International Student Rights

“As an international graduate worker, there was a ton to figure out, from American taxes, to housing policies, to transportation (as a Canadian, I can handle the winters). But scariest of all is navigating the American health care system!” reported Megan, a graduate employee in the humanities.

International graduate students make up a growing percentage of the graduate community at Georgetown. For many of us, this is our first time living in the United States. We are less familiar with our legal rights as immigrants, as students, and as workers.

GAGE is committed to addressing the needs unique to international graduate students and to ensure their representation in contract negotiations with the university. We want all graduate student-employees to feel welcome, appreciated, and protected within the legal and social community at Georgetown. If you are an international student at Georgetown, we welcome you to join GAGE.

Your Rights as an International Student-Worker

As an international student-worker, you have the right to join GAGE. All graduate workers, regardless of immigration statue, have the federally-protected rights to engage in activity with their co-workers concerning their working conditions and form a union. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against any student employees for exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

International students have the same right to free speech as U.S. citizens. The U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment, applies to everyone within US borders, regardless of citizenship status.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) cannot ask you questions about your union membership or participation in lawful union activity. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recognized the importance of enforcing labor laws and signed an agreement with the Department of Labor (DOL) that states it is essential to ensure proper wages and working conditions for all covered workers regardless of immigration status. It is your right to belong to a union and being a union member cannot affect your visa application.

Finally, Georgetown University has adopted the Just Employment Policy, which calls for respecting workers unions and union members.

How GAGE Helps You as an International Student

A union gives international students a platform to collectively address common concerns such as clarity in departmental hiring processes and job opportunities. Most importantly, a union allows student workers to unite for improved pay, benefits, and other terms on conditions of employment and join a nationwide movement of higher education employees uniting to improve higher education.

Through our union, GAGE, we can negotiate for higher stipends and hourly wages. Because student visas typically limit the number of hours that students can work, achieving higher stipends that keep pace with the cost of living is of particular importance for international students. With a union, we can also negotiate our fees. For example, at the University of Oregon, Article 23 Section 6 provides SEVIS fee reimbursement for all international students, saving individuals around $200.

GAGE seeks to provide crucial support to their international worker members: access to immigration lawyers for job application and visa process, and expedited grievance and arbitration systems. GAGE will also work to stand up for international student-worker rights at the national scale, especially as the United States government proposes changes to the visa application process and immigrant eligibility for benefits. Join GAGE to help us defend and improve the international graduate student-worker community.