Where MBAs Are Most Likely To Get An H1B Visa

In 1931, author and historian James Truslow Adams coined a novel philosophy. In his book, The Epic of America, Adams said regardless of socioeconomic status or background, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” He called it the American Dream. One of the largest barriers for very able outsiders to achieve that American dream is the H-1B visa lottery.

The process can be convoluted, limiting, and frustrating. Over the past year, Transparent Career (formally TransparentMBA) has been collecting data on MBAs seeking H-1B visas. Of the more than 13,000 registered users, about 14% have indicated they received H-1B visa sponsorship. Not surprisingly, no other industry sponsored more H-1b visas than technology, which took up 28.3% of the population. Tech was followed by consulting at 20.7%. Both industries eclipsed the next highest industry — manufacturing at 5.6%.

“Transparent’s data looks entirely consistent with what we have seen and known to be true, specifically at Duke Fuqua over the past few years anecdotally, as well as talking with our other business school counterparts,” says Sheryle Dirks, the associate dean of career management at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. “Absolutely tech and consulting are the biggest industries.”


Indeed, two major tech firms seem to be driving recent hiring and H-1B sponsorship. Amazon and Microsoft were at the top of a list of 138 companies to sponsor H-1B visas reported from Transparent Career exclusively to Poets&Quants. Amazon led the way hiring 18 Transparent Career users, followed by Microsoft at 13. Deloitte was the only other employer to sponsor a double digit total at 10.

While those numbers might seem low, consider only 85,000 new visas are granted each year. Dirks calls the H-1B visa lottery a “fragmented” market. “The vast majority of companies are sponsoring one or two MBAs at a time as opposed to sponsoring in the tens or hundreds,” she points out.

Instead, the data in the aggregate points to at least a few trends. Besides tech and consulting driving the vast majority of hiring, it is also pushing international MBAs to the coasts. While New York City and Chicago claim the highest amounts of H-1B visa-sponsored MBAs, Seattle, San Francisco, and San Jose have a relatively high percentage of sponsored MBAs, says Kevin Marvinac, co-founder and chief operating officer of Transparent Career. “That’s definitely due to Amazon and Microsoft,” Marvinac maintains.

More recently graduated international MBAs are finding luck in the H-1B lottery in tech and consulting than any other industries. Graphic from Transparent Career


Kevin Marvinac of Transparent Career says the tech boom of MBA hiring has pushed international MBAs to the West Coast. Graphic provided by Transparent Career

The data points to a continued surge in MBA hiring by tech firms–as well as tech’s dependence on international talent.

“I do think the surge of tech and MBA hiring over the past three to five years has made that (H-1B sponsorship) more possible for students at Duke as well as other top MBA programs,” Dirks explains. “You are talking about a major industry that has grown in it’s hiring of MBAs and which happens to be pretty open to the idea of sponsoring H-1Bs.”

According to Rahul Choudaha, the principle researcher and CEO of DrEducation, a U.S.-based global higher education research and consulting firm, tech and consulting hire more international graduates for at least two reasons. First, Choudaha says, there is a larger talent gap compared to roles in sales, marketing, and human resources. Second, tech and consulting firms seem to be especially global in nature.

“Many of these organizations are truly global in their operations,” Choudaha tells Poets&Quants, noting Transparent Career’s data “very much aligns” with what he’d expect from elite MBA hiring. “And having the talent,” he continues, “which not only brings the skill set to accomplish the job, but also brings the global mindset and diversity perspective is a plus.”

Those two factors tend to make international students especially attractive to global employers, Choudaha says.

  • IronicGuy

    1) It is so ironic that during the MBA applications, internationals convince schools that they are studs and are going to change the world but in fact they do not even manage to stay in the US if they do not get through the lottery.
    2) I see how school alums fight on these forums claiming their supremacy and leadership but if they are so great why cant they correct the H1B abuse issue which is well know for years.

  • elizabeth Moon

    how do you define “top Schools” ?

  • John

    The companies should also step up their game and apply for green cards for their hires right away instead of playing the 30% H1B game.

  • C. Taylor

    Presenting the data as a proportion of hires in the industry would make more sense.

    Hypothetical example: ‘15% of tech hires were international students.’

    Goldman Sachs hires fewer people than Amazon does, so the current presentation, while potentially accurate, may tend to misinform.

