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Understanding foreign students' worry

 - Ying Sa is the founder and principal certified public accountant at Community CPA & Associates, Inc. and a co-founder of the Immigrant Entrepreneurs Summit. 

Twelve years ago, in the heat of the summer, when most accounting professionals were on vacation, a young man who had just graduated with a master’s degree in accounting kept calling my office and leaving long messages. For three days in a row the messages were the same. This young man was seeking employment at Community CPA and needed it urgently because his OPT (Optional Practical Training VISA) status was about to expire in 12 months.

In his mind, Community CPA could hire him and so he can stay. This set my employer alarm bells ringing, as I wondered who in his sane mind would hire someone just so he could stay in the United States party all night long? My initial instinct was to ignore him, so he would quit calling.

But I was wrong! This young man showed up at my office unexpectedly on the fourth day. He had driven all the way from Chicago. He delivered the same message he had been leaving the previous three days. He explained how he needed a job so badly so he could obtain sponsorship for his visa, or else he had to return to his native country.

I listened to him for 20 minutes without hearing one single word about how he would help the firm. Yet his transcript was excellent. One thing struck me as I walked him out and wished him good luck in job search. In the hallway, there was a recycling bin that, although not in his way, was crooked. On his way out, the young man took notice of that, stopped, walked towards the bin and squared it to the wall before leaving. Looking at the swinging door and hearing the loud, labored car engine starting sound, I made the decision to hire him against all orthodox sound management advice. I have never regretted that decision.

In 2003, I was in the same situation as this young man. I needed Wells Fargo to sponsor me so badly or else I would have to return to Canada. The company trusted me and sponsored my H1 visa. So this was payback time!

I checked out my worry about him appearing to be self-serving in talking so much about OPT and his visa and his desire to stay in U.S. I would have done the same. It is a real worry and it is a worry that is bigger than what he could personally handle. I thought to myself that the technical side of this young man is demonstrated in his transcript. I remember him saying he wanted to sit for his CPA exams, but did not have money for it. Clearly, he knew his career path.

Above everything, whether he needed the sponsorship or not, the bin incident was testimony of the fact that this young man has a caring spirit. The broken car, the loud engine, the travel all the way from Chicago to Des Moines… were all testimony of a young man with determination and drive, longing for a place to call home.

As an employer, I decided to understand the worry of the foreign students. I would not focus on their expression of urgency for their status. Instead I would work on bringing them home. I believe that providing foreign workers a job is like providing them a home. They will come to work like they are coming home.

Comments

Great article with an interesting perspective on working in America. Also pursuing dreams with determination and following the system for legal immigration.

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