If you are an African student who is considering studying in a foreign university, one of the most important factors to consider is the opportunities for work experience during your studies and after graduation.
If, for instance, the country you are considering for your higher education does not allow foreigners to pursue employment after graduation, then it may not be ideal for you. On the other hand, if a country has concrete and established pathways that foreign students can follow to secure some work experience, you might want to give it more priority.
In most countries around the world, all foreigners, whether they are students or not, are required by law to secure a work permit before they can work in that particular country. A work permit is – in simple terms – a document that is issued by the government to a foreign national who is interested in working in that country. Work permits, also known as work visas, are often temporary documents. Depending on the country, they can expire in a year, two years, etc.
Why Should You Care About Work Visas?
Other countries – especially those in Europe and the West – often have work opportunities that may not be readily available to you as an African student. For instance, if you want to work for top financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs and technology giants such as Google, it is easier for you to land these opportunities when you are based in the countries where these companies hire more. But to legally make the best use of these potential opportunities, you need to learn all about work visas and their terms. Without a thorough understanding of how work visa systems work in the country of your interest, you may find yourself unable to secure meaningful employment.
Besides the prospects for work after graduation, you need to understand about work permits because you may need to work part-time while you are undertaking your studies in order to afford tuition or personal expenses. It is essential to understand whether you will be legally allowed to work part-time and whether there is a limit to the number of hours you can work as a student.
Another reason why you need to learn about work visas before you settle in a country that you want to pursue your higher education in is because of the competitiveness associated with these visas. In some countries, for example the United States, there is usually a limited number of slots for foreign workers per year– which means acquiring a work visa in that country is quite a challenging process. In general, the more foreigners there are who wish to pursue employment in a certain country, the more challenging the procedures of obtaining a visa is in those countries. So before you make your final decision about where to apply for college, keep in mind the ease of obtaining a work permit after graduation.
When Do You Need a Work Visa?
In most cases, you will need a work visa once you graduate from university and you wish to remain in the country to gain some work experience. Countries such as the United Kingdom and United States have special pre-established programs that allow foreign graduates to work for a short period before they are legally obligated to seek the regular work permits.
What Types of Work Visas Are There?
There are numerous categories of work visas depending on the country. In the United States, there are a number of work visa categories which include the following:
- O visas – These target people who have demonstrated exceptional talent in a given field.
- H visas – These target those who have expertise in a certain field and possess a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- I visas – These are for journalists and press members working in the United States.
- P visas – These are meant for artists and performers who have proof of excellence in their fields.
These are just a few of the many categories of work visas in the United States. The same case applies to most other countries around the world –whether it is Canada or France or the United Kingdom, there are many categories of work visas that cater for foreign workers according to their abilities. It is your responsibility as a potential immigrant to find out what type of work visa suits you best.
Eager to learn more about work visas in the most popular student destinations? Check our post-study work visa guides below.