to filling out paperwork and providing the required information.

The process of switching from an H-1B visa to a Permanent Resident Card is not difficult. However, missing any of the essential steps or filing information that is either partial or false can result in a denial of the application.

For that reason, always provide all information that is requested. Begin the application process for your Green Card as early as possible. Seek legal help if you believe that something is amiss.


Related Questions

How long does it take to get a Green Card from H-1B?

It can take up to 6 months to get a Green Card from an H-1B visa. The process can take up to a year if any issues arise during the approval process. It is a good idea to begin the H-1B to Green Card application process as soon as you have made the decision to remain in the United States.

Can an H-1B holder get a Green Card?

Yes. An H-1B holder can get a Green Card. The process to go from H-1B to a Green Card focuses on modifying an applicant’s immigration status. As long as the H-1B visa is valid, the holder of that visa may apply to change the status of immigration.

Best Credit Cards for International Students [and How to Get One]

For international students studying in the US, establishing a line of credit for the first time can be quite difficult. Any international student who has applied for student loans understands this fact well.Applying for credit cards often proves challenging as most financial institutions require a credit history as well as a Social Security Number as part of the application process. That means international students must solve two main problems: one of identity and another of credit worthiness.

Interstride has decided to make the process of choosing the best credit cards for international students a bit easier by providing a starter list of cards from which to begin the search.

Read on to learn how to access the United States credit system and see which cards might be the best for your needs. 

Credit Card Application Requirements

Whichever credit card you select, it is important to understand the standard application process. Credit card issuers (i.e. banks and other financial institutions) need to know who they are doing business with.

For that reason, applicants must show proof of their identity. For international students, that proof can come in many forms. Other common application requirements for credit cards are proof of address/residence, and proof of income.

International students can sometimes have difficulty satisfying application requirements due to their temporary nature of their status within the country.

Credit Card Application Options for International Students

Fortunately, there are a few workarounds for credit application challenges. Before looking at alternatives, however, be sure that the alternatives are needed.

Is An SSN Possible?

Depending on an international student’s status within the country, it is very possible that they can obtain a Social Security Number, also known as an SSN.

According to the IRS, most student and academic Visas allow for employment. Many nonimmigrant visas, including F-1, J-1, Q-1, M-1, or Q2, fall into this category. These Visa holders may apply for a regular SSN.

An ITIN Can Help

International students who fall outside of the above-mentioned categories can still apply for a credit card. However, they will need to apply to the IRS for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).

An ITIN is essentially an SSN for international guests. The number of digits is the same and the number comes in the same format. To apply for an ITIN, international students need to apply at the IRS using Form W-7.

Best Credit Card Features for International Students

International students on the lookout for a new (or first) credit card in the US should pay attention to a couple of key factors. The best credit cards for international students offer perks and bonuses aimed at student needs.

Top credit card options also allow users to apply for a line of credit with or without a Social Security Number. Each card is quite different in what it expects from and offers to its cardholders. So, it is always wise to do a bit of homework before making a final decision.

Top Features for International Student Credit Cards:

  • No, or low annual fees
  • No international transaction fees
  • Low, or 0% initial purchase APR
  • Cashback programs
  • Travel rewards and miles
  • Lower rates for academic achievement!

Interstride’s Best International Student Credit Cards

Here are some of our favorite credit cards for international students in no particular order.

#1 – Petal

Petal Card provides international students with a fantastic starting point int he world of credit. Not only does Petal forgo the usual SSN and ITIN requirements, but the company also creates a ‘money score’ for new applicants to determine credit worthiness.

That means international students with no previous credit should have no difficulty in getting the Petal Card as long as they have income, and their expenses are low.

#2 – Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students

Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students is the perfect solution for many international students. This credit card offers a low APR, no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and much more.

To get this card, students do not need an SSN and there is no credit needed to apply. Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students makes application decisions based on school, income, expenditures, etc.

 #3 – Discover it® Student Card

Discover it Student Card is another fantastic option for international students. While only international students with an SSN may apply for this card, it is one of the better ones on the list.

Some of the notable features of this card are no annual fees, no foreign transaction fees, a cashback bonus for good grades, and a solid cashback rewards program which gets better with time.

