Career fair employers avoid international students


Kareem Huwaidi is a project management graduate student from Saudi Arabia. Photo credit: Alex Grant

Due to legal status, getting a job as an international student is a complex process that is obtained more by chance than how qualified an individual is.

To remain in the U.S. legally, international students must either have a school or work visa. Many foreign students are studying in the U.S. under an F-1 visa, which is a school visa that allows foreign students to stay in the U.S. until their education is complete. Once international students graduates though, she or he must leave the country within the next 60 days.

One way for foreign students to prolong their time in the states is to obtain working visas like the H-1B visa. H-1B visas are sponsorship visas that employers can offer to international students. However, acquiring these visas is a challenging process because it’s costly and complicated for employers. Even when a company tries to sponsor a foreign student, there’s no guarantee that this student will get an H-1B visa because these visas are handed out on a lottery system.

According to Career Center Director Megan Odom, trying to sponsor an international student with an H-1B visa is a risk that many employers don’t want to take.

“It is a lottery system, so (foreign students) apply for the visa and they may or may not get it,” Odom said. “(Employers) are putting training into that student with an unknown factor of whether or not they’re going to be able to hire them long-term. And I think that so there’s a lot of challenges the whole hiring aspect.”

Another challenge to H-1B visas is that employers must prove to the U.S. government that they conducted an extensive search of U.S. citizens for the job before offering it to a non-resident.

“(Companies) have to prove to the government that they can’t find a U.S. citizen or current resident with those skills,” Odom said. “So I think it’s an uphill battle for international students.”

Kareem Huwaidi, an international student from the Middle East, said that employers often are interested in hiring him until they learn that he needs a sponsorship visa.

“The struggle here is not about getting the job, it’s about getting sponsorship. Like companies will be interested in you until they find out that you’re not a U.S. citizen then they don’t want to go down that process,” Huwaidi said. “And a lot of companies don’t want to go with the extra hassle. I mean if you think about it you just got hired and then you’re asking the company too much paperwork to do for you.”

Thus when international students go to career fairs on campus, very few opportunities are even offered to them.

“At the career fair it’s just a big disappointment,” Huwaidi said. “You could do an experiment there and you’d be surprised that nobody there really wants to talk to you as international students.”

Joe Soe, an MBA student from Myanmar, said that he and his classmates had similar experiences at the career fair.

“The last time we attended (a career fair) almost all international students in our MBA program attended it (and) they all had the same results saying that companies, some of them don’t even know what an H-1B visa is.”

After hearing these stories, Odom advised that international students looking for employment should come into the Career Center to work with her and her staff.

“I think the career fair, as I would tell any student on campus, is one resource (but) it is not the only resource,” Odom said. “What I would encourage (students) to do is to come and meet with an advisor because what we want to do is to really make it a more personalized job search.”

Alex Grant can be reached at [email protected] or @AlexanderThomasGrant on Twitter.