Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Foreign students beware: no jobs in the U.S. after graduation

Due to tough immigration policies, the U.S. job market for foreign students and graduates is more difficult than ever. U.S. Government policies are affecting highly skilled workers with Science degrees, even up to the Ph.D. level. Since 2004, Congress set a fixed quota of 65,000 jobs per year for professional foreigners wanting to work in the U.S., down from 195,000 in previous years. That means that the number of illegal aliens far exceeds the number of professionals allowed to work legally in the U.S. in any given year. Today, there is a severe backlog of H1-B visa applications that is causing the job quotas to be filled in one day, October 1st, the first day of the fiscal year. That means 364 days of the year for which no permits are available. Jobs that require a masters degree are allocated a meager 20,000 additional H1-B job slots. To make matters worse, the paperwork required to obtain these temporary visas (valid for up to 3 years), is turning off many employers. Based on immigration lawyers and the government immigration websites, a 6 to 12 month wait is needed to obtain the paperwork for a visa. A glimpse at the major job search listings shows that U.S. employers are posting job adds that explicitly state that foreigners need not apply. These job postings read "U.S. permanent residence or citizenship required", or even more specifically, something like "No H1-B visa sponsorships available." Most of these employers do not want foreigners because of the long delays associated with immigration paperwork. Albeit, many Science jobs in government labs or the high-tech industry impose these restrictions because of national security concerns. These work restrictions even apply to citizens of countries allied with the U.S. The only possible escape for foreign students and graduates are low-paying academic jobs. For those jobs, no quota has been imposed yet, but the academic job market is extremely tight (see my previous posts).

Personally, I have been searching for a job in the private sector for about one year now. I have a Ph.D. in Physics from a prestigious university, excellent grades, and good communication skills. So why am I having so much trouble finding a job? The economy has been slow to recover, so that is one reason. The other is clearly due to the quotas, since many jobs that I would have wanted to apply for required U.S. permanent residence or citizenship. I have turned down two research position offers from U.S. universities, mostly because they offered me temporary jobs that require me to move every two years or so, the research topics were of low quality, and they offered to pay only half the market salary. So, if you are a foreign professional educated in the U.S. and cannot find a good job, you are not alone!

See NYT: U.S. Jobs Becoming Scarcer for Students from Abroad

Becoming a Science Ph.D. is no escape from a difficult job market

Are you considering to apply for graduate school to get a Science Ph.D.? You will be better off if you don't bother! It is quite incredible, but today's society actually punishes people for being too smart and working too much on academic pursuits. The work you must put in and the many years you will spend in graduate school will shake your emotions and stamina to the core. I honestly advise you not to do it. However, I must emphasize that a career in Science, via a bachelor's or master's degree, is still highly rewarding since it gives you the opportunity to get work experience early on. A bachelor's or a master's degree is also more flexible than a Ph.D., in spite of the much trumpeted belief to the contrary, because you can later on acquire knowledge in another professional or academic field. So if you have trouble finding a job now, believe me, graduate Ph.D. programs are no escape. Jobs for Ph.D.s in Science are extremely scarce in academia (see my previous posts), and private sector jobs may also be very hard to get, depending on your particular situation.

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