#4 – Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Journey Student rewards from Capital One is yet another good choice for international students. Journey offers a solid cashback program on spending, a $60 streaming bonus for on-time payments, no foreign transaction fees, and accurate credit tracking through the available app.

To apply, students must use an SSN or an ITIN.

#5 – Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card

As with the other options on this list, the Chase Freedom Student Credit Card is built with students in mind. International students can apply using an ITIN and there are many benefits that come from this offer from Chase.

An initial $50 bonus starts things off. Good Standing Rewards, credit line increases, and no annual fees adds to the reasons international students might be interested in the Chase Freedom Student card.

Final Thoughts

Whether in the US for a long time, or just a year or two, there is no question that a credit card can make a world of difference. Students are able to order their materials online, shop for food, pay bills, and support themselves in a world that is increasingly dependent on digital payments and credit.

Choosing the right card can help in many ways, just as choosing one that doesn’t compliment student needs can hinder a student’s financial progress and success. New credit card users especially should take care that their credit cards add value to their lives.

Best Student Loans for International Students

The decision to study in the United States can be a difficult one. There are so many things to take into consideration to successfully make the move to the US and succeed at school.

Figuring out how to pay for university is one of the many puzzles to solve but getting an international student loan might be easier than you think.

Can I get a student loan as an international student?

Yes, you can get an international loan as an international student.  You have several options to apply for an international education loan. Many of the available options are based on visa status and the desired school.


How can I get a loan to study in the US?

The process that goes into getting a student loan as an international student can look different from person to person. However, the biggest differences usually come down to whether a borrower in an eligible noncitizen.

Eligible noncitizen options

Depending on your status within the United States, you may qualify for student loans as an eligible noncitizen. Eligible noncitizens can apply for the same types of student loans that local students access.

These student loans include both private and government loans. For private loans, lenders should be contacted directly as many have unique rates and qualification requirements. Eligible noncitizens applying for federal student aid should open an account at FAFSA and follow the steps provided.

Examples of eligible noncitizens are:

  • Green Card holders
  • refugees and asylum seekers

Other noncitizen options

Many international students do not fall into the eligible noncitizen category. Fortunately, there are many other options for education loans for international students.

Foreign applicants not in the eligible noncitizen category should look at their private student loan options. There are many lenders who will provide a loan to cover education expenses for foreign students as they study in the US.

Each lender offers different rates and repayment terms. The various private student loan providers also lack a universal standard for how they accept applicants. Most lenders, for example, require a cosigner while others do not.

With a Cosigner

International students applying for a personal student loan with a cosigner option will have the “pick of the litter” when it comes to which lender suits their needs the best. As long as the cosigner has a credit rating above 640, the loan should have a reasonable interest rate and repayment term.

Without a Cosigner

Education loans offered without the need for a cosigner are few and far between. However, they do exist, and we have a couple of favorites to introduce you to.

Supported Schools

An important part of applying for education loans is to make sure that the loan that you are applying to is applicable for the school that you wish to attend. Many loan programs will have a ‘covered schools’ list and it is always good to check it before committing time to the application process.

Interstride’s International Student Loan Picks

As there are many options for foreign students looking to finance their education, we have decided to provide a list of some of our favorites.

#1 – MPower Financing

MPower Financing is one of the few lenders that do not require a cosigner. In fact, the lender doesn’t require collateral, or a credit history in the United States, either. MPower supports more than 350 schools in North America and offers a full scholarship program as well. The student-focused lending approach makes this lender quite popular.

#2 – Ascent

Ascent Funding is another top choice for international students looking for student loan options. Ascent works with MPower to provide loans with and without cosigner requirements. The lender also offers loan options that are either based on credit history or ‘future potential’ which is the model used by MPower Financing. In addition to student loans for eligible schools, Ascent also offers loans for training programs and career development education.

#3 – Prodigy Finance

Prodigy Finance is another top-rated lending firm for international students. Prodigy Finance focuses on graduate studies and provides loans based on a ‘future potential’ model similar to MPower and Ascent. In Prodigy’s case, however, the predictive credit model used to determine credit worthiness is a bit more complex. Students do not need a cosigner or a credit history in the US to apply for a loan from Prodigy Finance.

#4 – Discover

Many consider Discover as one of the better choices for international student credit card providers. As a lender, Discover offers international students with many choices depending on the type of study they are planning. Discover offers student loans specific to undergraduate and graduate studies, as well as degrees in business, health, law, and much more. To take advantage of Discover’s student loans, a cosigner or Green Card is needed.

