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The Right to Work for International Students

Updated on August 19, 2008

Mr. Hickey and his wife are in love with Asian cuisine. They usually go out for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant called Saigon on weekends. They enjoy the foods there and give out generous tips to the waiter who has been so nice to them. The Hickeys however, may not know that the young and sweet Vietnamese waiter is working under the table, so he can’t get the tip. The fact that the international students are not allowed to work off campus has resulted in a large number of illegal working students. The government’s policy has its reasons; but it has caused a number of negative impacts on international students, and does not seem to be a good idea for the American economy.

The policy, firstly, creates a hard pressure on international students, especially the poor. Foreign students have to pay tuition three times as much as Americans; it is harder for them to afford college without working. For example, at South Seattle Community College, resident students pay $73.90 per credit, while non-resident students pay $245.60. Annually, a typical international student has to pay from $10,000 to $15,000 for study fees, and at least $6,000 for living expenses. This is definitely not a small amount of money, especially to students. While all their American classmates can legally have a job to pay for college, most students from overseas who are already allowed to work legally in their home countries have to cover the increasingly high expenses of college using their parents’ money. Therefore, to be able to pursue their studies at school, international students, in addition to saving money as much as possible, try to find a job off campus. However, they know that they are risking their stay at the United States. They live three people in one rented cramped room, make tables from traffic signs, and buy chairs from Goodwill. They go shopping in Dollar Tree stores, and they are familiar faces in food banks. Students, who choose to work under the table, are abused by callous employees. They usually get paid from $6 to $8 per hour under a hard working condition. They work from ten to twelve hours per day without a break. Waiters can’t get their tip and run in a whole day like crazy dogs. Landscape guys have to climb up a thirty foot tree without any safety kit, because it costs $80 for employees to rent a kit in one day for cutting trees. Above is the effect for the poor, and below is the effect for the rich. Wealthy international students study in school three hours a day, don’t have a job, so many of them have a whole bunch of free time for playing, gambling, or engaging in drunken merrymaking. It is obviously not good for their studying. It is like the devil makes work for idle hands. On the other hand, the policymakers state that foreign students come here to study, not for work. Did they ever think about the situation employees would hire the student who worked a part-time job, or the student who never worked before? A job not only brings some extra bucks to a student, but also gives him invaluable social experiences which are really needed in the future.

The second effect is the policy creates a tremendous number of illegal jobs. Schools do allow students to work on campus, but for a limited number of hours, and there are also not many vacancies. The waiting list is getting longer and longer. Besides, students get laid-off after one thousand working hours. Because after such amount of time, they will get more benefit according to the laws of labor union. The schools don’t want to pay these extra bucks, so they just kick students out of workplaces. The government and schools just push students into illegal labor market. In contrast, the policymakers may state that the purpose of the law is protecting jobs for natives, although the policy makes the labor market less competitive. However, the fact is the number of illegal workers still increases overtime, and the unemployment grew five percent in December 2007. One of the simple reasons is Americans are whether or not willing to do dirty jobs like cleaning toilet which a lot of foreigners are eager to do. In addition, some students need money so much that they have to do illegal jobs like smuggling Iphones or money laundering. Iphones suppliers for black market in Asia are usually foreign students in America. For money laundering, Asian hackers steal the information of many US bank accounts and give them to students. After many complicated laundering steps, they can cash-out safely.

The rule not only creates a whole bunch of illegal jobs, but also is not a good idea for American economy. Firstly, it affects international students wanting to study in USA. Students are allowed to work part-time outside campus in such countries as Japan, Australia or England, while they are not in the U.S. This will make students hesitate about choosing the US for study. If they study in England instead of America, America will lose money from this loss. According to Opendoors website, international students contribute approximately twelve billion dollars to the US economy through their expenditures on tuition and living expense. Secondly, there are more than half a million foreign students, if US allows them to work, America will have a huge source of cheap and skilled labors. Unless, after graduating, they will come back their countries, take their knowledge away America. They will contribute to their countries instead of to the country of Statue of Liberty. They will set up many companies which may become American companies’ opponents in the future.

There are some reasons for American government to prohibit international students from working, but its effects outweigh such reasons. It is better that American change the rule or people don’t need to tip in Asian restaurants because restaurant owners will take it, not waiters.


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      gustt 2 years ago

      Guys, all of us international students have to show proof that we can afford school in America, but things happen along the way. My family's business back home is not the same anymore, plus my country is going thru a recession. What should I do? I'm half way through my degree and now I have to go back home? I can't even transfer my credits because the system is different. Just think about it a minute. We do not want money to live here, we want the RIGHT TO WORK here at least to pay our expenses.

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      priscilla 4 years ago

      Thanks for your article! I hope to get a on-campus job soon. :)

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      Dat Phan 5 years ago

      They should really crack down on international students (mainly the ones from vietnam) in orange county, california - houston texas & san jose working illegally for those lingerie cafe's. And yes they keep ALL the tips there. Just a bunch of trash and it gives our country a bad name. If you can't afford school and have to work in these crap environments then don't come to USA in the first place.

