International students face obstacles finding full-time employment

Work environment, economic opportunities and personal freedom are some of the top reasons why international students decide to stay and work in the United States. However, pursuing a career in the U.S. can be a long and difficult journey for them.

Even when international students can find an internship to work under the Optional Practical Training (OPT), this cannot guarantee they get a full-time job in the U.S. International students need sponsorship for a work visa to legally work full-time.

H1-B is an immigration class intended for temporary workers in specialty occupations that many international students want to get, said Lesli Burdette, associate director of admissions for International Student Services.

“Every year, U.S. government can provide only 65,000 H1-B visas or something, and the chance is 30% for you to get them,” Ryohei Fukuda, an MBA graduate student at Marshall University, said. “You have to have a job that pays well, and you have to have a job that can’t be replaced by American people easily, and that job has to have specific skills. So, it’s very competitive and hard for us to get H1-B.”

A problem that international students may face is finding employment in the U.S. that is willing to sponsor them for a work visa. A sponsorship is when a company pays additional cost for their employees to work in the U.S. It can cost thousands of dollars, especially when the company uses an immigration lawyer in the process, which can discourage employers from hiring international workers.

Pressure to stay in the U.S. can be intense for international students whose home countries do not offer substantial job opportunities.

“I have a friend from Turkey, and he doesn’t want to go back to Turkey,” Fukuda said. “He said in Turkey, they don’t have a good economy. He doesn’t like the current situation of Turkey and doesn’t want to go back, which is kind of sad.”

Joy Vu, who used to study at Marshall from Vietnam, got the H1-B sponsorship and is now working as a business research analyst with Marshall’s Information Technology Department.

Vu said the process to get a work visa is not easy.

“The company I worked during my OPT while I was in California did not sponsor for H1-B,” Vu said. “If your major is computer science, finance or marketing, it may be a little bit easier for you to get a sponsorship, especially from big companies or start-up. My company is willing to sponsor but just for specific positions. You have to be very competent to get the sponsorship, and even if the company wants to sponsor you, your document may not go through the process because you’re not special enough.”

A student’s major and the budget of the company are other factors that can affect international students when trying to get working visas, Vu said.

In addition to visa difficulties, international students may face various other obastacles. International students who do not have strong networking skills may struggle to find jobs. Others must overcome language and cultural barriers, which can cause potential employers to reconsider hiring domestic employees instead.

“I’ve applied for over 300 companies and, finally, I got to work at Marshall, which is very good,” Vu said. “I worried what if my H1-B failed, or they won’t be able to submit my H1-B on time. And when I got the result in September that my H1-B was approved to work at Marshall, I felt so relieved.”

Phuong Anh Do can be contacted at [email protected].