Related Questions

How do international student loans work?

International student loans work the same way traditional student loans do. The borrower goes through an application process that determines eligibility, credit worthiness, and many other factors. International students can apply for a student loan with or without a cosigner, and loans are available through private and government lending programs.

Can international students get student loans without a cosigner?

The short answer is, yes. Foreign students can get student loans without a cosigner. There are some private lenders who will verify a student’s eligibility based on their own set of rules. If an applicant passes the application process, a loan is granted. Getting student loans without a cosigner through both FAFSA and private lenders is also possible for international students with a Green Card.

Taxes for International Students

If you are an international student studying in the US, or you are considering becoming one, it is helpful to know how tax laws work for foreign students in the United States.

For a full list of rules and requirements regarding US tax laws affecting international students, further reading on the IRS website can be found, here. However, we’ll summarize the main points for you here to save you some time.

Tax Requirements for International Students

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines international students as both nonresident aliens and resident aliens.

Depending on your visa type, you may fall into either category at the time of filing your taxes. The IRS outlines a separate set of rules for resident and nonresident aliens. However, the IRS also views international students through a different lens than other types of nonresident aliens. Therefore, some unique conditions apply to international students.

As such, to understand which income sources to report, as well as what can be deducted, you must first be sure about your tax filing and visa status.

Income Reporting Requirements

One of the first things international students should know about reporting requirements is that all international students and scholars should file. Even if they have made very little US-sourced income.

International students should file and pay their taxes if:

  • they have received a grant or scholarship that is considered taxable,
  • or if they received any income from work or any other source.

An important note about capital gains tax for international students:

International students in the United States for longer than one year should file and pay taxes if they have made money in the stock market, or by selling any other physical property (such as a boat, house, or car). The IRS enforces a 30% capital gains tax.

Many international students do not have to file taxes if:

  • their income is from another country,
  • they earn interest from a bank or investment account,
  • or if they received a grant or scholarship that is tax free.

It is important to note that there is no minimum income trigger that the IRS uses for international students. That means all earning count towards the filing requirement, even those that are very small.

Treaties and Special Circumstances

Apart from the general set of rules outlined by the IRS for how international students should be taxed, there are also many treaties and special circumstances that can be considered.

Most notably, the United States maintains several treaties with countries around the world. Each of those treaties outlines separate set of rules for taxation of nationals of those countries.

It is always a clever idea to check the list of treaties before seeking tax advice. Most sources of information that you will find will give generalized information that may not pertain to your situation.

Start with page 19 of the Treaties document from the IRS and look for ‘Students and Apprentices’.

Specific Taxation Rules Depending on Visa Type

Depending on your field of study, level of education, and time spent in the United States, you may have one of several student visa types that exist.

The three most common student visas are F1, J1, and M1, though many students also have H-1B visas and Green Cards. Tax rules for each are different and knowing the differences can save you a lot of time, money, and energy.

Here are some general rules for each of the listed visa types:

  • F-1 – This visa is meant for academic studies. Most international students have an F-1 Visa, and these students are allowed to do limited, part-time work. The visa is a nonimmigrant visa and the applicable tax rules apply.
  • J-1 – This visa is meant to provide international students with an opportunity to complete paid training in their field of study. It is a nonimmigrant visa and shares tax rules with F-1 status visas.
  • M-1 – This visa type is for international nonimmigrants who wish to attend training programs or vocational schools in the US. M-1 holders are not allowed to work in the US, and therefore do not pay taxes.
  • H-1B & Green Card – International students with immigrant visas, whether they hold an H-1B Visa, a Green Card, or are transitioning from an H-1B to a Green Card, must follow the same tax rules as US citizens. Students with these types of visas include but are not limited to graduate students and professionals continuing their education. Resident aliens must report all earned income.

Final Thoughts

The US tax system is certainly complex, but it does not have to be difficult to understand. The first step is to learn how international students with your particular visa type are taxed. Then, check to see if you are exempt from any of the rules associated with that visa type by checking the treaties document on the IRS website.  Once you are sure about your tax situation, it is time to decide how you would like to file your taxes.

Related Questions

When should I file my taxes in the US as an international student?  

