Opportunity in America is often conditioned on a number of outside factors — race, educational achievements, or, as today’s article discusses, citizenship status. Higher ed writer Valerie Harris, who blogs over at MastersDegreeOnline.org, takes a look at the H1B visa debate currently pending in Congress. Valerie’s thoughts add a new dimension to prior discussions on what it takes to get ahead — and, importantly, how we define equality.
Reforming Work Visas to Benefit from Every Masters Degree Earned in the US
Higher education is today considered a universal standard of career preparedness – and as a result, the enrollment of international students has sharply increased at most American colleges and universities in recent years. While pursuing a degree in the United States often affords foreign students a wide range of opportunities, students are often limited by their temporary citizen status when it comes to looking for career opportunities in the U.S. market.
As fewer American-born students are attending graduate school, more international students are filling their spots in the classroom every year. In Fall 2011, the International Institute of Education surveyed roughly 750 American colleges and universities. More than half of the respondents reported an increase in foreign student enrollments, while 20 percent reported declines and 27 percent reported no increase at all. Furthermore, 60.4 percent of institutions that enrolled more than 1,000 international students reported increases. Slightly more than two-thirds of doctoral/research-based institutions recorded an increase of international students, while roughly half of both baccalaureate and master’s institutions saw their foreign enrollments rise. At 31.5 percent, two-year institutions recorded the lowest number of international enrollment increases – but this figure still exceeded the number of two-year schools where declines were reported.
While many foreign students are able to successfully earn a college degree, many encounter post-graduation problems with their H1B visas. This temporary (non-immigrant) visa enables American companies to employ foreign workers on the condition that the visa-holder has earned a bachelor’s degree in his/her field. Furthermore, the visa is limited to one employer; if the worker is fired or laid off by that company, he/she must apply for a new visa with a different organization or face deportation from the United States. As Brian Grow of BusinessWeek noted, many H1B visa-holders do not benefit from this preferential treatment. He likened them to “indentured servants” whose U.S. citizenship is at the mercy of their employers. This “sponsorship” essentially deprives educated workers of their upward mobility within the American corporate sector – and without an employer to co-sign the H1B visa, entrepreneurial ventures are entirely out of the question. (more…)