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Foreign MBAs: Boost U.S. Job Odds

MBA careers consultant and author Marcelo Barros

MBA careers consultant and author Marcelo Barros

When universities including Harvard and Stanford need a trainer to provide international students with hope and a strategy to achieve their job-search goals, they call on Marcelo Barros. The former associate director of MBA career coaching for international students at the University of Maryland Smith School of Business provides students with data, insights, and a strong dose of tough love – all leading, ideally, to the holy grail for many foreign students: a job in the U.S. after graduation. Poets&Quants recently sat down with Barros to hear his views on the current job-search climate for international students in America.

The U.S. work visa most commonly used by international MBAs, the H-1B, always has far too many applicants for the available visas. How big a problem is this for international students?

It’s a huge problem that needs immediate attention from our policy makers. I’d say it is daily source of concern and frustration for our international students in the United States who wish to try to stay and work in the U.S after graduation. There just are not enough visas, period. It’s a crazy situation that causes disruption for American employers that in many cases need to hire a foreign national, otherwise a role may go unfilled for months, if it gets filled.

To make matters worse for our international students, one needs to keep in mind that currently the H-1B program allows firms to use this visa to bring in workers from outside of the U.S. for temporary projects, for example. What has happened historically is that outsourcing firms based in India such as Tata Consulting, Infosys, and Wipro, for example, have historically snagged a substantial portion of available H-1B visas. Some consider this to be a misuse of the original intent of the H-1B program. Even though there are currently 85,000 H-1B visas available (65,000 under the regular cap and 20,000 for those with a U.S masters degree or higher) a large portion of these visas are not being granted to our international students.

The odds of international students being able to secure an H-1B visa and remain in the U.S would increase if fewer H-1B visas were being granted to outsourcing firms. The question for policy makers to decide is, “What in general makes more sense in terms of a strategy for the H-1B program?” Because of my work, I am in touch with recruiters and hiring managers from the largest firms in the U.S., such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple, and I can assure that these firms could not fill many of the critical jobs they need to fill if it weren’t for the H-1B program. And it’s not just technical jobs. The H-1B program has allowed employers from a variety of different industries to hire the people they want and need in order to continue to function. The H-1B has helped place teachers in Mississippi classrooms when no one else seemed interested in applying for those roles. See the article below.

As much as I defend the H-1B program, it does seem that certain aspects of the program, such as the large bulk of H-1B visas being granted to outsourcing firms, need to be looked at carefully. It’s possible that there have been unintended consequences associated with the H-1B program. However, it’d be a huge mistake to throw the baby out with the bath water. I suspect that there has been abuse and fraud with the H-1B program, as with any other government program. We need to fix this. But again, the main idea here is that we need to help U.S firms hire foreign nationals when they choose to do so. This is critical for the continued success and growth of this country. Getting rid of the visa-numbers cap, for example, makes much sense.