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Trying to cut through the red tape

Sharon Nir, MBA’14, hopes her new book can help open the door to immigration reform and allow talented international students to secure employment in the United States upon graduation.

Having attended a globally renowned university with an international student enrollment that has increased 353 percent since 2006, Sharon Nir finds herself in a state of suspended animation.

“Many Americans don’t understand what it’s like to be an immigrant,” said Nir, who received her online Master of Business Administration in 2014. “You especially don’t hear much about the immigrant who is professionally qualified and fully able to work but can’t.”

Nir entered the United States from Israel on an F visa, a non-immigrant student visa that allows foreigners to pursue education in the U.S. However, upon the completion of studies, the student must depart the country within 60 days. Students can petition to take part in an Optional Practical Training program to extend their stay, but that program lasts only 12 months and students must depart thereafter.

Many of the current immigration restrictions were instituted in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and Nir fully understands the need for such regulations. However, each year she notes that thousands of graduates return to countries where their talents can’t be utilized.

“YOU ESPECIALLY DON’T HEAR MUCH ABOUT THE IMMIGRANT WHO IS PROFESSIONALLY QUALIFIED AND FULLY ABLE TO WORK BUT CAN’T. ”
– SHARON NIR, MBA’14

She writes about many of her own struggles in “The Opposite of Comfortable: The Unlikely Choices of an Immigrant Career Woman”, a book published in May by Viki Press. Nir, her husband, an organ transplant surgeon, and their two children live in New Mexico. Because her husband performs highly specialized surgeries in an underserved area of the country, he was eligible for an OS-1 visa, which allows “individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics” to remain in the country. Nir, however, is ineligible to work.

“There are a great many opportunities in the United States and I’d love to be able to contribute to the American economy,” Nir writes in her book. “I could have been a perfect fit for so many companies.”
Instead, she continues to pursue her newfound passion: writing. She blogs about immigration on the Huffington Post website and is currently working on her second book.

“I really hope this book accomplishes two things,” Nir said. “One, that it encourages people to follow their dreams. Do not hesitate; you can succeed. And, two, I hope it promotes immigration reform. We are an ‘immigration nation’ that incorporates diversity and great ideas from so many different people from so many different nations. That’s what makes America great.”

Nir said her Northeastern experience – one completed entirely remotely – was fantastic.

“It was an incredible experience with so many positives,” she said. “[The online MBA program] is such a challenging and demanding way to learn, but the professors were amazing and I feel like I learned so much.

“Education is the motor that drives success and I feel Northeastern provided me with an excellent opportunity to succeed. Now I hope one day I’ll be able to put that degree to work in the United States.”

Click here to read more Alumni stories.

published July 2016