Connect with us


International Students Face Uncertain Job Market at Home, in US



International Students Face Uncertain Job Market at Home, in US

International students in the United States are concerned that technology job reductions will make it hard to get a good return on their education.

For the last three years, technology companies, including Amazon and Google, have greatly reduced their workforce. The Tech Layoffs Tracker on says that 54,000 tech workers in the U.S. have lost jobs in 2024. That is in addition to nearly 300,000 in 2022 and 2023.

As a result, international students are now competing for jobs against experienced workers, including native-born Americans and those who already have work permission in the U.S.

Aniket Bhatt of India is one of those concerned students. He is studying business analytics at LaRoche University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Bhatt also points to another concern – that thousands of Indian students currently studying in the U.S. will need to return to India if they cannot find a job. He wonders if the economy in India can support so many returning students.

Based upon the most recent Open Doors report, there are 268,000 Indian students in the U.S. And a Reuters study in April showed serious concern about unemployment in India.

OPT concerns

Bhatt will finish his business program at the end of 2024.

Because his study program is within science, engineering, technology and math, known as STEM, Bhatt hopes to train and work in the U.S. under the Optional Practical Training, or OPT program. If Bhatt can find work, he can stay for three years after his study program ends.

In recent years, the number of students under OPT has also dropped although the number of international students in the U.S. is about the same as it was in 2019.

Sarah Spreitzer is a vice president for government relations with the American Council on Education. She said, “We are missing about 20,000 OPT positions” despite the overall low unemployment in the U.S.

Bhatt said there is intense competition for internships – work experience programs for students who are still in school – and OPT jobs.

Bhatt said he hopes to get an OPT job and then find work with a company that will sponsor him for an H-1B visa for specially trained workers. Without a visa, he must return to India or find a job in another country.

Aniket Bhatt of India is concerned that there will be too many students with an American education returning to India in the coming years.

“Yes, obviously there is some kind of competition in U.S. as well. But not as intense as India, obviously due to population reasons.”

But international education experts like Spreitzer remind students that there is no official pathway for a student to remain in the U.S. after they complete OPT.

“So we do not promise our students, we do not say to them, you know, come here, do your studies, you will get a job. Because that is not the purpose of their visa. And again, if they express that when they’re talking to the consular officer, their visa will be denied.”

‘Intention to stay’

A study from April 2020 produced by the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University noted that most students pursuing advanced STEM degrees in the U.S. want to stay after finishing their studies.

Jacob Feldgoise helped write the report. He pointed out that President Joe Biden in his executive order covering artificial intelligence at the end of 2023 included the need to train and hold on to skilled workers who have “expertise in critical areas to study, stay and work in the United States.”

A concern, Feldgoise noted, for students and workers who would like to see faster progress from the U.S. government on skilled worker permissions, “is that it’s a patchwork of systems … and they’re not fully aligned in a variety of ways.”

Although ACE centers its work on student concerns, it recently alerted U.S. government officials that some skilled students are choosing Canada and Great Britain for their studies because they have better work opportunities. And that hurts American universities which have fewer students than in the past. Earlier this year, ACE urged the U.S. Department of Labor to make it easier for companies to hire skilled STEM workers.

However, the number of new H-1B visas available for skilled workers is set at 85,000 yearly and unlikely to change.

Rule-following not enough

Just following the rules – such as not mentioning the “intention to stay” during the visa process, and working hard in school – is not enough. Students have to be outstanding and even a little bit lucky.

Megan Mankerian-Stem knows many international students due to her past job as director of international student enrollment at Creighton University in Nebraska. She feels sad for them when they cannot find a job that will permit them to get an H1-B visa.

“It’s a struggle for anybody to find a job right now.”

Bhatt said he is starting to think that coming to the U.S. and following the rules was the wrong choice.

“If we were in 2011 or 2012, I would definitely suggest that my friends come over here,” Bhatt said. “But as we are in 2024, I think it doesn’t make any sense, because already companies are outsourcing their work in Mexico, Vietnam and India.”

I’m Dan Friedell. And I’m Jill Robbins.

Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English.

Quiz – International Students Face Uncertain Job Market at Home, in US

Quiz - International Students Face Uncertain Job Market at Home, in US

Start the Quiz to find out


Words in This Story

intense –adj. severe, difficult, requiring extra effort

pathway –n. a route or road from one starting point to a finishing point

consulate n. a government office in another country

patchwork –adj. different pieces that are put together to make up something whole, for example, a patchwork quilt

align –v. to put something together in an orderly way

opportunity n. a chance to do something

enroll –v. the process of signing up for something, for example – registering for school

We want to hear from you. What are your thoughts about the educational and work opportunities in the U.S.?

Continue Reading