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Winter Graduates: You’re In Demand! (But Are You Prepared?)

Every December, thousands of international students studying in the US don their caps and gowns to graduate from nursing schools across the country, and this year is no exception. While winter graduations can mean forfeiting sunny outdoor ceremonies, big crowds, and loud cheers, there are two significant benefits for nursing students graduating at this time of the year: Less graduate competition and increased job opportunities.

But, Nurses Are Always In Demand, Right? 

That’s true. In fact, experts predict that by 2022, there will be more RN jobs in the US than any other profession, with 1.1 million RNs required to prevent a shortage. These shortages are a result of the US population getting older, increases in life expectancy, and the fact that around one-third of the current nurse workforce is aged 50 or older and therefore entering their last decade in the profession, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

However, the winter months generate even more employment opportunities than those in a spring graduating class. 

Why? 

We know that enormous demands are placed on healthcare facilities over the winter period due to outbreaks of illnesses like the flu and norovirus, accidents resulting from poor weather conditions, and low temperatures affecting those with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. 

Also, the winter means that more hospital beds are taken up by patients who are well enough to be discharged but require a nursing home place or home care, which isn’t available due to the same issues facing the long-term care sector. Such factors mean that hospitals must ensure that they hire enough nurses to cope with the additional care demands at this time. 

What Are Your Next Steps To Secure Employment? 

As a student studying on an F1 visa, you’ll be aware that you need an employment authorization document (EAD) to start lawfully working on Optional Practical Training (OPT). With F1 status, you’re authorized up to a total of 12 months of OPT at each educational level; undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate, as long as the work is related to your field of study. 

However, OPT cannot begin before receipt of the physical EAD card approval notice (Form I-765). You can use this approval notice as evidence of work authorization for up to 30 days while you wait to receive the physical EAD card. 

What Are The Timelines? 

You can apply for OPT no sooner than 90 days before graduation/completion of your study program. So, if you’re graduating this month, you should really have done it by now. However, you can apply up to 60 days post-graduation as long as the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receive your OPT application BEFORE the end of the 60 days. Do bear in mind that the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) strongly discourages students from applying during these 60 days as it takes an average of 120 days for OPT to be approved. This means that applying late could result in a loss of OPT time, so we always encourage students to plan ahead where possible. 

The average processing time for OPT is currently three months, but it can be shorter or longer in individual cases, further highlighting the importance of applying well in advance.

Is There Help Available? 

Absolutely. Your university/college ISSS advisor should be able to help you with any applications you need to make. Additionally, there are nurse staffing agencies, like Conexus, who can offer you advice on getting started in your career. Our specialist team is partnered with universities and colleges across the US to help ensure both international nursing and US graduates can take advantage of increased job opportunities at this time of year and secure work post-graduation. 

While we’re unable to complete applications on your behalf, our experienced team is fully clued up on all aspects of the process. It’s this knowledge that enables us to educate students on all of the latest developments regarding F1, OPT, and EAD.

Not Spotted The Conexus Team On Your Campus? 

Never fear! We’re on-hand to offer help and advice to any international nursing graduate who’s looking to remain living and working in the US this winter and beyond. Contact our team today with any questions or concerns by calling +1 832 406 3040 or emailing info@conexusmedstaff.com

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