To what extent does your F-1 status hurt your chances at employment?

Lead Left's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 297

Last week, I was called in for an interview at a boutique investment bank in NYC. After giving my spiel about how being an international student translates into a sense of purpose and adjustable personality, the first question I was asked by a partner at the firm was, "So, are you a green card holder?"

Given that this was an interview for an internship, I managed the question by citing CPT and OPT that would legally authorize me to work at the firm without costing them anything extra. But what if this was for a full-time position that would require them to sponsor my H1-B? (I haven't heard back yet)

During the most recent State of the Union address, Obama spoke of immigration reform and the 'brain drain' of highly educated foreigners who are educated and willing to work in the US, but have to return to their home countries because of the current visa system. I found some bits of his speech to be particularly hopeful.

"And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy,"

"Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants," he said. "And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform."

Yet, I disagree with the general undertone surrounding these immigration talks that this should be done mainly to retain STEM degree holders -- that is, to help out the tech industry. I personally think that it is narrow-minded and short-sighted to think that only the foreigners in STEM fields deserve to receive favorable visa treatment . What about international marketing? Foreign policy think tanks? And most relevant to WSO... traders, researchers, or investment bankers who can tap into foreign language news sources and international networks?

As of now, foreign business students have no other choice but to shoot for a limited number of huge multinational firms like bulge bracket banks, Big 4, and other firms whose sheer size affords them the cost and legal capacity to sponsor H1-B visas. Even then, foreigners are at a significant disadvantage, ceteris paribus, due to the extra hoop-jumping required for these firms to hire internationals.

With the number of total international students (college level or above) reaching nearly 800,000 (250k in undergrad and 300k in graduate programs) and most of them coming from strategically important countries like China, India, and Korea -- combined with the continuously dwindling number of young Americans -- is it smart for the US to maintain such a restrictive immigration policy and drive out these young, educated foreigners from being a part of its economy? I don't believe so.

Without discrediting any hard-working and driven American students, international students (at least at top 50 colleges, IMO) come with a solid work ethic and a sense of purpose. After all, they are here because they chose to pursue bigger and better opportunities , not because everyone else goes to college and goes through the motion to get a degree; they could have done that at their home countries at a much lower cost.

This applies across the board to most fields in which international students endeavor. To think that only the foreigners in STEM fields are valuable is almost racist at a subconscious level , perhaps deriving from the fact that the most visible international students come from Asian countries.

If the implied reason why foreigners in other fields are discouraged from finding employment is because they don't speak English or are socially awkward, that is for the employers and interviewers to evaluate -- as they do with any other candidates, foreign or otherwise. In other words, immigration policies regarding working visas should be about protecting jobs at home vs. enhancing global competency of American firms -- not about bringing in people who can do math for America.

For all you Americans reading this, do you think that employability should be judged solely based on merits, including verbal capacity? Or do you think that citizenship is a legitimate criteria on which to deny employment, excluding exceptional situations like an Iranian citizen seeking employment at a defense company?

For all you international students, do you feel that you are being barred from achieving your version of the American Dream due to current immigration policies? Would you prefer to work at smaller firms (boutique banks, start-ups) over giant multinational companies if they were to sponsor your visa?

Comments (30)

Feb 18, 2013

As an international student I had the similar experiences too. Some financial firms stopped communicating to me during my interview process when they found out that I was an international and require working visa internship. And this goes the same to many F500 companies.

I would happily prefer to start working for boutiques or MMs but I haven't heard any smaller firms doing it so far.

Apr 21, 2013

I'm not sure what the big deal is here..

You can activate OPT without a job offer, which allows you (legally) to work with whichever company you want, so you do not need any sort of "internship sponsorship".

For full time recruiting, it's true that you're really limited to bulge bracket banks as they're usually the only ones open to sponsor internationals.

Feb 18, 2013

i got an internship and then a full-time return offer from one of the best firms in the US. f-1 visa holder. sure, it is harder for f-1s to get h1-b sponsorship but not impossible. perhaps a bit harder for internationals than for americans, but no huge differences. if you are good, firms will sponsor you. the cost and ordeal of a sponsorship is normally exaggerated.

