Category Archives: Advice for international students

So You Think You Work Long Hours?

working hours

So You Think You Work Long Hours?

Greetings! I’ve decided to interrupt my article series for international students in order to provide some content that’s potentially interesting for all the readers here at WSO. I will however return to writing articles for international students in a couple of weeks, but for now I’m broadening my target audience!

When applying for a job in a foreign country it’s crucial to know what’s expected of you in terms of working hours – which might differ a great deal from your native country. I think this is especially relevant in the financial services industry, as hours appear to vary quite a bit depending on where you work, at least that’s the conclusion I draw from comparing hours in my home country in Scandinavia, and hours here in the U.S.

Meanwhile, in this post I would like to focus on how work hours vary across three different regions of the world – U.S., Europe, and Asia – and how the hours vary greatly depending on which region you find yourself in. I will not be focusing on the financial services industry specifically, but rather attempt to provide general statistics through credible and up-to-date sources.

Lastly I would like to be clear about one thing; I dont consider working more hours to equal working harder, it simply means working longer.

The Hardest Working Countries in the World

So you think you work long hours? Maybe you’re under the belief that the U.S. and its citizens surely must work long hours compared to most other people in the world. Well if you are, you’d be wrong.

According to recent statistics published on Business Insider the average full-time U.S. employee works approximately 1,700 hours per year as of 2013. This might indeed sound high to some of you readers, as the European average is distinctly lower. However, 1,700 hours per year doesn’t even come close to the highest average annual hours worked in that of some countries around the world.

Enter the Three Asian Tigers – Hong Kong, Singapore, and South-Korea – each clocking in respectively at 2,350, 2,300 and 2,200 average annual hours worked per worker in 2013, utterly destroying the majority of their competition. This might not come as a surprise for some of you, but I was personally quite astonished when I first heard of the amount of hour’s employees pull in these East-Asian nations, especially as a European native. Another way to grasp these figures is by statistics published by Forbes in 2008 which contends that employees in the Three Asian Tigers will actually spend about 6, 5 hours working, every day of their entire lives.

Most nations doesn’t even come close to matching the Asian Tigers numbers, yet there are some who follow in their footsteps. According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s OECD public statistics from 2012 portray the heavy workload carried by people in developing nations. Mexico, Greece, and Chile clocks in respectively at 2,226, 2,034, and 2,029 average annual hours worked per worker, not too far off our leaders.

What about Europe?

Let’s turn out attention to Europe for a moment, and amongst others, France, with its famously short work weeks and additional vacation time. As a native of Scandinavia myself, I’ve been indoctrinated with the idea of the 40-hour work week, which appeared totally normal and as nothing out of the ordinary during my early life – that is, before I discovered the financial service industry and moved to the U.S.

As it turns out, the French used to work even more than Americans in the 1980s, but since then they have taken a sharp dip down, and now average annual hours worked per worker in France lands at a meager 1,470 hours in 2011, quite far behind even U.S. numbers. The phenomenon of relatively low hours is consistent throughout Western-Europe with hours generally ranging from the 1400s to the 1650s, with the Germans sitting on a comfortable 1,397 hours worked annually according to OECD; even lower than the infamous French.
However, the comfortable hours has not reached Eastern-Europe.

As I previously mentioned, Greeks are the hardest working people in Europe, with their average of 2,034 hours annually. Meanwhile, other developing nations such as Poland, Estonia, and Hungary each respectively lands at 1,929, 1,889, and 1,888 average hours worked annually, putting into question what type of labor intensive work make up the grunt of these hours.

Final Words

I was initially quite amazed at the difference in average annual hours worked throughout the world, as I had grown familiar with the steady 40-hour work weeks that my parents pulled growing up. I think everyone who is considering working in a foreign nation owe him or herself, as well as the potential employer, to research what kind of hours are expected of employees in said nation, and even of the specific employer. Ultimately, being aware of potential culture-shocks such as differences in work hours can help ease a transition to a foreign society, and also avoid awkward office conversations.

