Hiring International Students: The Economic Advantage

Hiring an international student studying at a university in Michigan is an investment in our state’s economic future.  Michigan’s economy is currently evolving; it no longer relies heavily on the auto industry and manufacturing, it is moving toward a diversified, highly technological economy. This creates a need for new, creative recruiting strategies that allow access to previously untapped talent pools. Not filling the new positions that this technological economy provides will hinder the growth of Michigan’s economy.

Detroit is one of the fastest growing markets for tech jobs. For Michigan to keep up with this growth, we need to look at hiring international students with higher level degrees in these fields. The people who fill these high-level tech positions are innovators; they develop the new products of technologies that will put Michigan back to work, not take jobs away.

Other countries are currently changing their immigration policies to match their economic needs.  Since our lawmakers are currently at a standstill, we need to learn to work within the current regulations to keep this talent in Michigan and prevent international students from becoming competitors, taking their companies and their jobs to other states, or more likely, out of the US.

Studies show that:

  • Immigrants disproportionately contribute to economic growth, employment, and wage gains.
    • 25 percent of high tech companies in the U.S. from 1995-2005 had at least one immigrant founder
    • More than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies in 2010 included at least one immigrant founder or the child of an immigrant founder
    • Highly educated immigrants are twice as likely to hold patents, three times as likely to start their own businesses (In Michigan, immigrants are 6x as likely to start their own businesses)
    • 76% of patents from the top ten patent-producing universities in 2011 had a foreign born investor
    • Immigrants with entrepreneurial aspirations start their business an average of 13 years from arriving in the U.S., so hiring an international student means you may be hiring a future job creator.More than 50 percent of PhDs and in some cases, nearly 50% of the master’s degrees in the Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) fields are awarded each year in the U.S. to international students.
  • Michigan is currently experiencing a severe shortage of qualified engineering and IT talent—there are five engineering positions for each qualified job applicant.
  • The STEM fields are the fastest-growing job sector in the country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics however, forecasts a 230,000 STEM worker shortage by 2018.
  • As more and more companies become global, the need for multicultural awareness and global competency becomes paramount


Common Employer Concerns (i.e. “Myths”)

1. Aren’t I displacing a U.S. worker by hiring a foreign national?

No, Studies show hiring foreign nationals with advanced degrees promotes job growth.  For every 100 H-1B work visas approved, 183 new jobs are created each year.  If you control for just the jobs in the STEM fields, 262 new jobs are created. (link to “immigration and American jobs”?  see link below)

The reason for this is that for a foreign national employee to qualify for an H-1B,

  • The job must require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree
  • The foreign national must meet all job qualifications
  • The employer must pay the a salary equal to or more than the federally determined prevailing wage
  • Many foreign nationals hired into these positions are high level researchers, IT experts, and engineers – creating new products/technologies that will create jobs as all skill levels.

2. I don’t want to deal with all the red tape, I have heard too many horror stories

Negative experiences make it through networks much faster than success stories.  With proper planning and a well seasoned immigration attorney, the process is not that difficult.  There are two very common mistakes employers make that are the root of the majority of horror stories.

  • Not enough time to prepare visa application
    • Many employers think that the application can be prepared today and sent tomorrow.  These applications take time to prepare, it is important to plan appropriately so you can meet important deadlines.  For more information on employer sponsored work authorizations, click here.
    • International students come with their own work authorization that can last anywhere from 1-3 years, this will allow more than enough time to prepare a work visa application.
  • Hiring the cheapest attorney instead of the most qualified
    • Preparing a successful visa application takes the expertise of an experienced immigration attorney.  They know what documentation the US Immigration Service is looking for and how to prepare a successful application.  Hiring an attorney who doesn’t have experience with immigration applications is just like hiring a tax attorney to defend you in a criminal trial.
    • For more information on hiring an immigration attorney, click here.
  1. Is it worth my time, money, and effort? 

Immigrants are generally more loyal and stay longer

  • The average domestic graduate changes jobs every 2-3 years until age 35.  US employers generally value a more diversified resume for advanced professionals, so our culture does not promote staying with one employer for an extended period of time.
  • Most international students come from cultures where staying loyal to one employer is valued more than a diversified resume
  • May avoid turnover and training/relocation expenses
  • Even if an international student needs to return home at the end of his/her student employment authorization, you will have that employee the same amount of time as a domestic applicant. Therefore, you would not have to do anything different than you would for a domestic applicant
  1. Work visa applications are too expensive.

As an investment, the return is far greater than the expense.   Not only do you bring new perspectives to your company and expand networks, it’s cheaper to hire international students from Michigan universities on their own work authorization and change their visa status to an employer sponsored work visa when it expires.  The Math — employer currently pays 7.65% of salary for FICA/Medicare.  International students on F -1 or J-1 visas cannot benefit from social security, therefore they don’t have to pay into it which means neither does the employer.  Also, since domestic applicants tend to change jobs more often than foreign applicants, there may be turnover costs as well as more training costs.

Student Spotlight: Dorcas Adhiambo Opiyo

Meet Dorcas Adhiambo Opiyo! Originally from Kenya, Dorcas attended Eastern Michigan University, earning her Masters degree in Healthcare Administration. She chose Eastern Michigan University for the school’s international community, affordable tuition, and proximity to a relative!

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 10.57.18 AMDorcas is currently working in Michigan on OPT and is seeking a H1-B visa sponsored job before her OPT expires. She would love the opportunity to stay in Michigan because she is able to find more opportunities for professional growth compared to other states. “Having studied and lived in Michigan for two years now, I have become accustomed to Michigan and feel like it is my home away from home,” says Dorcas.

