America received two great questions about the hardship international students face looking for jobs and internships and not being allowed to work off campus. Why is it so hard and why doesn’t the U.S. government make it easier?
“Why is it so hard for international students to find a job or even an internship in the United States? We have paid a lot of money for tuition and we graduated like all other students. Why can’t the country and the companies treat us like everyone else? I know the visa issue is complicated, but why can’t the government make it easier for us?” Taiwan
“Why are international students not allowed to work off-campus throughout their study period? Even more, we are not allowed to work even during summer breaks. Working off-campus will help international students who pay double tuitions to fund their education, but sadly we can’t.” India
Dear India and Taiwan,
Many scholars and businesses realize that international students and workers provide a significant contribution toward our success as a country.
The growing rate of international students attending universities in the United States has a significant impact on fulfilling the financial needs of higher education, a system that has received drastic budget cuts within the last few years due to the economic recession. There is also a growing awareness within the US government regarding the positive impact foreign nationals have on our education system and our economy.
The STEM act that was discussed this past December was an attempt to provide 55,000 more green cards for international graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but unfortunately politics came into the equation and politicians offset the “new” green cards by eliminating the Diversity Visa Program which acts to provide more visas on a global scale. What this debate does prove despite its misleading legislation is that congress is struggling to resolve these issues as well.
In regards to the specific problems of the student visa, while many difficulties exist in working to pay off tuition as you work towards completing your degree, there are also instances of fraud that the government is trying to eliminate by limiting the options of the student visa.
One of the many reasons the US controls these visas so strictly is that some of the terrorists responsible for September 11, 2001, an attack which had thousands of deaths, entered the country with student visas. There was no system in place to monitor them or verify the validity of their student status. As a result, current international students have to navigate through an extremely complex and delicate system that tries to protect the national security interests of the United States.
Keep in mind, there is still an option to work on-campus or at a job that relates to your academic field. The student visa also acts to ensure that students are here for the sole purpose of their education. Some of the American people and congress do not understand the full benefit of international exchange and feel threatened in the work force by the growing global presence in the country. I believe this feeling stems from the fear generated by the increasing percentage of unemployment in the states, which pushes some Americans to become defensive over American jobs. There are many studies disproving the validity of their concerns, but implementing national reform on this scale is a process that takes time.
Both of you are correct that it is extremely difficult for international students and graduates to find employment in the US. However, what you may not know is that the average employer has to pay close to $6,000 in fees and government services to hire an international person without a green card or H1B visa, and this process to get the H1B visa is not guaranteed to be a success. Sometimes the expenses can go as high as $35,000 to sponsor an international person for permanent residence. Therefore, businesses take a substantial financial risk in hiring foreign nationals over American citizens.
I don’t believe this is a fair or just system, but there are many forces at work and it will take dedication and an increase in the national awareness of this problem to create change. I hope you continue to add your voices to the cause!