IT Jobs: Foreign Workers Need Not Apply

A Brazilian citizen, who came to the U.S. on a student visa and is authorized by the federal government to work in the States, says employers are reluctant to hire him because of his citizenship status. Is he a victim of discrimination? Two immigration attorneys weigh in.

By
Mon, September 27, 2010

CIO — Daniel Rego got up early on April 8, 2010, donned his best suit, and printed copies of his résumé, headlined by a newly minted master's degree in information systems from George Washington University. Then he headed off to a career fair held by George Washington University's School of Business with the hope of landing an IT job.

Rego, a-25-year-old Brazilian citizen, introduced himself to several corporate recruiters. He noted that he holds a work permit called an Employment Authorization Document, or EAD, that allows him to work in the United States for 12 months from the date work is issued to him. And because he is a "STEM" graduate (he graduated with a degree in science, technology, engineering or math), he's eligible to stay in the U.S. for another 17 months after his first 12 months are up, provided he's employed and provided his employer is enrolled in the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services' E-Verify program.

The recruiters balked at Rego and his EAD. He says the recruiters told him that they only hire American citizens or green card holders. After hearing this message repeatedly, Rego says he grew frustrated and told one recruiter that the recruiter was discriminating against him.

According to Rego, the recruiter responded: "If you're feeling discriminated against, that's your opinion. Also, even if we hire you, after your visa expires, you will have to leave the company. We want professionals who can stay and build a career."

While American tech workers confront one of the worst job markets in the history of their profession, foreign workers like Rego face even greater challenges finding work. And the protectionist sentiment currently engulfing the country, which led to the recent increase in H-1B visa fees, certainly doesn't help their cause.

Meanwhile, proponents of H-1B visas, which allow skilled workers into the country for three years, claim that the tech industry needs more foreign tech talent. In August, Phil Bond, president and CEO of TechAmerica, an IT industry lobbying group, released a statement criticizing H-1B visa fee increases and underscoring the importance of foreign workers to America's economy: "America's broken immigration system is threatening to cripple our country's ability to compete in the global marketplace ...The companies impacted by these fee increases provide valuable and innovative expertise to many U.S. companies in critical sectors, and fee increases risk undermining these important goals while America is struggling to recover economically.

An IT Career Path to Nowhere

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