His English is flawless, his resume is in order and, because he is Puerto Rican, his citizenship is American.

Attorney Nicolas Rivera, 30, is more fortunate than many of the 330 job seekers who last Saturday took part in the second Hispanic Job Fair sponsored by the Spanish Speaking Community of Maryland Inc., a nonprofit social service organization.

Fifty exhibitors participated in the fair at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring. Many of them, including government agencies, local corporations and utility companies, sent bilingual representatives to recruit clerks, engineers and management trainees from Maryland's growing Hispanic community.

Yet federal recruiters from the Defense Mapping Agency, the FBI and the General Accounting Office lamented that their jobs call for U.S. citizens, eliminating many recently arrived Hispanic residents.

"It's unfortunate, but you can't even be a secretary for us unless you're a citizen," GAO staffing specialist Cindy Gilbride said.

Salvador Sortiz, a Texas-born Mexican-American who recruits for the Defense Mapping Agency, said the employment barriers that noncitizens face are "beyond comprehension," particularly in a part of the country where the largest employer is the federal government.

The Montgomery County Police Department, where only four Hispanics are among the 800 officers, also has trouble finding Hispanics who meet its requirements.

"The department needs more bilingual officers since we have a lot of people in the community who only speak Spanish," patrolman Edgar Moreno said.

"But it's hard to find people. You need two years of college, you have to be a U.S. citizen, there are a lot of physical requirements, and these things keep a lot of people off the force," Moreno said.

Immigration status is just one of many factors that make the local Hispanic unemployment rate twice that of the population at large, employment counselors and county officials say.

The U.S. Labor Department estimates Hispanic unemployment to be 16.2 percent nationwide. And the Spanish Speaking Community organization's own studies reflect comparable figures for the Maryland suburbs.

"Judging by the people we see for counseling, I'd say the problem is spreading," job fair coordinator Edgar Mantilla said.

"A year ago, we were seeing primarily Cuban and Central American refugees looking for jobs as day laborers and domestics. But now we're seeing professionals, college graduates, longtime residents of the county," he said.

Federal reductions in force, cultural barriers and a growing minority labor pool have further aggravated Hispanic unemployment, according to Ileana Herrell, the Montgomery County Hispanic affairs adviser, who attended the fair along with County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist.

"Times are hard for Hispanics, for women, for all minorities in the work force," Herrell said. "For example, we have many women who could qualify for nontraditional types of employment, such as construction. But because of their culture, which does not approve of women working in construction, they will not apply for these jobs."

Herrell also noted the recent influx of Puerto Ricans to the area, many of whom are leaving home because of its high unemployment rate.

Saturday's fair drew representatives of all sectors of Maryland's highly diverse Hispanic community, ranging from the highly educated to the unskilled and from the multilingual to the illiterate.

One Salvadoran bricklayer said he was pleased with the showing of construction companies but had difficulty filling out job applications and worried that his illegal alien status would close him out of most jobs.

Juan Lopez, a Peruvian-trained aircraft maintenance engineer, said he would have liked to apply for a job with NASA but could not because he is not a citizen. Lopez, 28, works as a truck loader for Canada Dry in Silver Spring.

"This area is a lot different from where I come from," said George Rodriguez, who was raised in New Mexico and works as an Equal Employment Opportunity manager for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. "In the Southwest, the Hispanic community is made up of a lot of Mexican-Americans who were born in this country or have lived here for 30 or 40 years."

"Here in Maryland, many Hispanics have only lived here about three years. They have problems with the language, with immigration status, many of them have credentials but from other countries. These things cripple them when they go out into the work force," Rodriguez said.

Most of the job applicants, although uncertain about whether they will be employed as a result of the fair, said they enjoyed the chance to make contacts and distribute resumes.

"You know, a lot of people, even with jobs, feel lost in the job market, and they waste their abilities," said Blanca Bellenghi, a Peruvian lawyer who works in her country's embassy. "This type of activity allows them to meet people, to take advantage of the opportunities this country has to offer."