International students should file taxes before the annual tax deadline. Usually, students should send their tax returns by May 17th. Sometimes, there are extensions that can push the date back.

Can international students file their taxes for free? 

Yes. International students can file their taxes for free. There are a number of resources available. International students can download and fill forms directly from the IRS website, or use a tax preparation service that offers free services.

Do international students need a Social Security Number to file taxes?

International students must have their Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) when filing taxes.

How to get a driver’s license as an international student

Learning the driver’s license process for international students in the United States can open up a lot of new opportunities. Driving saves time and energy, and it can improve prospects for social life, travel, and many other important aspects of life.

International students who want to drive in the United States will need to apply for a driver’s license from the state that they reside in.

The driver’s license application process for international students is slightly different from state to state. However, there are many things that are common among them, and you should understand the process in your state before applying for a driver’s license.

Understanding the US Driver’s License Process

For international students applying for a driver’s license will follow the same basic steps. While there are differences from state to state, many of the requirements for international students are from federal regulations.

Therefore, foreign students applying for a driver’s license anywhere in the United States will likely need to know the following:

International students should always check with their Designated School Official to gather local driving license information.

Students should also make sure that their information has been uploaded to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

It is also important to wait for approximately two weeks before applying for a license. The I-94 immigration information that students provide when coming into the country needs time to become visible in DMV systems.

Finally, foreign nationals in the United States on extended visas (i.e. international students) will need to apply for with a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

Once the preliminary steps have been taken care of, it is time to call the local DMV. Make a list of all the required documents when you call. If you have all of the requested documents, it is a good time to schedule your driver’s license tests.

Unless the DMV in your state recognizes foreign driver’s licenses and offers to transfer your current foreign license to a state document, it will be necessary to schedule a driving and written test.



There are several pieces of documentation that need to be submitted, including ID documentation, immigration forms, and sometimes proof of address. These requirements vary from state to state but most will require the following.

Form I-94

Form I-94 is a form that comes from the U.S. Customs office and shows a record of your travel history, including arrival and departure dates. The DMV will need to see this information because driver’s license approvals often depend on how long a foreign applicant will remain in the United States.

Form I-94 is available here.

Form I-20

Another important document that you will need to show is Form I-20. Form I-20 shows your eligibility for a driver’s license based on your status as a ‘nonimmigrant student’.

More information about Form I-20 and what you can use it for can be found here.

Social Security Number (SSN)

Another document that you will need to bring in most cases is your Social Security Number (SSN). Your social security number is not needed by DMVs in every state, however.

For more information, the Social Security Administration website can be found here.

Proof of Residence

As part of the driver’s license process, DMV offices also need to see that you are a resident of the state in which you are applying for the driver’s license. It is not allowed to carry driver’s licenses from multiple states and this is a requirement for all driver’s license applicants.

Accepted documents to show for proof of residence may include:

  • bank records and statement
  • official mail addressed to you at local address
  • rental/lease agreements
  • mortgage bill
  • school documentation
  • insurance documentation

Passport and Visa Information

Finally, you will need to provide your passport and copies of your current student visa as proof of ID. Simply providing your passport is usually sufficient to fulfill this requirement as the DMV officer will make any necessary photocopies at the DMV office.

Driving and Written Test Requirements

If the DMV determines that it will not accept the foreign driver’s license as an equivalent, a driving and written test will be required. These tests can usually be scheduled on the same day, but not always.

The written portion of the evaluation will test your working knowledge of the local driving laws, signs, and procedures relating to accidents and other emergency situations.

The driving test will help the DMV determine your readiness for driving on US roads and usually involves taking a short drive with an instructor, following directions as you drive.

Once complete, the driver’s license process has come to an end and the DMV will provide an answer quite quickly in most cases.

Regional Differences

Before applying for a driver’s license in any state, it is important to contact the local DMV office nearest you to learn what requirements exist for international students.

While most states follow similar rules and regulations regarding international driving licenses, there can be significant differences as well.

Final Thoughts

Driving in the U.S. can certainly bring a lot of positive elements into your life as an international student. Driving in the United States may seem daunting at first. However, the process for getting a driver’s license is easier than you might think. Just be sure to collect the necessary paperwork and research the driving rules in your state and you’ll be behind the wheel in no time.

Related Questions

How long should international students wait before applying for a US driver’s license? 

