How can a foreigner make it to wall street?

Hi guys,

I've never posted anything here on the forum, but today I decided to ask for some advice.

Let me explain a bit of my background so you can better understand my questions:

I was born in a lower middle class family in an emerging country, think Chile, Mexico or Brazil.

I always performed well in school and parents encouraged me to pursue something else. I got a full scholarship in one of the top colleges in the country - I dreamed of studying abroad but it was not financially feasible.

In my country, summer programs are unusual and the traditional path is a one-year internship in the last year of college.

Seeing that I needed to run after kids that by family conditions already had a much better knowledge of the world, network, etc. I realized that I would need to do something different to get where I wanted to go, so I decided to start working much earlier than usual in my country even though I had to deal with college hours at the same time as my internship - 100h weeks are more than common since I started. 

Today I have two years of internship experience in Banking, being six months as a Corporate Banker in the biggest bank of my country, added to a year and a half in the main MM M&A boutique here. Important to say that national boutiques/banks have much bigger deal flow than foreign banks - for example, Goldman Sachs closed only 3 M&A deals last year, while my current firm closed 30+ (not a huge M&A Market here).

My big dream even before college has been to live in NY and work on Wall Street (huge fan of financial markets history, so read many books about it when i was a kid), but I see very few people making it out of here.

This scenario leads to the questions that motivated me to create this post:

How difficult is it for an investment bank to bring in an analyst/associate from a subsidiary in an emerging country or to hire an analyst/associate directly from one of those countries?

I am coming to my internship period in college and I thought about going to a foreign bank or fund looking for this geography move after I graduate, but I don't know how feasible it is to get a transfer.

Is an MBA the only way or is there this possibility of internal transfer/foreign hiring?

Has anyone here managed to make this move/seen this move in currently firms?

Does experience in the main institutions in the country, which have absurdly higher deal flow than foreign banks here have any value or is a JPM/MS/BofA/GS brand more valuable even without in depth transactional experience?

Appreciate any advice you can provide.

Tks guys!


This is one of the best comment sections i've seen on here in a while


Improbably to make it in the US without an MBA, mostly because of the visa issue. After an MBA you get 2/3 years to work visa-free, so employees may take a chance on you. Otherwise, do an MFin in Europe at a top university, recruit for a European office, and then after 2 - 3 years ask to be transferred to the US.

But no need to simp for Wall Street, you'll work on the same desk and on the same Excel as you'll be working from Mexico/Chile/Brazil. After 1/2 months the "glamour" will disappear and you'll question your life choice.

Most Helpful

The main way that foreigners work in the US are F-1 OPT, H1-B, and L visas.

L visas are for specialized managers; you would need to be somewhat senior and justify a large application expense from the firm, so I think this is out. If you wanted to wait a few years at your bank, and they had a major US presence, and they would be willing, they maybe could move you to the US on this.

The H1-B is technically a possibility - the employer would sponsor you from overseas, you would be entered into a lottery, and if you won the lottery you would be allowed to move to/work in the US. But realistically, this again is not going to happen. As an analyst you are totally replaceable and the banks will not go thousands of dollars out of pocket on a lottery roll to hire you. I think the acceptance rate for H1-B in any given year is around 1/3 anyway. One possibility is to look into these fake Indian consultancies that will file H1-B applications on your behalf, and if you get an H1-B through that, to transfer your H1-B to a bank. This is expensive, unethical, and not likely to work.

Most recent college graduates work in the US on F1-OPT status. As a non-STEM student you get one year, as a STEM student three years. Unfortunately you need to have gone to a US university for this to be applicable to you and there aren't any good workarounds except joining fake universities that let you use your CPT (different thing) from day 1.

I think ultimately you will have to go to business school in the US if you want to work in IB in the US. If you have strong transaction experience from your analyst stint then your post-MBA recruiting process for banking shouldn't be that difficult. You will have a harder time getting into PE.

Ultimately though, I don't know if you will feel the same way about coming to the US after a few years of working in your country. Places like Brazil have really strong LatAm banking and generalist/niche PE platforms (Itau, Advent, Patria) and a great cost of living.


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