Were you all aware of these differences in average workhours? If you weren’t, what do you think of them?


International Students – Learn More About The H-1B Visa

American Visa (XL)

The Problem Faced by International Students

For many of us international students here in the U.S., the most dreaded time of our professional career arrives as we are about to graduate with an undergraduate degree, more specifically finding a company what is willing to offer us H-1B sponsorship; also known as the “Person in Specialty Occupation” Visa. Once international students have used up all of the 12 months available through the OPT (which I’ve addressed in earlier posts), international students are basically left with very few choices if they are to remain legally in the U.S., with most students opting to acquire an H-1B visa.

In this article I would like to clarify what an H-1B Visa really is, who’s eligible, who can sponsor it, and offer general guidelines on how, to the best of my knowledge, attain one.

What is the H-1B Visa?

The US H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, and medicine. Under the visa a US company can employ a foreign worker for up to six years.

Applying for a non-immigrant visa is generally quicker than applying for a US Green Card, therefore the H-1B visa is popular for companies wishing to bring in staff for long-term assignment in the US. Individuals are not able to apply for an H1B visa to allow them to work in the US. The employer must petition for entry of the employee.

H1B visas are subject to annual numerical limits. Current immigration law allows for a total of 85,000 new H-1B visas to be made available each government fiscal year. This number includes 65,000 new H-1B visas issued for overseas workers in professional or specialty occupation positions, and an additional 20,000 visas available for those with an advanced degree from a US academic institution. Once the visa cap has been reached, USCIS will stop accepting H-1B petitions for FY 2013 and will not accept new applications until April 2013.

In 2008, an estimated 130,000 applications was received for the available 85,000 spots.

Restrictions and Limits

The US H1-B visa is designed to be used for staff in specialty occupations. The job must meet one of the following criteria to qualify as a specialty occupation:

  • Have a minimum entry requirement of a Bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent.
  • The degree requirement for the job is common to the industry or the job is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree.
  • The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position.
  • The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.

To work in a specialty occupation. Requires a higher education degree or its equivalent. Includes fashion models of distinguished merit and ability and government-to-government research and development, or co-production projects administered by the Department of Defense.

For you to qualify to accept a job offer in a specialty occupation you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Have completed a US bachelor’s or higher degree required by the specific specialty occupation from an accredited college or university.
  • Hold a foreign degree that is the equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree in the specialty occupation.
  • Hold an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification which authorizes you to fully practice the specialty occupation and be engaged in that specialty in the state of intended employment.
  • Have education, training, or experience in the specialty that is equivalent to the completion of such a degree, and have recognition of expertise in the specialty through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty.

Duration of H-1B

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows business professionals to work in the United States for a specific amount of time. The purpose of the H-1B visa is to give U.S. employers the opportunity to hire foreign professionals if a U.S. citizen or resident is not available. In order for the H-1B visa to be issued, both the employer and employee must satisfy the specific requirements mentioned above.

The H-1B visa is initially granted for up to three years, but may then be extended to a maximum of six years. Even though the H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, it is one of the few US visa categories recognized as dual intent, meaning the H-1B visa holder can apply for and obtain a US Green Card while in the US on an H-1B visa.

If you are still in the US on an H-1B visa and wish to remain in the US for more than six years, you can apply for permanent residency in the US to receive a Green Card. If you do not gain permanent residency prior to the expiration of your H-1B visa, then you must live outside the US for at least one year before reapplying for another H or L visa.

Final Words

The H-1B program is criticized from different perspectives. The wages are kept lower in certain H-1B related industries as foreigners will accept a lower wage for the opportunity to work in the United States. Foreigners cannot easily change job in comparison to a U.S. citizen or resident, which makes an H-1B worker attractive for many employers. Several universities offering higher IT degrees are criticized for bringing in many foreign nationals for the purpose of educating them to H-1B jobs thus discouraging citizens and residents from choosing such degree programs.

