“Some companies decide not to even consider international candidates because they may not be in a position to sponsor a visa for the person. For instance, job postings will explicitly say, ‘permanent work authorization required’ to let you know that you need not apply if you need a sponsor.”
Mendonca is somewhat sympathetic about companies’ hesitancy to take on the risks associated with sponsoring a job applicant. Students who are searching for jobs are unable to apply for the visa themselves, therefore companies that want to hire them would be required to “sponsor” them, which means petitioning the government to grant the job candidate entry into the U.S. for purposes of employment. The efforts and legal work necessary to sponsor a candidate can be a deterrent for companies, especially given the risk for a petition to be denied.
TECH COMPANIES ‘MORE FRIENDLY TOWARD INTERNATIONAL CANDIDATES’
“In my experience, it’s mostly tech companies that tend to have a history of working with immigrants, so they tend to be more friendly toward international candidates, whereas other companies–in general management jobs for instance–many of those wouldn’t accept international candidates.”
So, what gives? It all stems from U.S. laws pertaining to foreign workers. Once a student visa expires, the student must obtain a work visa or return home. In addition, immigration laws state that every year, U.S. companies can only take up to 85,000 new work visas. The 85,000 are spread nationwide, but the problem is there are far more candidates than there are visas. So a lottery is conducted and the work visas are distributed at random.
Companies file for work visa petitions in the beginning of April. It usually takes the federal immigration service about a month to notify everyone who wins the lottery. For those who don’t, they’re placed in a weird limbo period in which they won’t find out until mid-June or early July if their petition has been officially approved or denied. This is the point where Optional Practical Training (OPT) is usually about to expire for those in the U.S. on a student visa, so the decision to stay or return home ends up being a very rushed one.
“The process is the same for everyone,” Mendonca says. “Most of my colleagues who stayed in the U.S. went into technology, management consulting, financial services, and investment banking. These larger companies have the legal resources to file for visas and whatnot. Smaller companies probably would not even offer you a job.”
Carlos is not married and doesn’t have children, making his experience easier than most. The visa problem is, however, an issue in some way or another for most foreign students, he says. “Currently, according to the immigration laws, spouses of H-1B holders cannot have a job in the U.S. (without a separate permit). It is only after the green card process has been initiated that they are allowed to work, which can take a couple of years. Their alternative, in this case, is usually to stay at home, try to find an employer who would sponsor an H-1B, or study. Without a job, spouses can’t contribute to the family’s income.
VISA PROBLEM THROWS WRENCH INTO FAMILIES’ FINANCIAL MACHINERY
“It is an important issue most people consider, especially if spouses left their careers for one or two years when the MBA program started. Some of my friends decided not to accept an offer in the U.S. (or even begin recruiting) because it meant that their spouse would remain unemployed for a few more years,” Mendonça says.
“You kinda have to just go with it. Tuck does offer a lot of support to prepare you so far as interviewing for American jobs, but on the immigration law front, there isn’t anything that B-schools can do.”
Carlos’ advice to students who come to the U.S. from other countries for their MBA:
“Number one, it makes the process so much easier if you are working with a big company with a larger legal structure. Internal legal counsel makes it easier to understand your options and you have to understand there may be a chance you can’t stay after one year. Account for this in the recruiting process. Also, go after companies that have offices abroad. If someone’s passionate to work for a startup I would hate to say don’t do it because it’s too risky, but make sure they’re cognizant of the challenges.”
“The biggest issue is the visa situation. But for argument’s sake, let’s say it wasn’t an issue. At the end of the day you’d be competing with American students with home field advantage, language, culture, etc. Business schools (in my case, Tuck), regardless of visa, will provide you with all the resources to get your skills higher so you can successfully recruit with companies. So, for international students, a big part of it is how well you can interview and articulate your skillset and the insights from international markets that you bring to the table.”