  • offtojog

    John, Hiranya. Yes, its possible that the overhaul may work out to the favor of prospective MBA students. But if you were a foreign national planning to get an MBA in the next year, should you come to the U.S. based on the possibility that a president that half the people in the U.S. seem to dislike, some already calling for impeachment, will change H1B regulations for the better for the average MBA graduate and will be in office long enough and will manage to get U.S. politicians to pass those laws so that the change will take place when you will need it (i.e. in the next 2-3 years)?

    The risks are just too high for foreign MBAs unless they are applying to the top 5 U.S. programs.

  • Sheryle Dirks

    Hi Nathan and DACochran, this is Sheryle from Duke who spoke to Nathan for the article. The data from TransparentCareer is consistent with what we see for Duke MBAs and what I hear from colleagues at other business schools. Fuqua tracks which companies hire international students for positions in the US, and our data here tells a very similar story – consulting and tech are the two most common industries for our international students to enter, with financial services a pretty close and consistent third. That’s not exactly the same as the Transparent data on MBA H1Bs, but we don’t have a high percentage overall of students going into some of the other industries cited, so it’s consistent in a way that reflects the overall footprint of Duke employment.

    How I would advise a current or prospective student to look at the Transparent data is as a representative sample and meaningful and relevant in that way, especially given that they draw users from across MBA programs and are rapidly growing their user base. Hope that helps to provide some additional context.

  • I agree it’s thin. But it’s more than anything else out there (so far) for this specific population and valuable. I’d be willing to bet most people observing this space (like Dirks and Choudaha) would agree this data is akin to what they see. We wouldn’t report it if we didn’t see it as meaningful and valuable. Remember, Transparent Career is only about a year old. As that platform grows, the data will become more robust and valid.

  • Hiranya Fernando

    Finally Thank you John. Someone actually needs to write an article explaining this. We @Careerly explain all this to our students and university partners.. but people tend to be immediately assume that the current H1-B overhaul(perhaps because the 3 major bills introduced were around the same time as the travel ban) means something bad.. when in fact I think the whole point is to stop this abuse by outsourcing firms and get more of the visas to the”high-skill” category- both students and other foreign talent. It is quite possible they even have separate provisions for students at top schools. All the bills are scrapping the lottery and caps.. any may provide a path from H1-B to green card. It’s still too early to tell how things will shake out and what will become law, but to me it seems very much like a step in the right direction, at least for high-skill students.

  • DACochran

    I’m an engineer turned consultant so there’s no such thing as too much data! I really appreciate what y’all do and certainly agree with your conclusions that tech and consulting are the best places for MBA grads who require sponsorship. I was just curious because I’ve seen some really small sample sizes in your data before (even in this case, I suspect that .4% is 1 person and the .7% is 2 which makes it tough to extrapolate across that entire company).

    I think you are absolutely headed in the right direction and doing great work but it’s hard for me to put 100% faith in your data at this time. Keep up the great work and no doubt my skepticism will be removed shortly.

  • Hi DACochran, all of this data is from Transparent Career, and yes, this is all data from recently graduated MBAs. Kevin or Mitch from Transparent might be able to hop on here and weigh in more on potential biases showing up. I doubt Transparent Career being a startup itself would tilt this data in anyway.

    I think what could bias the data to one industry or another is that 18% of the data is made up of Chicago Booth grads (more than any other school). So if higher amounts of Booth grads have recently gone to tech firms, it could weight tech heavier. But even that’s a stretch because it’s unclear from their job report how many international students went to each industry or company.

    Also, Chicago Booth actually placed 35 students at McKinsey in 2016, 44 in 2015, and 40 in 2014 (McKinsey hired more Booth grads than any company each of those years), so by that logic, McKinsey and consulting would actually be weighted heavier.

    At Kellogg (the next most-represented school in this data at 11%), it’s the same. In 2016, McKinsey hired 43 MBAs from Kellogg — higher than any other firm across all sectors. In 2015, it was 34 (also highest). And in 2014, it was 29 (again, higher than any other employer).

    Obviously this isn’t an apples to apples comparison or direct correlation and there are a ton of factors going into who self-reported, but looking at just general population, more students from the two most-represented schools in this data went to consulting, and more specifically, McKinsey. And tech and Amazon were still at the top of this data.

    This is probably way more detail than you were looking for and maybe doesn’t fully answer your questions, but I think most people with knowledge of MBA hiring and international students would say both tech and consulting are good bets for companies willing to sponsor an H-1B, with tech edging consulting.