List of Companies That Sponsored H-1B Visa’s In The Past

H-1B Company Sponsorship list

Official U.S. Government Information


International Students (2) – How to get an OPT for summer internships!


International Students (2) – How to get a OPT VISA for summer internships!

As I mentioned in my previous post I’m an international student who is currently a junior majoring in economics, and working two internships in finance during this semester. However, like many of my peers, I’ve had to prepare for the dreaded OPT (Optional Practical Training) certificate in order to get a summer internship.

In this post I intend to discuss limitations on a regular F-1 Visa when it comes to working outside of campus, outside of the regular semester, how to obtain what is call an OPT, and which type of OPT to apply for.

The Different Types of OPT’s

So to start of lets discuss what kind of different OPT’s there are, more specifically the two different kinds.

Pre-Completion OPT:

This is the kind of OPT that most of you international students will be applying for. This particular certificate are for people who are currently pursuing a degree and would like to acquire work authorization to do work in the field related to their study. This work may be part-time during the academic quarters and full-time during vacations.

Post-Completion OPT:

I won’t focus on this type of OPT, as it does not really concern my target audience. But I will say that this is for people who have completed their degree.

Useful Information about the Pre-Completion OPT

As I’ve recently found out, in my efforts to landing a summer internship for the summer of 2014, the application process is quite lengthy and it may actually take up to 12 weeks before the process is complete and you’re allowed to work. However, you are allowed to apply for this OPT without a job offer.

Now, first and foremost there are three requirements to be eligible for this kind of OPT.

  1. You must be a registered student in F-1 status physically in the United States at the time of application
  2. You must have been enrolled in lawful student status on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year
  3. You must not have used twelve months or more of full-time curricular practical training

Furthermore, please notice that obtaining authorization for OPT is a two-step process. Your first step in obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is to receive a recommendation for OPT from the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) and then authorization for employment from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The ISSO cannot authorize OPT—only USCIS can do so by issuing you an EAD.

The Actual Application Process

Step 1 – Dealing with your schools international students’ office

The first step is to complete and print the I-765 Form which can be found here ( This form basically makes you submit general information such as name, address, date of birth, and what kind of VISA you currently hold – it’s not hard people, just read carefully.

The second step is to complete page 1 of the OPT Recommendation Request Form which should be available through your international students office’s website, and then physically bring the form to said office.

Now, you’ve gathered up the required forms and it’s time to head off to your schools international students office. But wait! There are a few more things you need to bring with you, more specifically:

  1. Your current I-20 and all previously issued I-20’s
  2. Passport
  3. I-94 card (white card usually stapled in passport or printed from the electronic I-94 web site at if your most recent entry was on or after May 1, 2013)
  4. I-765 Form
  5. OPT Recommendation Request Form(s)

Once your schools international students office has finished reviewing your application, and making sure you are eligible, they will mail you a new I-20 with a OPT recommendation attached.

Step 2 – Mailing your OPT to the USCIS

You finally have your brand new I-20 with a OPT recommendation, but the pain does not stop here dear sirs. Now it’s time to mail the whole thing to the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). Below I will provide 5 separate steps for successfully going through this process.

  1. Sign and date the new I-20! (section 11) This sounds obvious but many OPT applicants have had their applications returned for an unsigned I-20 and/or an unsigned check.
  2. Photocopy the entire application before you send it so that you have a complete copy for your records.
  3. Send your application to the USCIS by certified mail, return receipt requested or by a courier service such as FedEx so you have proof that your application was timely in the event that the application is lost.
  4. Send your application quickly as it must be received by the USCIS Service Center within 30 days of the date of the OPT recommendation.

The location you mail your application to differs depending on what state you live in, directions can be found here ( As I previously mentioned the USCIS can take from 6 to 12 weeks, or more, to process this application, so get it in as fast as possible!