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      pooja kharel 5 years ago

      i am an international student , my home country is nepal. I was here in USA 6 months ago. Now i am in a summer break. But i have a huge tension on my head that how will i pay my college fee for my next semster? I can't ask for money from my parent because they cannot afford that, and these people don't let us work in USA. I have no idea what should i be doing.I feel like it was a huge mistake that i decide to come to USA . It really sucks

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      Tashi 5 years ago

      Thank You for the article. Hopefully International Students will be allowed to work in the future!

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      Sol 5 years ago

      Hold it down guys... I myself believe that US govt do not ask 'us' (I'm international student too) to come over and pay three times of the tuition and ask for job. But simply think about it, do you all know that out of $28 billion made from all forms of education, international education put in $8.3 billion! And that what made international education one of the five largest industries of America. It's no doubt a govt has to think for its country's benefit first. However, we're not asking US govt to make some aid, to get us some loan, nor do we ask for tuition discount. We just ask for the RIGHT to work, which generates money, not consuming money. This topic is too broad and too much to talk about within paragraphs. But just look at those simple things, Working is a part of learning. I believe for the next decades, if US do not change their job policy, either the amount of international students coming over would decrease, OR, there will be more illegal workers; and that hurts no one but American economy (of course I'm saying students weren't caught lol)No doubt that we learn a lot from y'all American, but that doesn't mean y'all are superior; that only means we know more than y'all do

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      proud international bro 6 years ago

      Tell them bro. Cuz those people are bunch of retards. We bin trying to make them better people but they alwayz fail to learn as usual. Losers

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      fuck the shut-up 6 years ago

      do you know what?? i think we international students are doing a favor to the US government by coming to study here because ain' t no american really are all dumb as shit as is still a point,, you all are good at partying, crowding night clubs, drinking beers, having fansy sex, and taking mixed drugs as well such as...I do not even want to mention it. if america was just americans it will be impossible to guess what it will look like, so shut talking shit about international students because they are the smartest and have developed and contributed to very successful buinesses here in the US.

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      Aum 6 years ago

      Most of you guys are talking as if you are doing a favor coming to the US and getting educated. You guys come to the US because you want to come here, the US government did not ask you to come here. Before you guys come here you have to show that you have the necessary funds to pursue your education. But you guys come here work illegally and pay the money you snatched without paying taxes towards the tuition fee. How different are you guys from drug peddlers and black marketeers? Accept what you are doing, do not be hypocritical and talk as if you are doing a favor to Uncle Sam.

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      omar 7 years ago

      Guys. We need to file petetions regard that. We should also start establishing associations to defend ourselves. This is the American culture. You have got to fight for your right yourself and you will be faced with great deal of resistance. But if we are aware and united, we can be treated as human beings. One of the most basics of human rights is the right to work and all countries signed on it (except very few) here is a group for international student association i am trying to establish, please join,

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      Nihilism 7 years ago

      Ok, here's the deal: International students come to USA to pay tuition, living expenses, miscellaneous expenses ... to help the USA raise money. And no no, they cannot work because that would increase unemployment rate among Americans. Last but nor least, they can work unpaid jobs. Why? BC that would help American businesses grow by saving labor expenses. They either contribute to USA or get the FUCK OUT OF USA.

      In short, not allow International students to work is the best policy because USA benefits a lot from it. Plus, International students ain't have no rights, ain't no International Martin Luther King, or as such to protect them. If there's no one to protect them then Guess What? They of course are treated like shit.

      Think about it. Ain't it best for USA to do this ?

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      Tali 7 years ago

      Thank you for the article. I'm actually a PhD student and I'm suffering because of this fact. I passed my nursing license 3 years ago and it's been useless. I never been able to work as a nurse in any hospitals because of the fact that international students cant work anywhere outside campus. Also, because of this annoying rule, I started to lose my nursing experience and skills with time which is really affecting me, as nursing and all other medical fields need to stay within the field constantly. Would it make the immigration people happy if I work in a restaurant? or a gas station? but no that's not what I want, because I need to be in my field and do what I have passion for. Would it make them happy if I get married for that purpose like many people do? No I wont do that because if other people would do it I would never because it's not something I believe in, and I cant get married to someone for that purpose. compared to doctors, who are considered studying in this country as well, because they're doing their residency, they're doing what they like to do and they get paid reasonably while they're doing that, but nurses? NOPE. and they keep talking about the shortage in nursing. They need to change rules and be more flexible

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      amal salim 7 years ago

      @carl madison. I have done an unpaid internship myself. besides the part that it is extremely unethical to hire students for free, none of the highly competitive companies will hire students for no pay. By the way it is more difficult to get an internship than a full time job for an international student

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      ogech 7 years ago

      i think the US should allow international students to work as nanny or other non competitive jobs.this will enable us have something in our pockets after paying the huge tuition .sometimes,we go to bed hungry,crying and wondering if this is the great USA we have heared back home.

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      Carl Madison 7 years ago

      I had an internship overseas and they did not pay me. They did however, give me school credit. It was a great addition to my resume and taught me a lot. It's an option for students who can't work for pay.