Bright minds come to the United States and are needed, but not wanted (long-term).
American businesses are losing over $2 billion annually, because local employees have low cross-cultural competence. This makes it very difficult for them to compete internationally. Yet the government makes it difficult for international students to remain in the country upon graduation. This piece argues that the U.S. immigration system is broken. It fails both international students and American organizations.
In order to be eligible to enter the United States as an international student, it is mandatory to have a nonimmigrant intent. As such, border agents can ask incoming students to prove that they intend to return home when they graduate before they decide whether or not they will let them enter. Coming to the United States with the intention of staying to work after graduation is possible, but it is technically not permitted as an initial intent. It must be a sentiment that develops once in the United States. At the same time,
International students that want to stay are set for failure.
In most industrialized countries in direct competition with the United States, such as Canada, Australia, France, and the United Kingdom, international students are authorized to work off-campus up to 20 hours per week. That gives them the opportunity to:
– earn extra money
– network outside of their campus environment
– learn how the local job market works
– determine if they want to stay in the country or not beyond graduation
– complement their learning experience with off-campus involvement opportunities which are important in student development and readily accessible to local students.
In the United States, students are normally not allowed to work off-campus unless they are doing a for-credit internship and following very tight policies.
There is one exception to that rule. It requires student to have already been studying for one year in the United States and to be under severe economic hardship because of factors that could not have been predicted. There is also a steep application fee. International students then have more difficulty gaining access to the job market outside of their institution. This is detrimental in extending their personal and professional network and gaining experiences. Yet they will need these things to compete with local students. Their personal development is also mostly limited to their immediate campus environment, which has negative effects. For all these reasons, international students that are desperately needed are set for failure.
There is an option for international students to apply for an Option Practical Training when they graduate. But it’s expensive and there is no guarantee that they will be able to find an employer to sponsor them after that year. Other countries like Canada have made it easy for students to stay for up to three years and apply for permanent residency without a sponsor.
Voice your concerns about how broken immigration strategies impact international students and American organizations.
The United States needs international students to fill a gap in the workforce. We need them to make our industries more competitive internationally. Yet, they are not supposed or encouraged to stay beyond graduation. American institution then spend resources and scholarship funds in training smart individuals that are eager to give back to the American society, but that are limited in ways that they can.
If you want to see changes in how the United States is welcoming international students, you can attend NAFSA Advocacy Day. This includes training and opportunities to develop strategies with peers before educating Congress on how international education matters and how immigration policies should be reformed.