Beacon News: Job search tough for international students

By Jocelyn Martinez
Contributing Writer

Palm Beach Atlantic University has a total of 104 international students enrolled this fall, of which 20 to 25 percent work on-campus jobs. Several of our international students are athletes who receive support through athletic scholarships.

However, many international students have had difficulty finding sources of income due to tough government regulation.

According to regulations from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, international students may work up to 20 hours a week while school is in session and up to 40 hours a week during breaks.

Off-campus jobs are available but are limited because they must be related to the student’s area of study. Usually the student will need to enroll in an internship to pursue this option.

Upon completion of their degree, all students are eligible for “optional practical training” for one year, which is full-time employment in their field of study.


Aaron Achim Harding

Christopher Hernandez / Contributing Photographer

“Most of our students pursue this option,” said Dr. Olga Rybalkina, director of International and Multicultural Programs.

Students can check for job postings. There they can find job opportunities and apply for them.

“I can’t say how many jobs are available, but the Web site is our centralized location for job postings,” Rybalkina said. “Sara Nicastro, career counselor, urges all departments with vacancies to advertise on the site.”

Some of the positions are not posted promptly and many are federal work-study positions. Many international students find jobs on campus.

The following places often have many positions available for job-seeking students in addition to work study positions: Sodexo, Campus Recreation, Enrollment Services, bookstore, library and Technology Services.

PBA’s career counselors can also work with off-campus businesses to facilitate career opportunities for students. However, PBA is limited because only practical experience that is integral to academic coursework can be approved according to the USCIS regulations.

Students cannot work as nannies, valets or waiters. All international students must also prove the availability of funds to study in the U.S. in order to get their student visa.

There is one provision in the USCIS guidelines that allows students to work in any area under the “severe economic hardships” clause. This would apply to a case where something unexpected happens, preventing the family from being able to support the student in the U.S. It includes natural disasters or loss of business due to a well-documented economic crisis, among other reasons.

However, the USCIS rarely approves such petitions.

“I believe that ultimately God provides for us,” Rybalkina said.

It has been a long time since a bill to allow international students to work off-campus with fewer restrictions has been introduced to Congress.

We may expect more rapid development in this area with the new administration. However, the economic crisis and 10 percent unemployment rate among U.S. citizens may diminish the importance of this issue with the priority to address the needs of Americans first.

PBA departments are strongly encouraged to utilize the College Central Web site in order for students to have one location to check on available options.

“I don’t want international students to get discouraged,” Rybalkina said. “Formerly an international student myself, I experienced these difficulties first-hand but am confident in the Lord’s provision despite the limited opportunity. PBA highly values international students and what they bring to PBA — both as students and as student employees.”

Several students have found their career at PBA.

Jamaican Andre Lewis works as an assistant director for Campus Recreation. Jason Thomas, from St. Lucia, is PBA’s Technology Support Manager.

“Current economic events have made the job market more competitive than ever,” Thomas said. “Add being an international student fresh out of college to that equation and the odds are truly stacked against you. The drive, determination and desire to succeed must propel you forward.”

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