By Sid Bagri,
Domestic News Writer
International students have the potential to be quite an economic boon to their host countries; their university education nets them skills which can make them eligible for highly skilled jobs in the private sector. Accepting foreign students is also directly beneficial to the finances of the government and universities since the international students are typically charged more fees than locals. However, America’s tough immigration laws can make it very difficult for students to stay and work after graduation.
Many brilliant students who have studied mathematics and science, two fields in which America performs poorly internationally, and others who have lucrative computer skills or are looking to start a business, will find that their visas do not permit them to work in the United States, and many will end up going back home. If America is to have a more diverse and dynamic economy, it must make it easier for international students to stay after they graduate.
According to the Stanford Review, international students are required to obtain a student visa if they want to study in America. The most common is the F1 visa, which requires students to be enrolled full-time at their university. After they graduate, their visas expire, and they are required to leave. However, if a student would like to stay in America to work, he or she would have to apply for an Optional Practical Training (OPT) visa, which allows him or her to do an academic program that would let him or her gain work experience, similar to an internship would allow.
Unfortunately, the program expires after 12 months. There is an alternative called the H1B visa, but that requires students to have a company that fits with their major to sponsor them.
They only have 12 months to find a suitable company, and the visa only lasts for 6 years, not to mention that H1B visas are currently capped at 85,000 per year. The red tape involved with acquiring these visas leads many to avoid the process altogether and go home.
While America’s immigration rules can serve as a deterrent, other countries are making it easier for students to attend university and stay afterwards.
Canada has begun this process by allowing graduates to stay for as long as 3 years if they are able to find a job, and the work experience they gain plays a factor in whether they get permanent residency. According to the Economist, the cooperation of the immigration department has brought down the rate of visa rejection and has increased Canada’s share of Indian and Chinese students.
Indian students who already have degrees but cannot find work as well as Europeans attempting to escape from unemployment usually apply for programs with shorter courses, which has led to an even greater rise in Canada’s share of students. Canada drew its inspiration from Australia, which has long seen international students as a net-benefit. Almost half of all their students come from another country, and education accounts for Australia’s second largest export. Relaxed visa rules and the right to work while studying have played an immense role in making Australia an attractive place for students. English-speaking countries are typically the most popular places for international students due to the versatility of the English language.
Among them, America still ranks as the most desired place to study, but strict immigration rules prevent many from applying. International students are capable of providing much needed skills to an economy that has become increasingly reliant on them, and international students usually adapt much quicker due to their experience of studying and working alongside Americans.
They help finance universities, which helps to ease the cost on locals. International students have choices, and if America makes it too difficult for them to benefit from the education they receive, they will go somewhere else.
If America does not make things easier for them, it will be harder for companies to acquire employees with the necessary skills which will make it harder for America to compete internationally.
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A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 22nd print edition.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Stillman Exchange publication.