Did you know that the standard student F-1 visa allows international students to work in the U.S. for 12 months post-graduation without requiring any sponsorship from an employer? This is granted under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program and your school’s career services office will help you secure an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by graduation — whether or not you have an employment offer in hand. There are no restrictions with this (no quotas) and it simplifies the hiring on the employer’s end, as they only need to complete the standard I-9 form for you. International students may also work for U.S. employers during their summer break from school under the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) program, so there are no major hurdles to jump through for your summer internship for either you or for the employer. The CPT might even allow you to work part-time during your second year of school. You’ll want to contact your school’s international student support office about these details.
Outside of these student employment scenarios, the most common work visa for a non-U.S. citizen is the H-1B visa which an employer must sponsor you for (which is not cheap) and which is only awarded via lottery (meaning it’s totally random and the current U.S. government is whittling away at how many visas they hand out each year).
Lots of top bschools are providing more information on the situation for their students such as this post from the Harvard Career Services team — though always recognize, info from Harvard about how many of their international grads find employment in some type of company or another isn’t necessarily applicable to what grads from another school may be seeing. Because Harvard. Still, there’s useful information there. It’s just that YMMV.
If you go into recruiting thinking “Well heck, I can at least work here a year!” and you’re not making your citizenship or request for visa sponsorship central to your strategies, then that’s not likely to work so great for you. It’s going to come up from the employer’s side. If they think that they can only have you as an employee for a year before you’ll have to ship out, then it’s hard for them to justify making the investment in you, particularly when there are so many other well-qualified MBA grads on their list of interview appointments that day. You’d need to be an exceptional candidate — and if you’re exceptional, then they’re likely going to want to sponsor you for the visa anyway. But they know that it’s no guarantee, based on that lottery system, and this is why it’s much more likely (despite what the HBS article says) that a larger company will be open to it, because they’re going to have offices in overseas locations that they can transfer you to. Provided you’re open to that type of mobile lifestyle for the next few years of your career.
And, who knows what the future will bring in the U.S. Anyone applying for an MBA today will be in the Class of 2021, and the U.S. is having its next Presidential election in November of 2020. Depending on how the politics evolve here, there may be more uncertainty, or less, at that stage in our country’s grappling with all of these issues of nationalism and the ramifications on immigration. You’ll have already gone through the recruiting cycle for your summer internship (recruiting happens almost immediately when you get on campus, so Fall 2019 to secure your Summer 2020 job) and that’s actually likely to be a time of even greater uncertainty. We’ll know more next month (November 2018) when the midterm elections happen and we can see which party will be in control of which parts of the government. While many employers may be willing to hire for an internship program even if they lack visibility on how many full-time offers they will want to extend a year later, it throws a real wrench into the works — especially if there are any shocks to the economy along the way.
These are the issues that affect hiring at companies.
So, keep reading up on the schools’ blogs and definitely ask these questions at MBA info sessions, to see what the schools are saying to prospective students and applicants. And also definitely ask your contacts at the schools; current students are the best source of information on what current employers are doing on campus.
And recognize that this is a fast-shifting landscape. There have been changes already in how companies are approaching their on-campus recruiting, as has been reported from this current-season BSer who works at a huge multinational.
The MBA grads who were spit out of bschool in 2008 and even more so in 2009 were surprised and dismayed and often really stressed out by the job market they inherited. Hiring went down radically when Lehman Brothers and all of that happened (some of you graduated from college in that era) and it was a time when employers actually rescinded job offers, and the employment stats at all of the schools really suffered. We don’t want to be doom-and-gloom ‘Snark but you’re coming into this at a precarious time: There is so much uncertainty on the medium term horizon, and we aren’t suggesting you should change your plans or not try for an MBA at this time — but recognize that plans may need to change, and the world you’re living in today will not last forever. We’ve got low unemployment and record stock market gains and the longest economic expansion on record — which is wonderful today and may make you excited by the opportunities you see available. But those are also the factors that have spurred all this money going into venture capital and entrepreneurship which is high-risk type investing and those dollars are likely to dry up at the same time that the economy pulls back and larger employers also go back to their conservative stance. It’ll happen at some point and if you’ve never lived through a downturn in the economy as a working professional before, it can be completely unnerving and fairly awful — and even more so if you’re in school at the time.
So, international student or American, have your eyes open and stay in tune with the news. Politics may be a lot of angry shouting and all this stuff you can’t control anyway, but knowing what’s happening in the world (and voting so your voice is heard) is really important.