Feb 18, 2013
xypon:

i got an internship and then a full-time return offer from one of the best firms in the US. f-1 visa holder. sure, it is harder for f-1s to get h1-b sponsorship but not impossible. perhaps a bit harder for internationals than for americans, but no huge differences. if you are good, firms will sponsor you. the cost and ordeal of a sponsorship is normally exaggerated.

Most of the time, only certain firms in financial services would sponsor undergrads/grads including BB, elite boutiques and Big 4. In engineering, firms sponsor students with Masters degree or above.

Very rarely would other type of firms make exceptions to sponsor an undergrad (marketing, etc.). That being said, it may occur, but definitely not on a regular basis. My roommate has interned at a biomed start-up for 6 months before they agreed to sponsor her for H1-B.

International students definitely are barred from pursuing more opportunities with smaller firms. That being said, it simply means we need to try and reach for the best! :)

Take it as it comes
JJ

Feb 18, 2013

I was an international student and getting a sponsor was the biggest wall. I was looking for jobs in CF after college and all F500 companies at my career fair refused to even take my resume. When I found a company that would sponsor visas, I found myself fighting against other international students, who were about to get their MBAs, for an analyst position. I went to school on the west coast so I can't speak for the situation in NY, but it was ridiculous.

It sucked because without looking at the "language" section on my resume, you would have never know that I was an international student. The cap on new H1-B visas every year is 65,000, and with about a fourth of the 800,000 students graduating every year, it's not enough.

Feb 18, 2013

Do you know anyone who was sponsored for H1B and still didnt het it??

Feb 18, 2013
nori90:

Do you know anyone who was sponsored for H1B and still didnt het it??

If I remember correctly, about 15% of the applications that go in are denied/withdrawn.

Feb 18, 2013

even big firms like PJS and Alliance Bernstein don't sponsor h1b's.

Feb 18, 2013

Haha, this will get some arguments going. I am an American UG, so I am answering as such. Also, if you think anything I say is offensive, please know it is inadvertent. I completely agree with the basis of the article, that the U.S. immigration system is beyond messed up. Reform isn't even possible. It needs to be completely recreated from scratch. I also think that U.S. citizenship should be tied to educational achievement. For example, if you can get a B.A./B.S./B.B.A. in the U.S. and you want to become a citizen, you should be able to.

Gangnam Banker:

"So, are you a green card holder?"

Honestly, I think that's a pretty typical question and is probably related to the interviewer not being entirely familiar with the process regarding internships and foreign students. I don't know anything about it and I think your handling of it was good. If anything, your knowledge of the procedure probably made her think you were a serious candidate who really wanted the job. It also probably made you stand out as you took the time to really prepare.

Gangnam Banker:

narrow-minded and short-sighted to think that only the foreigners in STEM fields deserve to receive favorable visa treatment

Its the favorable visa treatment part. Our immigration system is very messed up. But while we try to wade through all of the politics I think it makes sense to focus on foreigners in fields that will benefit America the most. If it came down to a STEM/Finance major or a an Art History major who is a leading authority on Japanese art during the Edo period...STEM/Fin wins. I mean think about it, which one do you think will help out America the most? Which one do you think speaks better English? Which one do you think is a harder worker/smarter/more driven?

Gangnam Banker:

they are here because they chose to pursue bigger and better opportunities

I think we should do everything we can take allow qualified internationals into our schools. One of the people I knew at Prep School was from Vietnam. He greatly enhanced my understanding of the world through out arguments about politics, haha. I can only hope that the more internationals that come the more friends America will gain.

Gangnam Banker:

To think that only the foreigners in STEM fields are valuable is almost racist at a subconscious level

Once again, its based on how bad our system is. I think it makes sense to only let those in who will become a positive investment. After all, all citizens get benefits. Do we want to let the citizens in who will pay more taxes than benefits? Or who will get more benefits than taxes paid... Our entitlements are already at a tipping point as it is...

