[PLEASE HELP] Advice for an international student

Im currently in my final year of high school in Singapore and i'd like to break into ib in the us. The 2 main choices i have now are 

1) doing my ug in fin/econs in the us and apply for a job after grad

2) uni in singapore, working locally for 2 years, then applying for a transfer to the us / masters in the us, then apply for a job

The uncertainty involved with getting my h1b is making me doubt going with option 1. It will also be much easier for me to get into top uni in Singapore as I'm currently in the best hs in the country. what do you think i shld do? Also, is it even possible to secure a transfer from singapore to the us if i do get hired at a us based bank in singapore?

 
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Why do you want to go to the US? Is it because of PE/HF scene? Because if you go to a top school in Singapore and then a top BB/EB, you can exit to PE/HFs in Singapore/HK with good prep.

The reason I recommend against going to US as an international unless absolutely necessary is because:

  1. You need to go to an Ivy or a top school and then do a STEM major so that your OPT extends for 3 years, therefore having 4 shots in H1B (which has ~20% success rate)
  2. But the problem comes when PE/HFs don't really like to sponsor that much unless you have H1B in the bag
  3. This means a lot of things outside your control must line up to go to Blackstone NY or something like that

Rather than this, doing a top uni in Singapore -> Top BB/EB -> Megafund situated in SG/HK is a better bet, especially with your language advantage.

But if you are willing to roll the dice and work hard for a position in the US, then that's your choice as well.

Just my 2 cents from a fellow international.

 

It is not the PE/HF scene or anything of that sort that makes the us seem attractive to me. Singapore is just not somewhere i can see myself settling down permenantly due to a number of personal reasons. I wouldn't mind extending my stay in Singapore for a short period of time if it would give me an opportunity to move to the us but id never choose to base my career here.

 

Then to increase optionality I would send applications to top US/UK schools (unless you don't want to go to Europe for personal reasons) + SG schools.

If you get into to a top school in the US with a STEM degree and a good GPA, then you can do what I wrote above (OPT extension + roll your dice on H1B while in banking) or go back to SG as a back up option.

UK schools are more attractive than US schools because their work visa situation is more accepting, though speaking a European language is a plus during recruiting.

Another option is going to a BB in SG and then doing an office rotation in the New York office - mind you, this is not permanent and because of the visa situation you will be only working for a year or two max.

You can do top SG undergrad -> IB -> US M7 MBA  -> US IB route as well if you don't mind staying in SG for a while before heading to the US.

 
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Can’t agree w this more - as an international kid who legit grew up in the US visa/immigration situation these days is tough… the us is more and more anti-foreigners + right-wing political comeback and H1b will only be harder and harder to get (biden’s reform does little)

Too many factors have to line up right for you and the chance of making it to top IB (for PE/mega group later if u want optionality cause chances r most small shops won’t sponsor u or can’t be bothered w greencard spnsorship). If u don’t like Singapore then HK is an awesome choice then the UK (visa is not hard to get at all pay is lower but 3yrs uni and better wlb)

 

I'm a Singaporean senior at a top 10 school working in NYC after graduation this summer.

All other things equal (e.g. finances/adapting to US culture not being an issue), going to a top school in the US provides the best optionality.

With the F-1 visa and studying STEM (yes, Econ counts as STEM in a bunch of the top schools because you have to take econometrics), you have 3 years of work authorization post-graduation attached to your student visa, so on paper work authorization should not be an issue. Furthermore, as a Singaporean you have the H1B1 visa which is only available to Singaporeans and Chileans, which has never fully filled up its annual quota. Hence, from a purely immigration/visa standpoint it's not an issue being able to work in NYC. Even if somehow after like 5-6 years of using up OPT and renewing H1B1, you can always just transfer to the SG/HK/LDN office of whatever firm you're at.

The challenging part is being able to get an offer from a firm that is willing to take international students. This obviously varies from year to year, but only around half of the BBs take internationals these days. At the same time, most of the EBs and good buy-side shops will take internationals. Hence, you'll have to be a very strong candidate better than your American peers. If you want to work in the US, there's no avoiding this even if you go the Bschool route and are at HBS. However, I will say that there are tons of Singaporeans in NYC/LA/SF finance at the junior level from both international and local schools (I'm guessing you're from Raffles based on the terminology you've used and what you've said) that I've met, so it's definitely extremely doable.

On top of being able to recruit for finance in the US, being in a top school in the US lets you recruit pretty easily for Singapore offices. I personally know Singapore citizens at ivies who've gotten interviews from top BBs in Singapore alongside their processes for NYC

Apart from your upside being higher, you should consider 1) how competitive breaking into IB from NUS/NTU/SMU is 2) how shitty hours are in SG vs NYC and 3) how difficult it is to move from SG to NYC rather than the other way round.

1) Singapore offices are MUCH smaller than NYC offices. MS NYC has like 100 or so kids, whereas MS SG takes just a handful (2-3 I think) each year. I'm sure you're intimately familiar with how hardo Singaporeans can be, so realize how challenging nabbing a spot can be.

2) I've heard 100-120+ is the norm in SG offices in IB, whereas all my NYC IB friends have only had those kinds of hours when they've been staffed on a shitty deal. 

3) A friend of mine who recently left banking decided to eschew the regular on-cycle PE recruiting process and primarily looked for off-cycle opportunities in both NYC and Singapore and had no problem landing interviews at MFPE firms in SG (alongside his NYC ones) when doing so. On the flip side, if he was at his firm's office in Singapore, there's no way in hell he's getting looks at the same offices in NYC because of how the IB>PE pipeline operates on top of visa problems.

At the end of the day, I think if you're able to get into a top school in the US that will get you looks from top firms AND you're confident you'll thrive in the environment, it's a no-brainer. The analysis becomes much more complicated if you're not able to get into a top school or if you don't like the US or American culture that much or if finances might be an issue. 

 

thank you so much for the advice. ive decided to stick w my original plan of applying to t15 schools in the us and leaving singapore unis as my safeties.

 

hey there, a fellow singaporean here as well. could i ask if the STEM OPT extension matters for Singaporeans, since we have the H1B1 visa which is almost guaranteed? if i am studying in a US target sch as a Humanities major, will the NY banks be fine with it? thanks!

 

This is a question you should probably direct to the HR teams at those banks — my gut feel is that they’ll defer to STEM OPT as that’s a sure thing vs H1B1 which technically isn’t

 

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