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Job Opportunities and Visa Problems

Chinese international students identified job opportunities and visa problems as being among their greatest concerns. All of the respondents viewed their F1 student visa as a barrier for their future employment in the United States. Most of them exhibited substantial stress when it came to job opportunities or visa problems. The stress seemed to derive from the anxiety over their future in the United States after graduation.

Based on the transcripts, the F1 visa placed Chinese students in lower and disadvantaged positions of society. They were frustrated about their foreigner identity because, even though they were members of this country, they did not have the status of citizens and lacked those benefits given to permanent residents. A newly arrived student claimed:

Most of us are not sure if we will be able to find jobs, since the immigration regulations really limit our opportunities in many ways, including limited hours for on-campus work and limited work permits after graduation. Of course, we are unable to receive many social services since we are not US citizens or permanent residents of the United States. I just feel that we are in a disadvantaged position for being Chinese foreign students in this country. (Participant 18)

Compared to the worries of newcomers, the pain was more than real for those who had entered the job market. A male student spoke more directly about the pressure he felt to find a job:

As you know, Chinese students are required by immigration regulations to be full-time students in order to maintain our “F” visa (student visa). There are very limited opportunities for us to switch from “F” visa to “H” visa [worker visa]. The only possibility for this switch is to be employed by the federal government as having expertise under the “technical immigrant quota” system. However, few companies would like to support “H” visa for international students, since the process is money consuming. I already sent out more than five hundred resumes in the last five months, but only got two phone interviews. They never contacted me again, after they knew my status is “F1.” (Participant 7)

A finance student talked about her stressful and painful experiences:

It has been a frustrating journey in terms of job searching. No one can feel my stress unless one has gone through the same or similar struggle. Six years ago, when I got my master’s degree in environmental engineering, I figured I really could do something in the United States with all the formal training I’d received both in China and in the United States. Unexpectedly, I could not even land a job in 2002 when American job market was so tight that even lot of American lost their jobs, [let alone] a foreigner. To keep my F1 status, I had no choice but to go back to the university again. I changed my major to economics because I was lured by the stories of quick employment and fast money. [I] got my second master’s degree in 2004 and jumped into the job market again. However, I found a master’s degree in economics was nothing at that moment, especially for a student who came from China without any hands-on working experiences in economic area. Facing being rejected again and again, I felt confused, surprised, depressed, anxious, and strained. I could not fall asleep every night because there was so much on my mind to worry about such as: Can I find my a job before my visa (OPT) expires? Will any company support an H1 visa? What if the technical quota has been used up when a company finally decides to support an H1 for me? I had no choice but began to apply for master degree in statistics, given that statistics was regarded as most prosperous at that time and Americans are relatively underrepresented in this major. I hope this might help me maximize the opportunity for future employment in the United States. I graduated with the third master degree in statistics in 2006. Disappointedly again, statistics degrees have swamped the job market. I knew this time I could at least got a job if I lowered my salary goal. But I did not want to do so, because I felt I am not given credit for the expense and hardships I endured to get my education. My hard work did not pay off. So, I decided to pursue my PhD in finance and got accepted in 2006. I hope this is my final degree. I am already over 30 and really tired of schooling. (Participant 4)

In addition to difficulties in finding a job and changing F1 visas to H1, some Chinese students had to change their majors frequently or delay their graduation dates again and again in order to maintain an F1 status. A physics student said:

I think I would have graduated two years ago if I were an American or had a green card in hand. Because no one would like to support an H1 visa, I am unable to land a job. Then I had to postpone my graduation again and again in order to maintain my F1 visa. I feel so depressed and frustrated about the fact that I have been here for seven years for my PhD degree. I am ashamed of myself. I am a loser. (Participant 13)

Seeing and hearing about people unable to find a job or losing their jobs, most Chinese students in this study demonstrated a strong feeling of insecurity. An environmental engineering student claimed:

My most critical concern is whether there is a future for a Chinese international student in this society. I do not know why I have always felt very insecure since the first day of my arrival in the United States. There are no guarantees and anything is possible: Say, you can lose everything and be deprived of legal status overnight. (Participant 14)

Comparing China and the United States, students attributed their insecurity to the uncertainty and fear of this unknown country. A sociology student said:

I had never such a feeling in China where I knew at least I could get a decent job and make a middle class living as long as I got an advanced degree. At home, we know where the bottom line is. However, I cannot predict or know exactly how bad my future is when it comes to my life in the United States. To make things even worse, we do not have any resources to back us up or assist us when bad things happen. (Participant 2)

An organizational behavior student said:

The stress, here, let’s say, mainly resulted from the feelings of insecurity. You know, the jobs when we are back in China may not have been challenging or high paying or even not what we had been trained for, but at least they were secure, low in demand and often relaxing. Life back there may not have been really exciting, but it was, after all, easy and carefree. Here in the United States, however, things are totally different. There are no longer secure jobs or homes. (Participant 12)

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