It is best for international students to wait for at least 10-14 days from arrival before applying for a driver’s license from their state. It can take up to 10 working days for immigration systems to update international student information.

Is there an international driver’s license for foreign students?

In most US states, students cannot drive legally with an international driving license or an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). Students should apply for a state driver’s license and follow the processes outlined by local DMV offices.

Health Insurance for International Students

Students often wonder if they are getting a good deal on the insurance package that they choose. The complex language used on forms related to health insurance for international students can often be a bit confusing.

Thankfully, universities often work with specific health insurance companies to help curb the difficulties that come with selecting a health plan in another country. These firms have access to tailor-made plans that are built with student needs in mind. There are times, however, when students need to find a health insurance policy on their own. In either case, knowing what to consider before making a final choice can be helpful.

Read on to learn how to choose the best health insurance for international students.

Factors Affecting Health Insurance for International Students

Finding the perfect health insurance means striking a balance between several factors. It can be a little tricky at first to find a health insurance policy that checks all of the necessary boxes. However, it is not as complicated as it seems at first. By taking some key elements into consideration while searching, it is possible to narrow the choices down considerably.


The type of visa that an international student has is a key factor. Some U.S. visas have a health insurance requirement and others do not. F-1 visa holders, for example, are not required by the U.S. government to maintain health insurance. In contrast, J-1 holders must have an active healthcare plan while living in the United States.

H-1B visa holders also have to get a health insurance plan. Health insurance may come from an employer or be supplied by the visa holder, but it is important to note the length of time that it takes to be considered a long-term visitor. H-1B holders are considered short-term visitors until they reach the 6-month mark, at which point they become eligible for health care plans under the Affordable Care Act. During the preliminary phase of the H-1B, a private health insurance plan is needed.


Another common consideration is how health insurance requirements change when making transitions in life.

If you are a current student looking to apply for an H-1B visa or Green Card, you may need to change your policy from the one provided by your school.

It is also possible that F-1 visa holders who wish to stay and work in the US after graduation will apply for Optional Practical Training, also known as OPT. If granted permission to stay in the US and work, obtaining health insurance will be a necessary step in that process.

There are many types of transitions that international student may go through. Making sure that health insurance issues don’t crop up can be helpful.


Many schools will require international students to have health insurance regardless of visa type. In fact, most universities expect their international student body to have some form of health insurance. Some schools are very specific in what they require, as well as deciding on which insurance companies and policies their students must adhere to. Others allow their foreign students to

Checking with student advisors before looking for health insurance independently is crucial. All international students should be aware of the rules that affect their health insurance situation. If maintaining insurance means keeping a scholarship, a student visa, or a place in an educational institution, then understanding how it works is an essential part of life as a student.

Cost and Coverage

Not all health insurance policies are the same. So, figuring out the cost and coverage is the next step. Health insurance companies usually offer several tiers of coverage to international students. Each tier provides additional features and coverage. With greater coverage comes an additional cost, however. So, it is always wise to carefully consider what the insurance policy can offer and what your needs are.

Examples of additional features to expect include travel insurance, passport insurance, lower copays, greater options for doctors and medical centers, eye checkups and glasses, dentistry, and more.


While comparing plans, checking for service limitations should also be on the to-do list. Health insurance plans in the U.S. always have a few limitations so making sure that an insurance plan that you are interested in isn’t lacking in a specific area of need is a good idea.

Some questions to ask include:

    • Can I use my international student health insurance in my home country when I visit home?
    • Is maternity covered?
    • How much will I pay when I go to the doctor or hospital (deductible)?
    • What happens if I get into a car accident?

Health Insurance for International Students

Below are some of the best health insurance plans for international students. Each one of the health insurance companies listed below ranks highly in quality of service, good coverage, and fair policy rates. In addition, many of the plans presented here are intentionally structured to match well with school and visa requirements. In addition, these same insurance providers have packages that work for recent grads and any international students who may be entering the workforce for the first time.

Final Thoughts

Remember that before you choose a health insurance plan, it is always good to check with your school international student office, your visa requirements, and any other factor that might impact your decision.

Depending on your situation, you may need specific things from a health insurance plan. In fact, you might not even need to go through the process of getting one yourself. Employers, exchange programs, and schools may provide you with viable options.

