Lacking visas, grads can't work everywhere they want to be

With the job market in the shape it is, finding work is hard enough. When you add the need for work authorization, increasingly strict visa rules and the pressure to choose between the country of your birth and the country of your current residence, the challenge becomes even greater.

This was the situation facing Razy Farook, a fourth-year Commerce student from Sri Lanka, when he walked into a job interview a few weeks ago.

He walked out after answering just one question: Did he have appropriate authorization to work in the United States? According to Farook, when he told the interviewer 'no,' meaning any company that hired him would have to sponsor him for a visa, the interview came to a swift conclusion.

"I said 'no,' and he was like, 'oh, sorry,'" Farook said. "I asked him if he had any other questions and he said 'no, it's not my decision, it's human resources.'"

He said he did not really feel disappointed by the incident, just annoyed that the company had wasted his time.

"The least [the interviewer] could have done was interview me and say, 'I'll pass on the interview as a general interview and see if we can offer you something else in the company,'" Farook said.

Farook, like many international students on the job search, said he scans HoosTrak listings for companies that do not specifically require U.S. work authorization.

"There are a lot of jobs I could apply for but they require U.S. authorization," Farook said. "It kind of sucks."

Though employers often have a natural inclination toward domestic students, immigration lawyer Mark Rhoads, who works at Reed Smith, a law firm in Richmond, said in his experience total unwillingness to hire international students is relatively uncommon.

"There are some employers who won't sponsor [work visas] at all, won't even interview international students, and that has probably increased since Sept. 11, but it's still infrequent," Rhoads said.

Companies that require prior work authorization often do so under the impression that obtaining a visa for an international student is complex and time consuming.

"It is a process and I think some employers think it's very expensive and complicated

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