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Foreigners Take Note – Pros & Cons of Working or Studying in US

Despite the fact it is probably the most despised and criticized nation on Earth, the United States simultaneously has the honor of being by far the most desired nation on the planet to live and work by foreigners.

It is a unique set of lists to top :).

Of course much of the hatred is irrational and a result of brainwashing and mis-information and the general jealousy towards something more powerful. Simultaneously much of the longing of foreigners is also based on mis-information and false beliefs often resulting from notions of a bygone era and unhealthy weight based on the reality hollywood and US entertainment presents about the American lifestyle and experience.

These are some of the realities as I see it of living and working/studying in the United States under current Immigration law.

Major Benefits to Foreign Worker/Student:

  1. Largest Economy in the world means the largest range of options in terms of industry verticals for your career
  2. Is the richest country in the world so the average earning power is higher than anywhere in the world
  3. Has the best universities and university education opportunities in the world for undergraduates and postgraduates
  4. US work experience is looked upon favorably almost univerally if you pursue your career elsewhere
  5. US higher education degrees are valued highly around the globe

Major Negatives to Foreign Worker/Student:

  1. Is an extremely difficult country for a foreigner to obtain employment due to the immigration system in most cases requiring a job offer prior to entering the country (also very difficult to change employers)
  2. Is an extremely costly procedure for companies to sponsor visas and more often pay expensive legal fees
  3. US education costs are the highest in the world and the access to US student loans and/or scholarships is extremely limited
  4. US social programs like social security, healthcare, unemployment benefits, etc. are in almost all circumstances not accessible to the foreign worker or student although the worker must still pay these taxes. (if you do work in the US for 10 years and have been paying into Social Security you can get access to those funds if you leave the country permanently)
  5. Foreign students for the most part are legally not allowed to work while studying except occasionally for on campus work, special permission for other work and the OPT program

You may have noticed I have not talked about like personal freedoms, cost of living, quality of life, access to activities, US travel costs, etc. as this is all relative to an individual’s expectation and to the country or region they may be comparing it too.

Suffice it to say the US obviously has personal freedoms which are as free as the most open nations in the world. With 300 million people of all backgrounds and lots of large cities in different climates, the range of entertainment, leisure and social options are endless and can usually meet most people’s tastes.
While fuel prices in the US are among the cheapest in the world, air travel and car rental are not necessarily as cheap by world standards.
Quality of life very much depends on what you like but if you are used to the social safety nets of Europe then the US is probably not the place to be. If the wonderous beauty of the New Zealand South Island is your love, you can experience nature in many places in the heartland or smaller cities on the coast but US cities are very much megastructures and pollution is obviously a part of that environment.
In general terms the prices of food and energy are cheap as anywhere in the world and the range of cuisines are endless. However the majority of the US food system is an industrial machine and that may not produce a result you desire if you are used to Farm Fresh!
Crime is very much dependent on where you end up but for the most part the US is a much safer place than it was in the 70s and 80s with mega cities like Chicago and New York among the most safe place in the country which is a long way from where they used to be.

In summary judge the United States for what it truly is in relation to working and studying and not the negative hyperbole many in foreign media outlets portry it to be as it really is an abundance of oppertunity and ingenuity unlike anywhere on Earth. However also note that the United States can be an unforgiving place as there is more of a focus on individual responsibilites and freedoms so not as friendly as an immigrant (and even for locals) when you fall on hard times.