Creating Opportunities Through Professional Networking

For many international students nearing the end of their studies, there comes a time to find employment. The process of finding a job can be a bit challenging but creating opportunities through professional networks can really help.Professional networking is so important, in fact, that more than 80% of all professionals say that their own professional networks helped them achieve success. How is that possible? Less than 30% of all job vacancies are actually published for job seekers to find.

Keep reading to learn how professional networking can help you land that dream job.

Be a Part of Your Professional Network

Before getting into what a professional network is, how to build one, and how you can benefit from building one, it is a good idea to consider the ‘why’.

Professional networks are created by groups of like-minded people. They are comprised of like-minding people interested in finding opportunities, strengthening their careers, and building a sense of professional security.

Given the obvious benefits that come from networking, it may seem like everyone is there to take all that they can from their network.

However, there is another side to the coin. Networks are built through human interaction and relationships. That means, for a professional network to be successful, its members should focus as much on giving as they do on taking.

Essentially, each member of the network should provide some value to the rest of the network. When a person is successful in offering value, the network will also work for them.

Getting Started With Your Professional Network

Getting started with your professional network can be as simple as taking a register of all the people that you know. Fellow classmates, professors, friends, family, and anyone else you have met along the way can be added to your list.

Consider how each of the people on your list relates to your professional goals. Sometimes the connection is clear, other times it is not. Even if you cannot see a direct link between a person on your list and your aims, it is good not to disregard people from your list too soon. It is common for opportunities to come from unexpected places.

The next step is to make a list of professional networking events that are related to your career goals. Whether you are looking for virtual networking events or meetings to attend in person, knowing which events are available to you can prove very useful.

Types of Professional Networking

According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review, there are three main categories that professional networking falls into. Networking can be operational, personal, and strategic. It is essential to understand the various aspects of professional networking so that you can create a network that meets your range of goals.

Operational Networking

Operational networking describes connections that are made within classrooms, workplaces, clubs, and peer groups. These networks work to support current tasks and goals for all members of the network.

Personal Networking

Personal networking describes connections made that enrich a person’s development. These are the types of connections that can often provide surprise opportunities. They are the members of your network who provide value but that value may not be directly related to current work or plans.

Strategic Networking

Strategic networking takes place when connections are made for the advancement of future goals. People in these groups are the ones who will serve a future purpose and may not help with anything at the moment.

Attending Professional Networking Events

Attending professional networking events can be one of the best ways to bring new people and ideas into your circle. From the new connections that you create, there are often doors that begin to open.

The professional networking events that you attend can focus on any kind of networking that suits your needs. Building personal and strategic connections is a common goal for many people attending networking events.

Find the Right Professional Networks

There are many ways to attend professional networking events and it is possible to build a network online without a specific event.

Virtual networking events often take place on networking websites, like Facebook and LinkedIn. These allow for specific groups of people to ‘mingle’ online and share ideas.

Universities often host job fairs and networking events, both in person and online.

In addition, many alumni groups and student associations hold events that help with network building.

No matter what your present and future goals happen to be, regularly attending the right mix of networking events will help you find success.

What Happens After Professional Networking Events?

Once you have completed a networking event, there are some important steps to take. Steps that will help you make the most of the connections that you made.

Review – The first step is to review the people and information that you gained from the event. Organize the contact information that you collected and write down how each of the people on your list can help you achieve your goals.

It is also crucial to make a note of what you can offer to each of the new people on your contact list. Remember the give and take? You will find that your network will serve you much better when you are cognizant of the needs of its members.

Follow Up – After recording all of the necessary information and taking any notes that you deem important to the process, it is time to make contact with your new network one more time.

How you follow up will largely depend on the situation at hand. Emails and social media messages are popular choices. With your chosen method, send a message to each new person on your list. Remind them that you appreciate meeting them. This is also a good time to bring up any value you can add to their lives. They will see how maintaining a relationship with you will be worth their time.

Related Questions

What are professional networks?

Professional networks are groups of people connected by a common interest, such as a specific industry or profession. Taking part in professional networks with other like-minded people creates new opportunities for employment. A well-networked professional may also have access to more resources as a result of the connections they share with others.

What are some professional network examples?

Professional networks can take on many forms. They provide opportunities for personal growth, professional growth, and future prospects. Some examples include international student groups with similar career goals, clubs for alumni, employee associations, etc.