  • DACochran

    Nathan, where do y’all get the data? Is it MBA students who sign up? I ask because I can imagine that students going into tech would be more interested in signing up with a tech/data startup, potentially biasing your results a bit.

  • We’ve been hearing this could be (or already is) the case and will be looking into it further.

  • UBI

    Applications at top tier US programs are going to take a major hit next year with all the immigration scandals happening.

    Besides HWS always being attractive, I imagine that a lot of applicants will be passing on schools like CBS or Ross when attending can’t guarantee you a good job anymore post graduation due to the lack of H1B availability.

    Schools like INSEAD, etc should get a huge influx of applications to fill the gap.

  • If you want to see who is getting the most H1B visas, we wrote about this in our series on this issue not all that long ago. Here’s what it looks like:


  • avivalasvegas

    John is right about the outsourcing companies. Take a look at the number of companies from India (TCS, Infosys, Wipro, Tech Mahindra etc.) that apply for and receive H1B Visas because the current system doesn’t discriminate by applicant. There are a few ways to level the playing field:

    1) Cap the max number of Visa applications to 2000 per company (and all its affiliates) per annum.

    2) Introduce a minimum salary requirement of USD 60,000/- for eligibility with exceptions made for high demand professions and artistic talent, similar to the UK.

    3) An automatic H1B (cap exempt) to any student graduate who has spent a minimum of 5 years in the US education system. This should cover PHD students as well as student who invest in a 4 year Undergrad AS WELL AS a Masters degree.

    This will minimize abuse while preventing unfair discrimination towards any nationality.

  • JohnAByrne

    It’s actually possible that the system could become fairer than it currently is. I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions based on the hyperbolic statements from Trump. Right now, the H-1b visa system is badly abused by outsourcing companies that get a disproportionate share of these visas, crowding out people who have gotten graduate degrees at U.S. schools. What if the program were changed to provide these visas to graduates based on merit? Such reform could greatly help graduates of U.S. schools who clearly have advanced skills to offer companies based in the U.S. There is too much uncertainty at this point to overreact.

  • Actually, this article does list the amount of applicants for the most recent round of 85,000 H-1B visas granted (2016). It also lists 2014 numbers to show the substantial increase in applicants even though the cap hasn’t increased. It also mentions multiple times the Trump administration has announced they will review H-1B visas as part of their immigration reform. I’m not sure what else you’re looking for. If international consulting hires have indeed cooled, that could be another reason why tech has higher percentages in this data set.

  • Edub

    What’s the point of discussing H-1b when it is under severe attack from the Trump administration. In a year or so, none of the info above would apply. This article also failed to recognize the fact that H-1b applicants need to go through a increasingly difficult lottery process, which, annually only allow around 30% of applicants to receive a visa sponsored by employers. The lottery process is discouraging employers to hire international candidates. Why would any company in the right mind hire a bunch of talented people just to find out around 70% of them will need to be shipped overseas within 12 month? I am a H1 holder and work for a large non-MBB consulting firm, and can attest to the fact that international hires have cooled down significantly in the past 2 years.

  • I would also argue that things have changed since 2011 in terms of the surge in tech hiring. Pretty much every elite B-school has seen an increase in their graduates going to tech in 2016 compared to 2011. That doesn’t mean consulting still isn’t a good path to an H-1B sponsorship. Tech has just surged and tech values international talent as seen in this data, GMAC recruiter data, and the massive letter to President Trump calling him to reconsider the immigration ban and reform.

  • John’s right, this is not at all representation of the entire MBA population. It’s a representation of Transparent Career users who have decided to disclose their H-1B visa information. Most schools don’t track this sort of data. Still, it’s a good subset of trends and everyone I spoke with while reporting said it’s very similar to what they see.

  • Thanks for that intel. Obviously, the data is based on a sample and is not fully representative of the entire MBA population. So this helps a great deal.

  • ak1392000

    I’m sorry but it’s a little hard to credit the self-reported data here. Unless things have drastically changed since I graduated from b-school in 2011, management consulting would always be a major path towards securing an H-1B.

    It’s a little hard to credit McKinsey only sponsored 8 H-1B visas. When I was in McKinsey’s Houston office – we had 5 H-1B holders in an incoming class of 20 folks or about 25% international hires. Houston tended to skew a little high for international hires vs. other offices, so let’s use a rate of 5%.

    If we assume about 300 MBA hires by McKinsey for US positions in a year (out of a total of roughly 2,000 total hires worldwide) – that would indicate at least 15 international hires. (And I suspect that this is under-reporting.)