VII. F-1 STUDENTS IN THE U.S. WORKFORCE – ISSUES

Issues involved with the F-1 program involve the effect of student employment on U.S. workers and the fact that there are no remedies for students who are victims of visa fraud perpetrated by sham schools. Because there are no wage requirements for F-1 students who work and there is no labor market test, it creates a situation where overt discrimination against U.S. workers is possible.  There have not been many studies of workers’ rights abuses in the F-1 program.
 
 
A. Little Protections for U.S. Workers
The F-1 program regulations contain few protections for U.S. workers.  Regarding on-campus work, F-1 students may not displace U.S. workers.108 However, no federal agency is accountable to ensure this prohibition is enforced.  The only other U.S. worker protections is that employment authorization for any F-1 students ceases whenever there is a labor dispute involving a work stoppage or strike at the same workplace.109 Even so, employers who hire F-1 students do not have to adhere to any labor market tests, wage standards or U.S. worker recruitment efforts.110 Economists have raised many concerns with the effect of OPT employment on U.S. labor market, including suppressing wages and even contributing to U.S. unemployment rates. 
 
 
 
B. Foreign Recruitment
 
F-1 students may find out about the opportunity to study (and work) in the U.S. through third party recruiters.  These recruiters may be individuals or business entities and may be based either in the U.S. or abroad. Some U.S. colleges and universities rely on third-party recruiters to help steer foreign students to their schools for a fee, paid either by the student, the school or both.118 By law, approved schools may only advertise that: “This school is authorized under Federal law to enroll nonimmigrant alien students.”119 As with other nonimmigrant visa programs, there is a risk that when recruiters misrepresent the F-1 visa program and make false promises.  Some overseas college recruiters even boast on-line about immediately allowing extended periods of work.  For example, one recruiter in India suggests that students will be employed quickly upon enrollment, students will work in entry-level jobs “paying $8 to $10 per hour that require “little work experience, skills” and can work “40+ hours per week.”120  There are no rules that pertain to recruiters specifically.  For instance, unlike other nonimmigrant program, there is no rule prohibiting recruiters from charging fees to the workers or making them responsible for misrepresenting the F-1 visa program’s rules on employment.121
 
C. Unaccredited Schools
DHS approves unaccredited schools under certain conditions.122 However, in 2011, several investigations highlighted whether such schools were really just visa mills.  Indeed, unaccredited schools have been a breeding ground for widespread immigration fraud.  Some schools “usher in thousands of foreign students and generate millions of dollars in profits because they have the power, bestowed by the U.S. government, to help students get visas.”123

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