Although she enjoys Michigan, Dorcas does miss her family, friends, food and weather in Kenya. It is summer year round, after all!

Dorcas faces many challenges when applying for jobs in Michigan because she is an international student. Many employers do not have the information or knowledge they need to hire international students. “Several employers I have approached are reluctant to consider hiring an international student on a student visa,” Dorcas says. She believes her education and profession are beneficial to various healthcare needs in Michigan.Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 10.57.03 AM

Though this can be discouraging, Dorcas finds ways to enjoy her ‘home away from home,’ partaking in activities such as bowling, taking walks, cooking, reading, listening to music and hanging out with family and friends. She has also explored Michigan for school projects and group meetings, visiting Livonia, Brighton, Westland, Detroit, Dearborn, Farmington Hills, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Royal Oak, and Belleville!

Dorcas is ready to brave the Michigan winter as she dives deeper into her health administration career!

If you would like to contact Dorcas about a job opportunity, please contact!

GTRI 10 Disastrous Resume Mistakes

10 Disastrous Resume Mistakes (and how to avoid them!)

Everyone knows to include their name, contact information, and work experience on a resume. But what is going to make your resume stand out? What should you avoid to give you the best chance of being chosen for your dream position?

  1. Typos and grammatical errors. This is important for every job candidate to avoid, but for international students, it’s a good idea to add an extra step and have a native English speaker with good grammar skills review your resume for grammar and usage. It’s important for employers to be confident in your command of the English language.
  2. Using passive language. U.S. employers value self-motivation and action. The more your language reflects action, the better. This list of action verbs from The Muse will help make your resume stand out.
  3. Including illegal information. In the U.S. it is illegal for employers to ask certain questions. If this information is included on your resume, you will automatically be disqualified from applying. Illegal information includes:
    1. TOEFL Score
    2. A Photograph Backdrop
    3. Immigration Status
    4. Age/Birth date
    5. Hometown/Home Country
    6. Marital Status
    7. Race/Ethnicity
    8. Religion
  4. Focusing on group accomplishments.  Group accomplishments are a great thing to include on your resume because they demonstrate your ability to work on a team. However, you should focus this description on your role within the team.
  5. Listing tasks instead of problems solved. “Responsible for updating social media accounts,” becomes “Increased social media engagement scores by 13% by implementing new strategy.”
  6. A Hard to read format. Hiring managers generally have a lot of applicants for one position and want to be able to scan your resume quickly at first. Instead of writing in paragraph format, use bullet points whenever possible. In addition, an easy-to-read open sans font is a must.
  7. A lack of imagination or creativity. Hiring managers get tired of reading “resume-speak.” They also get tired of looking at resumes generated from templates. The level of creativity should match the type of position you are seeking. A graphic artist, for example, may have some graphic elements included in their resume, while an engineer would be expected to have a more traditional resume.
  8. A lack of focus. If you’re applying for an IT Specialist position, the time you spent as an intern in the IT Department at the University, or serving as the technical consultant for your favorite student group is relevant. Working in the dish room of the cafeteria is not. Make sure you highlight the experience that is relevant.
  9. Not including keywords. Especially if you submit an application online, hiring managers will likely use software that searches by keyword to sift through the first round of resumes. If you do not have those keywords in your resume, it will not make the first cut. A good practice is to identify the likely keywords being searched by reading the job description carefully, and then making sure those keywords are in your resume.
  10. Not offering references. If this is your first job, list professors in your major area of study, academic advisers, research partners, or anyone else that can speak to your work ethic and knowledge of your area of study. If you have job experience, a supervisor or a co-worker in a position of authority is the best reference.

Download our handy Resume and Interview Guide for more tips!

The President Has Spoken on Immigration: What Does It Mean For YOU?

Among the recent presidential actions on immigration are provisions to modernize, improve and clarify immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to grow our economy and create jobs – with the greatest economic impact affecting U.S. businesses, foreign investors, researchers, inventors and skilled foreign workers.

While specifics won’t be known about changes to economic oriented immigration policy until the guidance and regulations are issued, the effect of changes in the regulations impacting foreign students will be primarily among F1 visa holders. For foreign students specifically, further expansion and extension of optional practical training (OPT) is being proposed which could open the door to great opportunity for both students and employers alike. The next step in this process is for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to develop regulations for notice and public comment on the changes. No timeline for this process has yet been established.

What this means for international students interested in staying in the US after graduation for experiential education could be profound, likely further extending the current 17 month STEM extension period, as well as the expanding the designated degree programs that qualify. Currently, certain students who graduate with a STEM degree are eligible to remain in the United States for an additional 17 months (beyond the standard 12 months) on an optional practical training (OPT) STEM extension. Students may qualify for an additional 17 months of OPT under the following circumstances:

  1. Your degree for your current period of post-completion OPT is a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM program listed on the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM designated degree program list
  2. The employer from which you are seeking work uses the E-Verify Program
  3. You have not already received a 17-month extension of OPT
    Approximately 10,000 students are currently working in Michigan on OPT, and over 29,000 international students are studying in Michigan colleges and universities. The purpose of the presidential actions relative to STEM expansion/extension is clear – to further open a pathway to experiential employment in the United States for talented foreign students to lessen the talent shortages so widely reported by employers, while improving the Michigan and national economies.

What can you do as a student? Prepare. Begin by completing a Free profile of yourself on the GTRI GOregistry, and make certain that you have a current “American styled” resume for employers to review.

What can you do as an employer? Prepare. Apply to GTRI to become a Global Opportunity Employer, GOemployer, and consider participating as an employer in the GOregistry for unlimited access to skilled global talent waiting to hear from you. To learn more about the GOregistry please contact Jeff at GTRI at or by calling 517-290-0853.