After doing a master’s degree in the US, can I easily get a work visa right after?

Be aware of the following:

  1. The US is oversupplied with people who have Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. degrees in many areas, particularly the humanities and social sciences. It can be very difficult for them to get a job, even though they are US citizens with a US education, and are bright, personable, and hard working. I’ve seen some of them driving for Uber, because they can’t find work in their field. The daughter of a couple I’ve known for 50 years has her Ph.D. in sociology from a respected school, and dreamed of a tenure track teaching position in a university, but the only jobs she could get were adjunct jobs that were part-time, did not pay benefits like health insurance, and offered no chance for advancement. She now takes low level temporary jobs, freelances at helping edit Ph.D. dissertations, and so on, just to pay her rent. She is now in her late 40s and has almost no chance of the sort of career she wanted, yet she is very bright, has many friends, is active in her community, etc. Unless you want that sort of a life, your degree had better be in a growth area, such as data science or medical research, if you want a US job.
  2. There is no such thing as a generic “work visa.”. There are, basically, two types of visa, NON-immigrant and immigrant. Within the non–immigrant category, there are only a few visa types that allow you to work. The most appropriate for a person with a Master’s degree is the H-1B, which is very hard to get. You cannot apply for an H-1B directly. An employer who applies to the US government to be allowed to hire someone from overseas and bring them to the US on an H-1B visa must prove to the government that no qualified American applied for the specific position when it was posted, and that the position requires specialized skills AND experience. It costs the prospective employer quite a bit to get a job certified for H-1B, so many do not even want to try to do so. If the employer does get the job certified and wants to hire you, he/she must wait until your priority date is current, before you can actually obtain your visa. Then, you will be allowed to work for that employer for only three years, or at the most, six years if you get an extension. You are not allowed to work for any other employer, while in that H-1B job. The employer may subsequently be willing to sponsor you for a green card, or permanent resident visa (see below), but he/she has little incentive to do so, because, again, sponsorship costs the employer money and, since a green card holder can work for any employer, you could simply leave and work for someone else. At this time, most H-1B eligible jobs are in the IT field.
  3. As to immigrant visas, the only type is a green card, or permanent resident visa, which lets you live permanently in the US, work for any employer, and apply to become a US citizen after a period of continuous presence, if you wish. There are three basic ways of getting a green card — through marriage to a US citizen or green card holder, through an immediate relative who is a US citizen or green card holder, and through employer sponsorship. People from certain countries can also apply to the Diversity Visa lottery, which selects a number of people at random each year who may apply for green cards without sponsorship. Because the number of applicants each year is far greater than the number of visas available, the odds of being selected in a given year are pretty low. As shown above, it is difficult, but not impossible, to obtain employer sponsorship, but your chances are better if you have already done OPT or STEM-OPT for the employer or worked for the employer as an H-1B.

The bottom line is that getting a Master’s degree in the US does not guarantee that you will be able to work in the US. Basically, because an F1 (student) visa is a NON-immigrant visa, having one simply means that you may study in the US, and possibly do OPT or STEM-OPT, but then you are expected to return to your home country.

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