I don't think we only view STEM foreigners as valuable. I personally think that there are many areas where foreigners are valuable. With that said, value is based on need. I don't think its "almost racist" because it happens to American citizens. I am as well as you, more valuable than most lib art majors. This is also true for you, haha.

Gangnam Banker:

immigration policies regarding working visas should be about protecting jobs at home vs. enhancing global competency of American firms -- not about bringing in people who can do math for America.

Math in finance is already pretty easy, even by American standards ;). But seriously, the bottom line is money. We want to let in people who will increase America's wealth not decrease it. Also, I personally think the biggest issue is reforming public education system in America.

Feb 18, 2013

Another international student here (as you can guess from the name).

Definitely a big ordeal. First of all, some companies wouldn't even consider you, even some of the big banks (case in point - Wells Fargo). Had this happen at a few other places, too.

It's hard to find the smaller places who sponsor for visas. Sometimes, if the firm is really small and the boss likes you, they would go the extra mile and sponsor you. That happened at my summer internship with a small business lending firm - one of the guys was graduating and they offered him a FT position and sponsored him for visa. We worked directly with the CEO as it was a small firm (

However, it's hard to find out which firms are willing to do that unless you are there or know someone who has gone through that.

Feb 18, 2013

Former international student here.
You are definitely at a huge disadvantage as a foreigner. Most companies don't want to bother with H1Bs to fill out seats on a gravy train (IBD is a case in point) - they have enough Americans fighting in line.

P.S. Also, I would not hire you, buddy, even with a GC in hand...
You know why? Because you have that vibe of arrogance and entitlement that irritates hiring managers.

P.P.S. I am from an unimportant Eastern European country, and among others have a nontarget STEM PhD in my degree collection.

Feb 18, 2013
etherlord:

Former international student here.
You are definitely at a huge disadvantage as a foreigner. Most companies don't want to bother with H1Bs to fill out seats on a gravy train (IBD is a case in point) - they have enough Americans fighting in line.

P.S. Also, I would not hire you, buddy, even with a GC in hand...
You know why? Because you have that vibe of arrogance and entitlement that irritates hiring managers.

P.P.S. I am from an unimportant Eastern European country, and among others have a nontarget STEM PhD in my degree collection.

What's with the unprovoked aggression? How do you know what kind of vibe I give out? If you really think that the tone I use on WSO to get some intellectual discussions going truly reflects my personality in real life, you, sir, have no touch with the reality.. Probably why you're racking up degrees just to avoid getting evicted from the US. Seen many Eastern European fellows who are really smart mathematically, but just couldn't hack it socially because of their rigid demeanors and inflexible attitudes.. Now the gratuitous hostility doesn't feel so pleasant, does it?

P.S. Already have worked for a couple of American employers despite my vibe of arrogance and entitlement
P.P.S. Don't have any intentions of going to either a) nontarget or b) PhD programs.. because I'm already more employable as a undergrad than you with your six visa-extending STEM degrees.

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Feb 18, 2013
Gangnam Banker:

I'm already more employable as a undergrad than you with your six visa-extending STEM degrees.

So how come I work in the US in a position two levels up from what you are applying for and you are bitching about companies not sponsoring you for an H1B?

Feb 18, 2013

Seems like Obama is looking for people to sell the American Dream to.

Feb 18, 2013

Actually, we ask the green card question because at my firm we have a limited number of bandwidth to get visas and we don't want to waste them on undergrad analysts, or get the ball rolling with summer interns. MBAs is a different story, we are also good sponsoring for green cards once you have your H1B. Sorry, there are plenty of smart kids around with green cards. I would also argue that finance professionals is NOT what this country is short of.

Feb 18, 2013

With so many American students fighting for internships and jobs, companies would probably do what is most convenient, i.e. hire an American. Have you tried applying for branches of a US company located in your home country? From my own experience, I feel that international students have to be a level beyond all the other candidates in order for companies to be willing to take you.

Feb 18, 2013
LearningMan:

With so many American students fighting for internships and jobs, companies would probably do what is most convenient, i.e. hire an American. Have you tried applying for branches of a US company located in your home country? From my own experience, I feel that international students have to be a level beyond all the other candidates in order for companies to be willing to take you.

