Still A Slog For MBAs Who Need Visas

Jobs-WantedIf you’re an international student studying for an MBA at a U.S. business school, the odds of landing a job in the U.S. when you graduate are definitely against you. Some 53% of responding companies to a new survey of corporate recruiters by the Graduate Management Admission Council say they will not hire candidates requiring visas this year. Little more than one in five expect to hire graduates with visas.

At a time when nearly every major U.S. business school has been increasing the proportion of international students in their classes, that’s a difficult proposition for many non-U.S. MBA graduates who want to stay in the country after graduation. GMAC says that fully 87% of international students who study at U.S. business schools ultimately seek employment in the U.S. But due to immigration restrictions, legal paperwork and financial constraints, it’s not always possible to land a U.S. job unless an employer is willing to sponsor the graduate.

Of the companies planning to hire business graduates in 2014, only 21% told GMAC the have specific plans to employ students that require legal documentation, such as a visa or work permit. An additional 35% of employers say they are willing to hire such candidates but do not have specific plans to do so. The vast majority of corporate recruiters don’t think it’s worth all the paperwork and hassle to bring aboard an international student.


The numbers in the report may overstate the problem because the survey includes companies that hire only a handful of MBAs in a year. Many of the big, mainstream employers of MBA graduates, ranging from McKinsey, Bain and Boston Consulting Group to Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Google and Amazon, are far more likely to hire international graduates of the highly ranked business schools. Those firms each hire hundreds of MBAs every year and have the resources to do the necessary paperwork to bring such candidates aboard.

At Stanford’s Graduate School of Business last year, for example, job offers at graduation for MBAs requiring work visas were even higher than they were for U.S. citizens and permanent residents, 82% vs. 75%. Three months after graduation, they pretty much evened out with 95% of Stanford grads with permanent work authorization getting offers and 94% of grad with non-permanent work authorization having at least one job offer.

It was a similar story at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Last year, 87% of the international MBAs had job offers at graduation and 94.7% had job offers three months later. That was roughly equal to the success of the MBAs who were either U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Some 86% of them had job offers at graduation and 93.2% three months later.

How many of the international graduates at both Stanford and Booth stayed in the U.S. as opposed to returning to their home countries for employment is not known.


The data on overall employment comes from the annual Corporate Recruiters Survey, released today (May 18), of 565 employers from 44 countries conducted in February and March by GMAC. The organization that administers the GMAT test said that the outlook in other regions of the world for international students differs from the U.S. The proportion of U.S.-based employers that plan to hire graduates requiring visas in 2014 “matches or exceeds” those of their European and Asia-Pacific counterparts. “On the other hand,” the report said, “the percentage of U.S. companies stating that they will not employ such candidates vastly exceeds the share of Asia-Pacific or European companies unwilling to do so (see comparison chart below).”

Compared to the 53% of U.S. companies that essentially say “no way,” only 31% of the responding companies in Europe say they will not hire candidates who require visas. In Asia-Pacific, 33% won’t employ graduates who require legal documentation.

GMAC also found that company size is a determining factor when examining what types of companies are most likely to hire graduates requiring visas. Not surprisingly, this year’s survey findings show that smaller firms are less likely than larger firms to hire candidates requiring visas, which GMAC said was a finding consistent with past research. Only 10% of companies with fewer than 100 employees plan to hire such candidates, versus 29% of companies with 1,000 to 10,000 employees. Smaller firms tend to have fewer resources to deal with the paperwork required to employ international graduates.

More Than Half Of U.S. Firms Will Not Hire International Graduates For Jobs In The U.S.

Source: 2014 Corporate Recruiters Survey by GMAC

Source: 2014 Corporate Recruiters Survey by GMAC


  • JohnAByrne

    Thanks for weighing in with very thoughtful comments. I’m sure our readers will find your perspective really helpful.

  • Baccardisprite

    Interesting & insightful.

    Graduated a European MBA and now work in Europe for a Fortune 50 American Corp; one those who absolutely refuses to sponsor work-permits for US MBA graduates. My company applied for and secured a work permit for me to work in my location.

    What doesn’t help in the US is that International MBAs have only a 12 month period when they can work in the US free of sponsorship…. this is the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) allowing Internships and the Optional Practical Training (OPT); time for both together capped at 12 months. Not to mention, the H1-B, which is the standard work-permit visa that MBAs need to target, are capped at 85,000 (?) across all types of jobs for which H1-Bs are applied for. Out of this, 20,000 is reserved for Masters Degree Graduates, including MBAs….

    Companies potentially willing to go through the work-permit application come up against the lack of time, lack of enough visas, and the hassle & cost of having to go through a lottery to get an H1-B approved. This is the key driver of the general unwillingness to sponsor work visas. Consultants & Banks do so, because not only do they need the talent, but the industry, therefore the talent is globally more mobile than a standard “US Marketing Manager” role in a US Industrial / CPG company. Needless to say, international MBAs prefer to apply to Consulting firms and Banks, even if they sometimes lack the passion for these 2 functions!!!

    If a US career is what one wants, outside of Consulting & Banking; one way (not easy) is to twin the MBA with an education that falls under the US STEM program. Graduates of a US based program get 17 months over & above the 12 months CPT+OPT period!! A Masters in Ops Research / Industrial Engineering / Mathematics / Statistics / Supply Chain Engg or Management / Manufacturing / Engineering Management – would qualify under the STEM program. So…. Score 1 to MIT’s LGO / SCM; Kellogg’s MBA/MMM; A Stanford MBA can reasonably take credits to get a Masters in Management Science!

    Until the H1-B cap is lifted OR MBAs are allowed slightly easier access to the job market like through the STEM…. this challenge is likely to persist.


  • bwanamia

    This is no consolation for American-born grads of HSW.