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IEEE GSB H-1B Visa Sessions

With over 6,000 international students at The Ohio State University, the issue of immigration reform remains a hot topic on campus.

Members of the IEEE Graduate Student Body, a professional organization devoted to the electrical engineering industry, decided to help keep their foreign classmates up to date on current information by holding an annual visa information session. It’s an effort gaining a larger audience each passing year.

The H-1B is a visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H), which allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations. It can also help international students remain employed for up to six years.

The visa is closely tied to the tech community, with many international engineers vying for one of the program’s 85,000 visas each year. Only 20,000 of which are reserved for advanced degree holders. 

On Feb. 8, IEEE members invited an immigration lawyer to hold a question and answer session for international students interested in learning about changes in the H1B visa requirements, as well as the application procedure. Another event is scheduled in 2019.

Ohio State Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Professor Paul Berger is the IEEE graduate body faculty advisor. He said the immigration discussion is very topical these days. The club began hosting the H1B visa meeting in 2012, but its scope soon grew beyond simply informing students. He said it became a campus-wide resource for international students.

“It has always been one of our largest, and most popular events,” Berger said. 

In 2017, he said, the online registration wasn’t limited to just students and the topic of immigration was suddenly hot in the news because of the presidential election.

“I was told it turned into a zoo, with whole families, kids in the aisles. That was right after Trump attained office,” Berger said.

Parastou Fakhimi, an ECE graduate research assistant and IEEE member, said hosting the event is increasingly important. 

“Many graduate students in the ECE department are international students who are interested in finding a career in the US upon graduation. This event provides the much needed information and resources these students can use to increase their chances of obtaining an H1B work visa after graduating,” she said.

ECE grad student, Daniel Yue, said the event serves as a one-stop-shop for international students to gain information on how the visa process works.

“I attended the event because I want to find a job in the United States, so H1B Visa is an unavoidable problem,” Yue said. “I spend too much time on my studies and barely have time for information about visas. Attending this kind of event allows me to have a  better understanding of how it works.”

He said the information session is helpful to students in his situation, learning about policy, the time frame for applying, and much more.

“I really appreciate presentations like this,” he said.

Article by Ryan Horns, ECE/IMR Communications Specialist