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Obstacles block way to U.S. jobs

Gene Noone | Thursday, April 26, 2007

Job searching may be daunting enough to any senior on the verge of graduation, but to those who are international students, the task of finding a job in the U.S. is even more difficult.

Most international students struggle when trying to land a job in the U.S., said senior Yacintha Fanardy, from Indonesia.

Fanardy is one of the University’s 275 international undergraduate students who, upon graduation, face the challenge of finding employment in the U.S. There are roughly 868 international students currently enrolled at Notre Dame, including 593 graduate-level students, said International Student Services and Activities (ISSA) director Bong Miquiabas.

Although some international students may choose to return to their countries after receiving their diplomas, Miquiabas said a large number decide to stay in the U.S.

“In our experience, most international students want the option of working in the United States after graduation, knowing they can, in most cases, always return to their home country for work,” he said.

Many international students look for U.S. jobs with plans to live permanently in America, while some, like Fanardy, hope their U.S. job will give them the experience necessary to get a better job in their home countries.

“I hope to find a job in the U.S. and get some experience before going home for good,” Fanardy said. “Most people would like to get some experience first before going home, and hoping, with that experience, they would be able to get a better job back home.”

Getting that experience is difficult, however, because many employers aren’t willing to go through extra steps required when hiring a non-U.S. citizen.

“Unfortunately, we have heard that many U.S. employers are reluctant to expend time and money to hire an international student,” Miquiabas said. “Unlike U.S. citizens, international students face additional paperwork that some employers deem excessively burdensome.”

For an international student to get a job in the U.S., he must undergo an extensive government process. U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) permits up to one year of practical training for international students in the United States. If a student wishes to work longer, he must apply to change his citizenship status. To do that, he or his employer must hire an immigration attorney to file for a new visa.

Even if a foreign student follows every procedure perfectly, he may still not get his visa since working visas are limited in validity and, for specialized skills, limited in the total number issued in the U.S. each year, Miquiabas said.

“This is where the problems lie. There are not enough working visas for the number of students who want to keep working in the U.S.,” Fanardy said. “This year, the visa application process was already overloaded on the first day of the application, so they had to draw a lottery to decide who got visas and who didn’t.”

Although many businesses may be reluctant to hire employees because of the extensive visa process, Miquiabas said the time and money are a worthwhile investment, especially for an employer trying to gain a certain international perspective or appeal to an international market.

“The Alumni Association and other campus departments routinely ask ISSA to help connect them with international students who possess a certain language proficiency or a geographic background that might be attractive for employers,” Miquiabas said.