OPINION: Getting U.S. work authorization is becoming extremely difficult

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The U.S., considered to be the land of immigrants, is slowly shutting its doors and preventing international students from getting work authorization by implementing an unbearably strict and painstakingly long visa process.

International students travel to the U.S. with the hope of completing higher education. Some students wish to stay in the U.S. for a few years to gain work experience in their fields. This wish is pretty basic, one which should not be a center point of immigration-related controversy, but it is.

Getting the opportunity to stay and work in the U.S. is gradually turning into an impossible dream for a large number of international students. Every year, the State Department and the U.S. Citizenships and Immigration Services have come up with rules that are negatively affecting individuals hoping to get to live in the U.S.

To begin, there are few ways through which a non-American international student work in the U.S. The most common of these is getting work on an Optional Practical Training/Curricular Practical Training program and then working their way up to get an H1-B work visa. However, getting into the OPT program is becoming more difficult.

In the OPT program, an international student is eligible for one-year of employment authorization, either while being enrolled in their academics (CPT) or after their graduation from college. A STEM student has the option to extend their OPT by two more years, bringing their total to 3 years of OPT. After the completion of OPT, the employer has to file for the employee’s work visas (H-1b, O1, etc.).

Both the OPT and H-1b visas have to be filed by the employer. The employer should also provide sponsorship for employment authorization and work visas. This process requires additional costs that the employer has to bear and is time-consuming as it involves a lot of paperwork. Apart from that, the employer must first receive the government’s authorization to be able to hire and sponsor prospective international employees.

All these processes are long, and some companies opt-out of this deal to save time. New policies or changes to existing policies have also exasperated the problem. International students and foreign workers have to undergo extreme background checks. A technical glitch or a mistake by the employer while filing for sponsorship could result in the permanent loss of the opportunity to work in America.

All these reasons have resulted in companies opting out of hiring international students and foreign talent in America. This leads to a lack of jobs and skill-development opportunities for international students.

Numerous companies that come to hire Kansas State students during the career fairs straightaway reject international students saying that they are not hiring internationals, or that they do not have the authorization to hire non-Americans. Some of these companies have the authorization, but do not know the process required to hire foreign talent. Instead of learning about it, they choose to deny the opportunity to work for such individuals.

Non-STEM students face even worse situations. These students already qualify for just one year of OPT program, after which they need to get an H-1b visa to continue to work. However, American corporations are always looking for STEM students as they would not need to file and sponsor visas for the three years of OPT.

Hence, undergraduate international students studying, say management information systems will have a lower priority to get jobs than a computer information systems student, even though both these fields are concerned with computer programming.

Also, the current political climate in the U.S. — which can be perceived as “unwelcoming” for international students — has resulted in companies opting out of hiring international students altogether. This situation can be seen during career fairs at K-State.

International undergraduate students pay a considerable amount of fees compared to anyone else on campuses across America, including at K-State. According to the K-State International Admissions and Recruiting website, international undergraduate students end up paying nearly $35,000 in tuition fees every year.

Even after investing over $150,000 for their degrees, international undergraduate students do not see their skills recognized, as companies deny them job opportunities. This situation is a result of the U.S. government unnecessarily making the U.S. work visa rules strict, and enforcing these unwelcoming policies in an extremely draconian way.

The U.S. government has to decide at once if they still consider international students to be a benefit to the U.S. economy. Internationals have now gradually started to consider other options, such as Canada, to live the life of their dreams.

Vedant Deepak Kulkarni is a junior in management information systems and mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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