Visa workshops help international students

By Christine Won

For international students at the University, the decision of what to do with their lives does not have to be made immediately after graduation. Those with F-1 primary student visa status have a 60-day grace period after graduation before they must leave the country.

This is why almost all graduating international students who wish to stay apply for Optional Practical Training. For $180, the training gives a one-year extension of the F-1 visa. During the year, students can work anywhere within the United States and look for a company that will sponsor them for a H-1 business visa that will last for three years.

The International Student and Scholar Services is currently offering these practical training workshops every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday until May 3. The workshops are held in the services Multipurpose room located on the top floor of the Fred H. Turner Building, 610 E. John St.

“We had so many students applying for (Optional Practical Training) that we started these workshops instead of holding lots of one-on-one appointments,” said Martin McFarlane, assistant director of the International Student and Scholar Services. “But if a student can’t make it to one of the workshops, of course we’ll be happy to still meet with them one-on-one.”

In Fall 2006, there were 5,146 international students on campus, 4,442 of which held F-1 student visas.

Jonatan Jalfin, senior in LAS, is an Australian citizen. He will graduate in May or December 2007, depending on when and if his application for the practical training gets approved.

“I’m applying for an extension right now,” Jalfin said. “I’d like to stay an extra semester so I can get my second degree in mathematics, which I want to pursue. I need that extra semester to double major in physics and math.”

Jalfin’s visa expires in August. If it is not extended, Jalfin plans to look for a job in the United States, Europe or Australia. An extension approval can take 6-12 weeks, McFarlane said.

Eun Myung Kim, who graduated in December, had her extension approved in December. She said the workshops explained what she needed to do and checked her application for her.

“The (practical training can) help a lot, actually,” she said. “It’s very informative.”

Jalfin agreed the required paperwork was very specific and detailed. He had filed for the training before for an internship offer.

Because international students cannot work outside the University, if they get internship or job offers related to their field of study, they can apply for a trainging for a special permission to work outside.

“It’d be nice if it was more advertised there is such an option (for international students),” said Jalfin, who found out after asking the Office of International Student Affairs. “I only found out about it after I needed to do it.”