The job search for this year's dentistry graduates is very different as they deal with the uncertainty that comes with the transition to their careers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new wave of dentists trying to find their place in the job market includes international graduates who face the added stress of being legally entitled to work in the United States.
For graduates, this means that they will be approved for an H-1B visa – a permit that US employers can temporarily employ foreign workers for. With 85,000 H-1B visas available each year that graduates must receive through a lottery process or sponsorship, this can be a competitive and sometimes confusing process for applicants and employers.
"The biggest obstacle for me is finding an employer to sponsor my work visa," said Rahul Nagda, DDS, graduate of the University of California at the San Francisco School of Dentistry for 2020. "There is a lack of knowledge about H-1B -Visa on private practitioners and most are unwilling to sponsor a work visa. "
Dr. Nagda came to the United States from Mumbai, India, almost three years ago, where he worked as an associate dentist. His dreams of attending a dental school in the United States had a bad start when he applied to several schools for three years to face one rejection after another.
It wasn't until he enrolled in teaching at the University of California at Los Angeles that the doors of opportunity opened. He enrolled in the UCSF School of Dentistry shortly after graduating in dental surgery, but behind this significant milestone is the growing challenge of obtaining legal permission to practice in the United States.
President Trump signed an implementing regulation on June 22 that suspended new H-1B and H-4 visas until the end of the year. Hundreds of thousands of foreigners are prohibited from seeking work in the United States. However, the suspension will not have an immediate impact on Nagda. If you have a student visa while studying pediatric education at UCSF, your family could be adversely affected.
"My wife graduated this year too, and it has become increasingly difficult to find jobs for her," he said. "There is a high probability that my wife and I will have to live separately again due to limited options."
Looking ahead, Nagda is considering moving to Canada, where he can benefit from a more appropriate immigration policy that will allow his family to stay together.
Preparation for plan B.
Although the recent orders are temporary, Shubha Pewa, a student at the USC's Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, is re-examining her postgraduate plans if she encounters additional obstacles when applying for an H-1B visa.
Pewa moved from Bangalore, India, to the United States in 2016 to follow in her father's footsteps and become a dentist. After graduating next year, she is currently planning to practice as an associate dentist for several years before signing up for a residency. However, she is aware that the plans could change if the restrictions are expanded.
"My original plan was to gain clinical experience and then pursue a residency, but I may need to put my plans in the fast lane and apply for the residency first," she said.
Pewa says she would also consider doing an optional internship – a temporary job that allows students and graduates with an F-1 visa to work in their related field – rather than the H-1B visa apply if there are additional restrictions.
Students and graduates who would like advice on work visas and the current immigration policy are asked to contact an immigration law firm.