Agreed. Not saying firms are acting unfairly -- they're acting according to their cost-benefit scenarios. That is why the change needs to come from immigration policy, not individual firm hiring policies.

Feb 18, 2013

I am a native, but as a corollary I know of many qualified internationals that were passed by --- many of them seem to think it was for this reason. Specifically, many of them mentioned that smaller shops just weren't interested in sponsoring them since there was an equally qualified candidate that didn't need it.

Feb 18, 2013

The point of the H1B program is to give foreigners the jobs that Americans can't do or don't want to do. IBD positions are not in that category.

Feb 18, 2013
etherlord:

The point of the H1B program is to give foreigners the jobs that Americans can't do or don't want to do. IBD positions are not in that category.

Thanks for doing away with personal attacks. That said, I would disagree with your statement. You certainly don't see the US government handing out H1-B for farmers, janitors, or other undesirable jobs. So it's not about getting foreigners to do things Americans don't want to do. And as for what Americans can't do, I somewhat agree but that is not the whole purpose of the work visa. The problem with H1B lies not in its flawed purpose, but the convoluted bureaucracy, politics, and process surrounding it. The paperworks are processed extremely inefficiently and H1B issues have been generally dumped along with illegal immigrant issues which is a hotly debated political topic that saw no progress for a long time.

There is a bipartisan agreement that H1B issue should be resolved and the path to GC or citizenship for US-educated foreigners should be clearer and easier. So it's clearly not about foreigners not being needed or wanted. They are. It's just a systematic inefficiency.

Feb 18, 2013

I'm glad there's finally some discussion on this topic. I'm now a third year analyst in the equivalent of corporate strategy at a bank and started off on OPT; my H-1B sponsorship application happened ~8 months in. I worked my ass off to prove myself, having gone to a non-target and having a low GPA. I was very thankful to be lucky enough to land a role where they were willing to take a risk on me. Now that I'm looking to move on, it's a been a huge thorn in the recruiting process.

I've interviewed for a wide gamut of roles from Management Consulting to Senior Strategy Analyst roles in Marketing agencies to Strategic Planning at large insurance firms. It's no joke when people say the need for a company to sponsor you derails the whole process. In fact, I've been in situations where they'd love to hire me but policies prevent them from doing so.

I've come to the understanding the only roles that will sponsor tend to be of high value thus I have to keep searching for an Associate-level role and/or a top tier job. It's incredibly challenging but I'll keep pushing on. I don't have a stance on the politics/laws but logically I imagine that if a skilled person wants a job, they should have a fair fight. I know that in other countries it is much easier to gain a work visa.

Let me know if you guys have any success stories or targeting strategies to share. Any help would be appreciated.

Feb 18, 2013
KPP:

I've come to the understanding the only roles that will sponsor tend to be of high value thus I have to keep searching for an Associate-level role and/or a top tier job.

Let me know if you guys have any success stories or targeting strategies to share. Any help would be appreciated.

That's what I've seen too. Usually you won't have a hard time getting sponsored for some kind of unique position that you fit, the more senior, the better.

Success stories - plenty. People getting sponsored, then GC started in IBD, ER and CF/BD. All those people I know had a rare set of skills matching very specialized positions (healthcare ER, TMT IBD, biotech CF/BD). Strategy, I guess, is to be specialized, because your chances are a lot slimmer for generalized positions.

Feb 18, 2013

JPM, UBS, and MS all said in some way or another that international students will not be accepted for SA. JPM came right out and said it at their networking event and my contacts at UBS and MS have said it is extremely difficult for internationals to try and get SA. They recommended getting something within their bank in your home country and then apply for FT.

"The way to make money is to buy when blood is running in the streets."

-John D. Rockefeller

Feb 19, 2013

I know for a fact that JPM hires internationals. My friend did SA last summer and is now working full-time there.

Feb 19, 2013

I am an international, and I have friends who are internationals who work at JPM/MS. I dont know which country you are from, but BB are some of the most international friendly firms for hiring FO positions.

Take it as it comes
JJ

Feb 28, 2013
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Apr 17, 2013

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