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12 May 2023

Written by: Penelope De Roys

A 12 Year Old Can Work, but I Can't?

Why is the process of employing a 12-year-old easier than a non-U.S. citizen? A question that might come as a shock to most, including myself, making the accuracy of such information especially outrageous. In some U.S. states, such as Colorado, minors are permitted to work up to 54 hours a week, and children as young as 12 are allowed to work in the agricultural industry as if it were acceptable. Louisiana, among many others, doesn't even regulate the employment of minors in the agricultural industry, allowing those children to work with no restrictions on hours or hazardous occupations. Unfortunately, employment violations are all too common in numerous states, and in several industries like the meatpacking industry or the landscaping business, where young minors are easily put to work, especially in the agricultural and entertainment sectors. 

As an international student, I have found that for non-US citizens, the phrase “easily put to work” could not be further from the truth. While visas, green cards, and citizenship applications are long, unreliable, and nerve-racking, having a visa doesn’t automatically make finding work straightforward either. Even with experience and dozens of documents, many employers are unwilling to take on the responsibility and additional compliance concerns associated with hiring foreign students. International students must first acquire an internship background to build up their resume only to be considered for a work authorization. During my school’s career fair, only 3 out of 140 organizations promoted work authorization. Although we are discussing two entirely different fields of work, the process of employing young minors should not be as easy and the process of employing experienced foreign students should not be as hard. Both employment processes need to change, even though they exist on opposite sides of the spectrum in various ways.

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