By RIMA AL-MUKHTAR & ROB L. WAGNER
13 August 2013
Saudi university students studying in the United States say an offer of a residency permit from the Obama administration would increase employment opportunities for young Saudis and even provide leverage as a means to find work in the US.
The US government is particularly interested in students with a master’s degree or Ph.D in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — called STEM degree programs — because of their potential to contribute to the American economy.
Israa Saleh, a Saudi MBA student in Boston said the idea of working in the United States is appealing because of the lack of jobs in Saudi Arabia.
“This would be a great opportunity for Saudis who do not find good job opportunities in the Kingdom because many graduates cannot find a job offer and the ones who do are underpaid,” Saleh told Arab News. “If we stay here and work here I believe it will give us a great working experience and develop our knowledge.”
Khalid Jan, a Saudi banking and finance student in Tampa, Florida, told Arab News that obtaining a green card can help eliminate the stereotyping of Saudis by Americans.
“We have been called many names but no one actually made an effort to know us better outside the school campus,” Jan said. “This will also show that Saudis can be good at what they do especially in jobs related to the economy.”
The US Department of Homeland Security, long the source of irritation for Saudis traveling to the United States because the department is often perceived as unnecessarily intrusive, has expanded its list of degree programs. The list broadens the pool of eligible graduating foreign university students for the US government’s Optional Practical Training program in science and technology fields.
Among the perks of the program is allowing qualified student visa holders an extra 17 months to remain in the United States.
Talal Mujeeb, an engineering student in Phoenix, Arizona, said the program should send a signal Saudi businessmen who refuse to hire Saudis.
“We are glad this came now because this can help us as students from having to apply for a visa and not be afraid to leave the US fearing a rejection,” Mujeeb said. “This is also a way to teach greedy businessmen who refuse to see us as a great investment and would rather invest in foreigners.”
However, some Saudi students are not ready to accept the US government’s offer.
Lama Al-Amri, a psychology major in Miami, said Saudis remaining in the United States defeats the purpose of the university scholarship program. “Why would someone even consider living in the US when we are all here for a mission and will be leaving?” she said.
She said the Ministry of Higher Education sent Saudis abroad to improve the job and social skills of the next generation of young people
“We are supposed to bring our knowledge back home and work on improving the economy and work on developing the life there.”