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Physics Astronomy and Physics careers for non-U.S. citizens

  1. May 29, 2008 #1
    Hey everyone,

    Does anyone know what limitations non-U.S. citizens face when applying for non-academic jobs in physics, astrophysics, and astronomy?

    Can we still work in government positions, NASA, the Department of Defense and the defense industry, or national labs? Is funding limited for us?

  2. jcsd
  3. May 30, 2008 #2
    Can I enquire why you are concerned about finding a job in the US? There are lots of other places in the world to work.

    If you are a permanent resident or have a visa that lets you work, finding a job is pretty easy. If not, the difficulties of finding a job in US depend quite a bit on the company you're applying to work for, on your skills and on your citizenship. (Canadian citizens have it pretty easy for the most part.) If the business is a large multinational it's much easier to hire foreigners because there is a system in place within the company to set people up with visas.

    The only time not having citizenship becomes a problem is when you want to work in a "sensitive" area, such as defense. (And maybe first you should ask yourself if working on weapons for the US is really something you find ethical.) The national labs usually require extra security clearance, although these hoops are jumpable. And national labs often employ foreign postdocs.
  4. May 30, 2008 #3
    For the most part, a non-citizen cannot hold a U.S. government position. My advisor had to become a U.S. citizen before becoming a civil servant for NASA. This website may help you: http://www.usajobs.gov/EI9.asp.
  5. May 30, 2008 #4


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    Note that a non-US citizen can work in many areas of physics. However, the path is a bit more tedious than a US citizen.

    Most postdoctoral positions do not require US resident or citizen status. Most non-US citizen postdocs are on H1-B1 visas. However, there are employers that cannot hire you if you are not a US Citizen or a permanent resident. Dept. of Defense is certainly one of them. DoD projects even at a US Nat'l Lab may also have such restrictions.

    Now, if you are ever offered a career position, either at a Nat'l Lab or anywhere else, your employer may apply for a US Permanent Resident status on your behalf. See the USCIS webpage on various ways on getting such permanent resident status. A permanent resident is allowed to seek jobs in the US without any restrictions, unless that position requires a citizenship. So again, anything DoD-related or directly involved in US Govt. may be off-limits.

  6. May 31, 2008 #5
    I like being in a culture similar to my own so that I don't have to cope with the stresses of learning a new language, way of life, and cultural practices and values.

    The only advantage Canadians have compared to other internationals is that:
    1.) they do not have to interview for a visa, they can apply for work permits and student/visitor statuses at the border (provided that they've filled out all the paper work).
    2.) Temporary positions are easy to get through an annually-renewed work permit arranged through NAFTA. I assume that this makes applying for a post-doc position a piece of cake compared to other internationals that have to apply for "H1-B" work visas.

    I don't plan on applying for permanent residency in the foreseeable future but I would like to know the options in working in the U.S. after I finish my degree.
  7. Jun 1, 2008 #6
    With the DOD, you may have problems even if you are a Naturalized US Citizen if the country you are from is considered "unfriendly". This includes countries such as Ecuador. I had a friend from Ecuador who recently lost his clearance because Ecuador is considered "unfriendly".
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