International students face barriers in securing jobs

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Photo Credit: Pedro Luna | Daily Texan Staff

Five years ago, Yifei Chen moved from China to study in the United States in hopes of better career prospects. Now, Chen fears she will not find a job here after graduation.

“Companies prefer American citizens because they’re going to stay here,” communication studies sophomore Chen said. “But for me, there’s limited opportunity.”

To put themselves in a better position to get a job after graduation, students generally seek professional experience such as internships during their college years. Although international students are legally permitted to work through Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT), employers are often reluctant to hire international students because of the complexity of the immigration system, said Tatiana Woldman, assistant director of student advising services for the UT International Office.

Woldman said many employers are intimidated by the process of hiring international students.

“They don’t even know anything about it, and they don’t want to know anything about it,” Woldman said. “But they just know that it’s hard and expensive.” 

CPT is work within their major in which students receive academic credit, often as a requirement to complete their program of study. OPT is a 12-month authorization for full-time employment and is often a transition to getting a work visa, which has to be sponsored by the employer.

Computer science senior Ricardo Delfin, an international student from Mexico, said the preference for American citizens does not apply to large multinational companies based on his experience applying for an internship at Microsoft.

“You can tell they’re trying to find best talent wherever they have it,” Delfin said. “If you’re an international student, they don’t discount that, and the expense is worth it.”

Computer science graduate student Makoto Morimoto said although he wishes information about employment would be given earlier, he is thankful UT has many resources to help international students find a job and go through the work permit application process, including the international office.

“It would be helpful if they tell you about (work authorization) at international orientation instead of having you to look for it when the time comes,” Morimoto said. “But it’s not difficult information to find, and if you ask mostly anyone, they’ll direct you to the right people.”

Delfin said some international students are not even aware they are authorized to work on campus and advised international freshmen to seek an adviser from the international office to learn more about their work permits.