Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

PRAYOGO: Overcoming Barriers to International Employment


When people ask me why I chose to go to Georgetown University, I always cite my desire to experience a world-class education, deep admiration for Jesuit values and excitement at being in Washington, D.C.

However, the unsaid implication for many international students, including myself, is that we came to Georgetown — or any university in the United States — because we see a future in this country. Even if a student only plans to stay for a few years after graduation, a U.S. education and job often improve the reputation of those who return home.

Unfortunately, as visa sponsorship requirements become more stringent, international students increasingly feel discriminated against in the job search process despite the many merits they can bring to a company.

Ask any international student what application question they dread the most, and they’ll probably answer, “Will you now or in the future require sponsorship for employment visa status?” These students feel that once they answer yes, their application is likely to be discarded without their resume being read. Even more disheartening is when they find a job posting that perfectly matches their qualifications, only to read at the bottom, “unfortunately, we are not sponsoring visas at this time.” They’ve probably received a few joke proposals from their American friends to help them get a green card — and secretly contemplated accepting one of them.

Given the costly price of an overseas prestigious education, career outcomes are a large factor when international students consider whether this expensive education is worth it. Thus, this barrier to employment is not a pertinent issue just for international students, but also for a university that aims to attract a diverse, international population. As resources to find our desired American careers become more ineffective, it becomes more difficult to justify paying for a Georgetown education. So what exactly can the university do about it?

Probably not that much.

We are at the mercy of the policies of a government administration whose platform centers around keeping foreigners out, making it more difficult to obtain a post-graduation visa than ever before. And while the university is an imperfect institution when it comes to addressing our unique needs, these stricter immigration policies are putting more of a strain on existing international student resources.

For example, the Office of Global Services is now burdened with the increased paperwork required for immigration issues, which prevents it from being a more holistic advisor and resource for international students. While offices such the Cawley Career Center have made efforts to provide more international student programming to ease this process, these efforts are limited to being simply informational. Articulating specific and feasible solutions that the university can implement is incredibly difficult when so much of the uncertainty lies beyond its control.

We are also at the mercy of employers who have to decide whether we are worth the cost of taking a gamble in an opaque lottery system that decides whether we can stay. In a job search already fraught with uncertainty and self-doubt, international students face the additional barriers of working under visa constraints. In this process, it’s increasingly difficult not to feel defined solely by our international backgrounds.

Amid all this uncertainty, international students tend to forget there are many ways our distinct profile sets us apart from the competition. We often hesitate to put our foreign address on our application, without considering that living abroad and understanding a different language and culture is extremely useful for employers operating in a globalized world. We try to hide our “foreignness” during interviews, hoping that employers won’t notice, which prevents us from highlighting the strengths that come with it. It is unfortunate that the job search is more complicated for international students, but above all, it’s important to prevent the job search from making you resent a part of who you are.

Convincing employers that you are worth the cost of sponsorship requires you to highlight why you are irreplaceable, and your international background is a large part of that. Even beyond the language and overseas familiarity, the challenges you’ve overcome in adapting to a new country translate into being resourceful and adaptable in your job. Going through a more complicated hiring process requires resilience and ambition that will help you progress your career. Embrace how being international has made you stronger, and your future employer will too — whether they’re American or not.

Karissa Prayogo is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. She is also President of the International Students Association. Long-Distance Education appears online every other Wednesday.

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