Foreign students don’t have a right to work in the US

A pending federal lawsuit seeks to stop Florida’s law limiting the influence of “countr[ies] of concern” on higher education. But it is based on the false premise that foreign nationals have a right to be employed at American universities.

University of Florida Professor Zhengfei Guan filed the lawsuit against state officials “[a]fter losing his top pick for a postdoctoral assistantship,” according to the Alligator campus newspaper.

The loss was a result of the state’s compliance with Senate Bill 846, which places restrictions on partnerships with and employment of people from seven countries: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria.

“Of the 18 international students who applied for the position of Guan’s assistant — five from countries of concern, according to court documents — a postdoctoral student from China emerged as the best candidate,” the Alligator reported.

Those who are from restricted countries can continue to seek employment, but they “must separately apply to Florida authorities, who control whether the employment will be allowed,” according to the lawsuit. 

It should not be the concern of American policymakers, state and federal, if international students are able to get employment here. Rather, policies should favor American workers.

Foreign students do not have a right to come here and get jobs subsidized by taxpayers. Florida state and local entities spent at least $6 billion subsidizing higher education in the last fiscal year.

That money should principally be used for educating Floridians and other American residents so they can contribute to the economy and help sustain a functioning society. It should not be used to help foreign students build up their own academic careers so they can go back to their own countries. 

It would seem plausible Guan could find one American postdoctoral assistant to hire to help him with his research into tomato and strawberry production.

Two foreign students are also joining the lawsuit, saying that the law limits their ability to be hired here. Either they misled on their visa applications, or their hiring here does not serve the interest of America’s economy.

Applicants for an F-1 student visa must “maintain a residence abroad which you have no intention of giving up,” according to the State Department. In other words, F-1 student visas cannot be used for the purpose of obtaining citizenship.

Therefore, they either do intend to seek American citizenship, or they are honest about their intentions and plan to go back to China after graduation. Assuming they are honest, it is not clear how it should be a pressing matter to the United States that Chinese citizens get trained here using American taxpayer dollars.

According to the lawsuit, Senate Bill 846 “imposes a significant financial injury on them, including nearly $10,000 per semester in tuition fees to continue their doctoral studies, as well as living expenses estimated at about $21,500 per academic year — expenses totaling about $40,000 per academic year, which the [graduate assistantship] offers would cover.”


When both people applied for their F-1 visas, they were supposed to have “sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study,” according to the State Department. One of the plaintiffs was already a student in New York. Another traveled here from China. 

Since neither can “self-support,” as they promised the federal government, it looks like they will need to leave or find something else in the U.S. Then the money for their employment can go to American citizens or permanent residents to help them gain the knowledge to help the country. As it should.

Matt Lamb is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is an associate editor for the College Fix and has previously worked for Students for Life of America and Turning Point USA.

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