What is not an example of professional networking?

Most professionals would not consider collecting contact information for professionals in your field to be networking. Unless, of course, you do it in a mutually communicative way. Preferably, you should collect contact information in person or at a virtual networking event. Other examples include attending webinars and going to job interviews.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students

Working in the United States either while studying or after can prove to be an incredible experience for most international students. For many, optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students is the first step in that process. 

Seeing what it takes to succeed in the U.S. job market can provide invaluable lessons that stick with students for life. The experience of working in the U.S. also creates opportunities for students that they would not find anywhere else.

Whether looking to build a professional network, gain valuable job experience to help with an application for permanent residency, or anything in between, the benefits are certainly numerous.  


OPT Application Process

The application for Optional Practical Training begins with a visit to the designated school official (DSO). The DSO has all necessary paperwork and will know about any changes or special circumstances regarding a student’s situation. 

The DSO will endorse Form I-20, update the required information within the SEVIS system, and provide guidance on filling out Form I-765. Once the F-1 student and DSO successfully submit the required paperwork, it is up to the USCIS to complete the process. 

In general, the process runs smoothly. It is important to remember, though, that it can take up to three months for the application to process. 

OPT Rules and Guidelines

As with all things immigration, OPT comes with quite a few rules and regulations that students should be aware of. And, while the complete list of rules can be found on the USCIS website and in the DSO office, there are some common rules that all students benefit from knowing. 

Duration of OPT Status

A common question regarding OPT is how long the program lasts and if the program can be broken up into smaller periods. 

OPT can be taken before a degree is earned and after. When taken before (pre-completion), OPT can be used in pieces. When taken after graduation (post-completion), the remaining time – the original 12 months, minus any used time from before graduation – occurs in one session. 

Employment Considerations for OPT

In order to apply for OPT permission, there is no requirement that international students have a job or even a job offer. The application is simply a way to get permission from the U.S. Immigration office to work in the United States. 

However, once you get OPT approval, you will need employment. If for whatever reason international students on OPT cannot find paid work, it is also possible to volunteer for 20 hours a week to satisfy the requirement. 

OPT Unemployment

Although there is a requirement for employment, there is also an allowable period for looking for work. F-1 students with OPT permissions have a maximum of 90 days allowed (from 365) without working. 

This means there is generally ample time to find employment, switch between jobs, and manage time for other considerations. It is useful to note, however, that going past the 90 days that are allowed will make it more difficult to transition from OPT to H-1B (insert link), or from H-1B to Green Card (insert link) later on. 

OPT Extensions

There are two primary ways that international students can extend OPT permission. They can apply for a STEM OPT extension which allows for an additional 24 months or apply for a regular OPT extension after completing a second (higher) degree. 

The Role of STEM

International students who have completed a degree in one of the STEM fields of study can apply for a STEM extension once they have completed the regular OPT 12-month period. The extension can be up to 24 months making it possible for international students to stay in the U.S. for three years after their graduation. 

In addition to the first STEM extension, there is also a possibility for a second. To get a second STEM extension, students must complete another degree, another year of traditional OPT, and then apply for their second round of STEM OPT. 


Final Thoughts

Thanks to various immigration programs aimed at helping international students, it is quite possible for F-1 students to remain in the U.S. after school for a considerable amount of time.  Should they decide to stay, transitioning from an OPT to an H-1B, or an H-1B to a Green Card, is a more permanent solution. 

Related Questions

What is the main difference between the H-1B and the OPT? 

There are some important differences between the H-1B and the OPT. For one thing, the H-1B visa is for longer-term stays. The H-1B is also commonly referred to as a work visa. The OPT, on the other hand, is connected to the student visa (F-1). It only lasts for one year (or two years for STEM students). 

Can I transition to H-1B status from OPT?

Transitioning to an H-1B visa from Optional Practical Training is possible. International students wishing to obtain an H-1B visa should apply for the working visa while still completing the OPT. To file for an H-1B, students must find a suitable employer who files a petition. They should also seek to be included in the 65,000 available H-1Bs each year.  

How long does it take to get OPT approval? 

Approval for Optional Practical Training can take up to three months from the application date. In general, students entering their final semester should begin the OPT application process to ensure a smooth transition.