Closing Notes

I hope this article is useful to some, although the audience is somewhat limited, as I found it very frustrating going through this process.

Please give me feedback on my post, share your thoughts, flame away!


Summer Internship Interviews – An Interviewers Perspective

Hey readers, check out this amazing post for some advice on how to successfully interview for summer internships in the financial services industry. In the article a recruiter offers advice on how to nail the interview and what not to do.

Check out ther article here:

International Students – How to shine in internship interviews!

new globe

My Background

In the fall of 2011 I decided to attend College in the U.S., and leaving my Scandinavian country. I began my college career at a City College in the U.S. with no idea of what I wanted to do in the future, but that I wanted to major in Economics. Through research, and countless hours spent reading WallStreetOasis, I soon figured out that I wanted to work in the financial services industry in New York. With this realization came the added anxiety of realizing the amount of work and perseverance that the goal would require.

In the interest of keeping this part short, I’ll try to sum my initial experiences up. I spent two years at my Community College, got a high GPA, involved myself in relevant extra-curricular activities on campus, and stocked up on Economics, Accounting, Finance, and Business classes.

I eventually transferred to an “Ivy League” school as an Economics major in the fall of 2013 and I’m now attempting to break into the Finance industry. I managed to get an unpaid internship at a capital placement and advisory firm in NY, and I’m now trying to rack up some relevant internship experiences before I graduate.

How to benefit from an international background

Through this article I intend to focus on how to efficiently utilize your background while interviewing for internships, by displaying a certain element that I believe is highly valued by recruiters.

While interviewing for summer/semester internships, two questions frequently appeared in all my interviews, more specifically, “Tell me about yourself” and “Tell me about a time when you had to take a risk”. These questions might appear informal and trivial at first, yet this provides you with the opportunity to “hook” your interviewer and display that you are a person that possesses the specific characteristics they are looking for.

As an International Student you have something to offer that sets you apart from your competition; the story of how you decided to leave your comfort zone and brave the unknown by moving to another country. In answering this question, I suggest that you attempt to highlight what I like to call “Thoughtful Risk-Taking”

Thoughtful Risk-Taking

By “Thoughtful Risk-Taking” I refer to how you weighed the pros and cons of attending College in the U.S. You want to highlight that you considered the risks and benefits you run by leaving your country, a trait which recruiters has actually praised in my past interviews.

For example, the risks might include that you could have a hard time developing a social network, encounter cultural differences, not liking life in the U.S., and running the risk of feeling alienated. However, you need to clearly articulate that you believe that the benefits outweighed the perceived risks.

Some possible benefits you can name are the possibility of meeting new and interesting people, acquiring a quality education, grow as a person by forcing yourself to face an unfamiliar situation, and having the opportunity to work in the U.S.

By clearly demonstrating your ability to practice “Thoughtful Risk-Taking” you are implicitly suggesting that you have a highly developed sense of “Critical Thinking”, something that appears to be key in most finance careers in my view.

It suggests that you evaluated your decision to:

  1. Study in the U.S
  2. Attend your current school
  3. Choose your particular major
  4. Seek a career in the financial services industry
  5. Apply for an internship at this specific company

Most importantly, by displaying that you practice “Thoughtful Risk-Taking”, you show the recruiter that you are committed to your choices despite the perceived risks. It tells him or her that you dont make decision based on a whim but rather that you carefully analyze your choices.

I genuinely believe that displaying this trait greatly benefited me while interviewing, and that it was one of the underlying principles that granted me my current internship.

My Blog

Through this blog, I intend to create a series of posts aimed at giving advice to International Students who share my interest in finance. I’ll give my view on how to benefit from an International background in recruiting/interviewing and tips on how I have been able to succeed despite starting out without any connections in the U.S., coming from a City College, and having no relevant finance experience.

Although this blog will be focused on international students in the U.S., the content may very well benefit those studying outside of the U.S.