Last week, I was called in for an interview at a boutique investment bank in NYC. After giving my spiel about how being an international student translates into a sense of purpose and adjustable personality, the first question I was asked by a partner at the firm was, "So, are you a green card holder?"
Given that this was an interview for an internship, I managed the question by citing CPT and OPT that would legally authorize me to work at the firm without costing them anything extra. But what if this was for a full-time position that would require them to sponsor my H1-B? (I haven't heard back yet)
During the most recent State of the Union address, Obama spoke of immigration reform and the 'brain drain' of highly educated foreigners who are educated and willing to work in the US, but have to return to their home countries because of the current visa system. I found some bits of his speech to be particularly hopeful.
"And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy,"
"Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants," he said. "And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform."
Yet, I disagree with the general undertone surrounding these immigration talks that this should be done mainly to retain STEM degree holders -- that is, to help out the tech industry. I personally think that it is narrow-minded and short-sighted to think that only the foreigners in STEM fields deserve to receive favorable visa treatment . What about international marketing? Foreign policy think tanks? And most relevant to WSO... traders, researchers, or investment bankers who can tap into foreign language news sources and international networks?
As of now, foreign business students have no other choice but to shoot for a limited number of huge multinational firms like bulge bracket banks, Big 4, and other firms whose sheer size affords them the cost and legal capacity to sponsor H1-B visas. Even then, foreigners are at a significant disadvantage, ceteris paribus, due to the extra hoop-jumping required for these firms to hire internationals.
With the number of total international students (college level or above) reaching nearly 800,000 (250k in undergrad and 300k in graduate programs) and most of them coming from strategically important countries like China, India, and Korea -- combined with the continuously dwindling number of young Americans -- is it smart for the US to maintain such a restrictive immigration policy and drive out these young, educated foreigners from being a part of its economy? I don't believe so.
Without discrediting any hard-working and driven American students, international students (at least at top 50 colleges, IMO) come with a solid work ethic and a sense of purpose. After all, they are here because they chose to pursue bigger and better opportunities , not because everyone else goes to college and goes through the motion to get a degree; they could have done that at their home countries at a much lower cost.
This applies across the board to most fields in which international students endeavor. To think that only the foreigners in STEM fields are valuable is almost racist at a subconscious level , perhaps deriving from the fact that the most visible international students come from Asian countries.
If the implied reason why foreigners in other fields are discouraged from finding employment is because they don't speak English or are socially awkward, that is for the employers and interviewers to evaluate -- as they do with any other candidates, foreign or otherwise. In other words, immigration policies regarding working visas should be about protecting jobs at home vs. enhancing global competency of American firms -- not about bringing in people who can do math for America.
For all you Americans reading this, do you think that employability should be judged solely based on merits, including verbal capacity? Or do you think that citizenship is a legitimate criteria on which to deny employment, excluding exceptional situations like an Iranian citizen seeking employment at a defense company?
For all you international students, do you feel that you are being barred from achieving your version of the American Dream due to current immigration policies? Would you prefer to work at smaller firms (boutique banks, start-ups) over giant multinational companies if they were to sponsor your visa?