Student but No
July 14, 2003
By JongHoon Kim
Kim, residing in Flushing, is an international student. However, he is
working at a restaurant and it’s been a half year since he attended
the school. He stays with a student visa—he got I-20 [an immigration
document that allows foreign students to stay in the country] from
a language program institution
-- but high expenses left him no choice but to work to earn the tuition,
and at last, he couldn’t manage to continue to study.
Last year, he transferred through a broker to the school that issues I-20
without a class-attending requirement. He explained, “I plan to stay in the U.S.
longer. Thus, I have to change schools to avoid illegal stay. For now, I’m
just concentrating on working.”
Students from Korea in the United States are reaching 50,000. Most of them
are enrolled in schools and attend classes, but the others, estimated to
be thousands nationwide, do not attend any school. This comes to be an issue
the Bush administration’s strict and complex policy on foreign visitors.
Recently, there are cases in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago of brokers
who issued I-20s illegally and disappeared. The Harvard Immigration Project
(HIP) reported that some private broker offices and language institutes in
the U.S. are paid for issuing foreign students the I-20.
HIP pointed out that the I-20 is a kind of “ticket” to foreigners
who wish to study in the U.S., and these private offices became the place to
sell those tickets—visa sellers. In other words, they are paid with tuition
and other expenses and issue I-20s in turn.
The report mentioned the case from a Korean web page, which guarantees a
student visa for $10,000, and then gets the foreign students illegal visas.
These students in illegal status want to remain in the U.S. regardless of
their study. One survey held in Korea asked students who study in the U.S.
out that 7 out of 10 are planning to seek work after their study rather than
to go back to Korea. It is not easy to find a job in Korea, and despite though
working for petty jobs, they want to stay in the U.S., hoping for a better
Most of these illegal students follow these two categories; First are those
who came to the U.S. as visitors and changed status to stay longer, and the
others, those who came here as students, but could not maintain or afford
to study, and work rather than study.
Yoon, who has been teaching Korean students for years, said, “Not only
financial problems, but also mannerism is the reason why they give up the study.
It is questionable whether they can maintain their status after the immigration
policy got stricter.”
Until last year, those who got permits from the government to issue I-20
were around 73,000. Other than 4,000 colleges, 6,000 job training schools,
middle and high schools, the rest of them were private institutions. With
the new policy, many of them will no longer be able to issue I-20 and 40%
are doomed to be illegalized, thus, illegal students would have little to
Attorney Nam, specializing in immigration law, mentioned, “Many of Korean
students are not prepared for the new immigration policy on international students.
It is wise to transfer to other schools if you are enrolled in unauthorized
institution before August, when the enforcement will put into effect.”
However, it is not easy for students who have been long out of school to
go back to class. Kim expressed the difficulty of studying again once he
his path. “I hope to go back to school sometime, but for now, maintaining
legal status is my biggest concern.”
Translated from Korean by JooYeon Lee
to The Citizen Page