Monday, March 10, 2008

Life of International Students and H1B Visa Holders during US Economic Recession

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My friend who was in F1 visa and doing MS in Computer Science had three jobs in hand by the middle of the Fall semester in 2000 even though he was planning to graduate by the end of Spring, May 2001. He was so confused which job to take as all three were from the cream of the Fortune 500 companies. Soon after my friend got these jobs the dot com bubble busted and American economy fell into recession. By the time he graduated in May 2001 all those three companies had already withdrawn their job offers. He got another job after six months after tons of struggle.
This was not an isolated incident at that time. I could recollect so many such scenarios that happened to my friends due to American recession. I was one of the unfortunate people who landed in US for studies at the peak of recession but was fortunate to graduate after recession was over. But most of my friends were not that lucky and had to graduate at the middle of recession. I had seen their struggles during recession and those are the images that come to my mind when someone talks about another US recession this year.

During the peak of dot com boom the students were very eager to finish their studies since job market was very hot. Like my friend most of them had a handful of jobs to choose from months before graduation. But recession had changed everything. Forget about multiple jobs, getting an interview call seemed to be a dream during that period. Students who were very keen to graduate started postponing their gradation indefinitely so that at least they could do some hourly job or continue with their research/teaching assistantship in campus and earn something to make both ends meet. This prevented new students coming after Fall 2001 from getting assistantship or hourly jobs and many had to survive with no job, paying full fees and with no hope of any kind of assistantship in the near future.
Companies were in a lay off spree and almost all of the start up companies closed down. Suddenly there was an influx of H1B visa holders with no job. The day you loose your job in H1B you are out of status and you should change your visa status or find another job or leave the country. With the economy in downslide it was tough for even an experienced H1B guy to find a new job. Lot of them came back to school in F1 visa to do second Masters or to do PhD just to maintain status till the recession was over. These increased the competition for hourly jobs and various assistantships and it was a sad scene to see people studying just to maintain status.
No one wanted to graduate and this made our university make a new rule. Who ever has completed all the course work should graduate in the following semester after clearing their comprehensive exam. Just to stay in status and continue doing the hourly job they had, I had friends who purposely failed the comprehensive exam (You had two attempts to pass the comprehensive exam). Once you fail in the comprehensive exam you can maintain the student status for that semester and the next semester – a perfect example of how desperate students were to stay in school.

This happened in June 2003. One of my friends who did Master’s in Electrical Engineering got an interview call from a company for a full time position. That was the time when getting even an interview call was some sort of miracle. That news about interview spread like a wild fire and everyone was talking about it. So many of my friends wanted to see my friends resume to see what was different in his resume that got him this interview call. There was absolutely no job out there during that period.

Getting scared reading this? Or are you thinking that I am exaggerating? I told these incidents to few students who are doing Masters in our school now and they just laughed at it. They couldn’t believe things could go this bad. Many of the readers of my blog are those friends who were with me during peak period of recession and everyone will agree that those were some of the toughest times in their life.

Having written all this, there was definitely light at the end of tunnel. Come Spring 2004 and recession was thing of the past and everyone was getting interview calls, job interview, and assistantships. Those who were strong hearted survived. People no longer joined for a second Masters or a PhD just for the sake of it. A wheel has turned a full circle for most of us.
Bottom line – Things will be tough during a recession. Be prepared to face it however hard that may be. It won’t last for ever and good days will be soon back.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Post. Memories of those days are still vivid.but I think this time the recession will be a short one.

March 10, 2008 2:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our countries are bit such a bar place yo be.

March 10, 2008 3:19 AM  
Blogger scorpiogenius said...

That was the time when USA was the land of opportunities..Now the point on the globe has shifted to India and China

Now 6 digit pay packets/month is not rare even for a fresher from a business school. So time to relocate, perhaps!

March 10, 2008 8:02 PM  
Blogger rakesh Kumar said...

What is the position of job opportunities these days for MS (EE)students !

March 21, 2008 5:22 AM  
Blogger rakesh Kumar said...

What is the position of job opportunities these days for MS (EE)students !

March 21, 2008 5:23 AM  
Anonymous Notebooks said...

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March 21, 2008 7:00 AM  
Blogger Raghu S said...

Job Search for students in itself is huge task. Some students tend to be at right place at right time. But, traditional job search during these hard times will not help. Many companies have hiring freeze. Best way to find a job is by involving in active networking.

March 23, 2008 8:10 PM  
Blogger jain said...

