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International students, small businesses limited by 3-year work visa

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For some international post-graduates, a three-year work visa just isn’t enough.
During a visit to Ohio State, U.S. Secretary of Labor Seth Harris discussed the possibility of a green card being given to international students who earn a Ph.D. or a master’s degree.
The opportunity would be available to international students who complete a Ph.D. or master’s in any of the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and wish to stay in the country to work.
The current system allows a limited number of three-year work visas to be given to international students, which can later be extended. The process of obtaining a work visa can be long and expensive, discouraging many international students from trying to pursue one, he said.
Harris, who led a roundtable discussion at the Ohio Union Wednesday, said the current immigration system is flawed and is costing the U.S. educated workers.
“The bottom line is that we cannot let good talent slip away because our immigration system is broken,” Harris said.
Many international students need to secure a sponsorship from a company who wants to hire them in order to be eligible for one of the work visas.
Matteo Muratori, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering from Italy, said he has had trouble finding opportunities to work because many small businesses cannot afford to sponsor international students.
“Very large corporations are willing the sponsor me, but middle-sized and small companies do not have the capabilities to sponsor students,” Muratori said. “You need lawyers, you need to invest money and they can just not do it. That limits international students.”
Small businesses are also being limited because they cannot afford to hire qualified international students.
Ross Kayuha, CEO of Nanofiber Solutions in Athens, said his company is held back when they cannot hire international students.
“I am going to lose a lot of those people that I want to hire. It is incredible what it costs me as a small company to hire,” Kayuha said. “I am hurting my own company because I cannot afford to bring those people in.”
Other ways individuals can obtain work permits are by sponsorship from a close family member in the U.S., a lottery program and by procuring asylum and refugee status.
The students, business owners and professors who were part of the roundtable agreed the opportunity of receiving a green card upon completion of a Ph.D. or master’s program was a step in the right direction.
Associate history professor Judy Tzu-Chun Wu took the plan a step further and said the opportunity should not be limited to students in STEM programs.
“I really hope that it will be opened up to people studying other fields, I think we would benefit from people in the arts, humanities and social sciences,” Wu said.
Harris concluded the discussion with an encouraging note to those in favor of immigration reform.
“I think we will have a system that leans more towards inclusion, rather than holding people at arm’s length and making it more difficult for them stay or to enter in the first place. That is my hope and that is the president’s hope,” he said.

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