Career Resources for Undocumented Students
Undocumented students face a special set of challenges in their career journeys. Northwestern Career Advancement is committed to ensuring student success, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. Career Advancement staff are here to help undocumented and DACA students navigate the career planning process.
How to Get Experience
The best way to prepare for life after graduation is to find experiences that will allow you to develop skills you can apply in the workplace. Whether it is a paid or unpaid position, it is important to choose experiences that help you explore your interests and fit with your career goals.
Skill-building experiences may include, but are not limited to, the following activities:
- Shadow alumni in various industries through the NEXT Externship Job Shadowing Program
- Find an alumni career mentor through the Northwestern Network Mentor Program
- NCA’s Summer Internship Grant Program provides grants for an unpaid summer internships
- Learn about fellowship opportunities at Northwestern Office of Fellowships
- Work with the Northwestern Office of Undergraduate Research to find research opportunities
- Find places to volunteer or participate in community organizing, Idealist is a good place to start
- Engage academic projects through your coursework
- Seek part-time positions such a tutoring and non-work study campus jobs
- Participate in Student Groups at Northwestern
Applying for an Internship or Job
Most job applications will ask, “Are you legally authorized to work in the United States?”
If you have DACA, you are able to answer “yes” and continue through the hiring process without disclosing additional information about your background.
- Once hired, employers should not ask you about how you received your work permit. For more information about this process, visit the National Immigration Law Center’s website.
- If you did not apply for a social security number through DACA, read more about obtaining an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
If you do not have DACA, you may consider other avenues for gaining professional experience:
- If you receive an internship offer, you may ask the employer not to be paid and pursue other means of financial support such as Northwestern’s Summer Internship Grant Program.
- You may discuss with an employer the option of working as an independent contractor. Independent contractors often do the same type of work, but instead of working for one employer, might work for multiple clients. Examples of independent contractor jobs include tutor or child care provider. A resource for finding positions in the Evanston/Chicago area is Quadjobs.
- An independent contractor can use an Independent Taxpayer Identification Number which can be obtained regardless of immigration status. Read Life after College: A Guide for Undocumented Students by Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) for more information (pages 29-35).
- If you are interested in starting your own business, a Limited Liability Company (LLC) may be an option to consider. An LLC is composed of an individual or a group of people who are both workers and owners of a business. Read Life after College: A Guide for Undocumented Students by Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) for more information (pages 35-37).
Disclosing Your Status
It can be confusing and stressful to decide when and with whom to share your status. Throughout the job search and hiring process it is important to provide information that is true and authentic, however, you ultimately get to decide whether or not to share your status. Come in to talk with a staff member about strategies for disclosing your status at different points in the process.
You may decide to share your status with an organization early in the hiring process or in an interview if you feel comfortable doing so, and to start a discussion about how to move forward in the process. It is important to consider who you would want to disclose to (sharing with a recruiter vs. a supervisor) and in what manner (disclosing in a personal statement for grad school vs. in an interview). If you are unsure about whether and how to disclose your status, meet with your NCA Career Counselor or Adviser. These are people who can support you during these uncomfortable situations.
Depending on your field, graduate school may be a logical next step after completing your bachelor’s degree. You can meet with an NCA Career Counselor to discuss pursuing graduate master’s or PhD programs and also get assistance with the graduate school application process. For those interested in exploring law and applying to law school are encouraged to meet with NCA’s prelaw adviser. For guidance on applying to medical school, connect with the Health Professions Advising office at Northwestern.
Graduate/Professional School Resources
The Navigating Graduate School: Resource Guide for Undocumented Students details the legal and practical concerns of undocumented students who are contemplating or currently pursuing a graduate school education.
Many graduate schools offer funding to help with the cost of graduate school. Some financial assistance comes in the form of research or teaching assistantships. Some programs also offer scholarships for incoming students. This blog from My (Un)Documented Life has tips on applying to graduate school as an undocumented student.
Also check out the following resources for graduate scholarships:
- Harvard’s Act on a Dream searchable scholarship database
- My (Un)Documented Life’s list of scholarships open to undocumented students
Law School Resources
The DREAM Bar Association (DBA) is a nonprofit legal organization led by undocumented law students and practitioners that provides a network for undocumented immigrants who are interested in pursuing a career in law.
The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) also offers a fee waiver for the LSAT for candidates who are unable to pay for the test. If you have DACA or have applied for DACA you can apply for the fee waiver.
General Career Related Resources for Undocumented and DACA Students
- Immigrants Rising (Formerly known as Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) provides robust resources for undocumented youth and educators in order to empower students to reach their goals. In addition to their Life After College Guide (PDF), they have a number of educational materials for various audiences.
- My (Un) Documented Life – This website provides up-to-date information, resources, and a community for undocumented immigrants, including scholarship opportunities, strategies for navigating the educational system, and information on how to apply for DACA.
- Harvard Act on a Dream – Harvard College Act on a Dream is a student-led, student-run organization at Harvard College dedicated to eradicating the barriers that immigrant students face in realizing their full potential. The website includes student stories, a scholarship database, and additional resources for undocumented students and others looking to learn more.
- DACA-Friendly Employers A list taken from a survey by University of Pennsylvania and University of California. These organizations noted they are interested in hiring DACA student
- National Immigration Law Center - Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is one of the leading organizations in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of immigrants with low income. They provide comprehensive information on DACA and Workplace Rights
- United We Dream- is the largest immigrant youth-led community in the country. We create welcoming spaces for young people – regardless of immigration status – to support, engage, and empower them to make their voice heard and win!
- UndocBlack Network – An online space for black undocumented students.
- Teach For America – Supporting and Creating Safe Spaces for ALL students
- Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights was created in 1986 in response to President Reagan signing into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act, ICIRR has been at the forefront of helping immigrants realize and contribute to the dream that is America.
- Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) is dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.