I am from India currently pursuing M.Sc in U.K.Can I apply for F-1 during my course without going back to India.

March 27, 2008 2:39 AM  
Blogger rakesh Kumar said...

Dear Raghu,
if the job search for students is huge task than how a student can stay long and earn money for a NJIT MS (EE)student.
How one can get OPT easily.

April 13, 2008 6:09 AM  
Blogger rakesh Kumar said...

Dear Raghu !

One more thing can you in getting OPT and yes on what terms.Pl let me know!

April 13, 2008 6:12 AM  
Anonymous ramkumvar said...

Article is really helpful and I can envisage the difficulties for H1B holders during recession. I am also about to get H1B via consultant and I might come to US next year. I have good work experience in IT for 4 years till now and I am working on the same domain for all these four years. Any suggestions would be helpful.

July 09, 2008 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the struggle during that period, but I think this time its going to be worse. Unlike that time it was a tech bubble that hurt stock market and only a segment of the economy but now you a housing bubble which is way much bigger. The effects will be slow and long last.

August 05, 2008 5:56 AM  
Blogger Prashant said...

Fantastic article, and very good analysis. I managed to find this blog through google and another blog, and although I am now in Edinburgh (UK) on vacation, I notice you're in Tempe, AZ? Perhaps you went to ASU too? I live and work in Mesa currently, and just found it funny that I ran into a blog by a fellow ASU grad about a situation common to so many of us.

Thanks and best of luck.


November 18, 2008 1:45 AM  
Blogger Brijesh Nair said...

Yes I do graduate from ASU. I was in ASU from 2001 to 2006. I work in Phoenix. Where do you work?

November 18, 2008 2:51 AM  
Blogger Prashant said...

Hey Brijesh,

I work as a Product Engineer for a startup company in Mesa building devices for people with lower body disabilities. I was at ASU (MSEE) from 2004 to 2006!

November 18, 2008 3:27 AM  
Blogger Brijesh Nair said...


Good to know that. i did my PhD in civil engineering and working in a company called Wilson Engineers.

November 18, 2008 3:34 AM  
Blogger Prashant said...

Yes, I should be back in Phoenix after Thanksgiving. I happen to know several Civil Engineers! One of my friends graduated in 2006 from ASU with an MS in Civil (Rama Sabat). I also know several others who work for the City of Casa Grande, CMX, etc.



November 18, 2008 3:43 AM  
Blogger Brijesh Nair said...

I know Ram very well. May be I know you also.

November 18, 2008 6:04 AM  
Blogger Bharath said...

so true... everything you have said right know we are going through that phase.. out of college and looking for a job during recession one of the worst possible scenarios ..

November 21, 2008 10:02 PM  
Blogger bunty said...

Mr. Nair,
I was searching for somethin else and found your blog on Google. Interesting and timely articles for sure! I remember the 1992/1993 recession and I know what it feels like to look for a job in a recessionary time in the US. I had a BS and an MS in EE and had four years of work experience at IBM as a VLSI Engineer but could not find any job. Times change and sometimes we forget the tough times we went through. At that time it felt like I would never find a job in my field ever. It took six months before I started working again and Thank god I switched to the Defense side of the world. I am a Dpty. Product Manager for a major US Army program and I do happen to go to Boeing at Mesa,AZ from time to time to check on some work there therefore your AZ tag caught my attention. Wish I could help some students going through tough times but a citizenship is absolutely required for the defense industry. Good luck to you!

Mr. Jha

January 13, 2009 8:30 PM  
Blogger Kalpit said...

Nice article describing bad times and ways guys coped up with them. I was working in India and lost my job recently.I was planning about grads all time back before. Now i have 4+ years of exp in Java. Having known about US recession and changed H1B rules, wouldn't UK MSc be better choice than US. Sep 2008 or Jan 2009 start of MS would be better for me. More the time out of recession. But since i am without job now i have to search for one / wait for 7 months for Jan 2009.

Please reply
Your comments may change my life.

May 10, 2009 10:38 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

This is right that it is not so easy to get h1b visa. If have any problem regarding visa or any query contact us on

September 11, 2009 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Immigration1 said...

It's nice post and really that day was so hard.

November 12, 2009 6:11 AM  
Anonymous Immigration1 said...

It's nice post and really that day was so hard.

November 12, 2009 6:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Brijesh,

Found some solace in your post. Can so totally relate to it...being in this situation right now. Was googling abt consultants and happened to find your blog....And well another fellow ASU grad here!! :)

Hoping for better times soon.

November 19, 2009 10:34 PM  

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