PE H1B visa/ GC/ transition to PE in the US? Help!

Hi, I'm an Investment Manager at the UK Mid-market private equity fund in London focusing on tech investments. I have almost 5 years of professional work experience (1.5 in banking and 3.5 in PE). I gained a great deal experience at my current shop: worked on 5 completed MBO deals, a very successful exit, bolt-ons and also have a board observer right at one of my portfolio companies. How realistic is it to transition/ get a job/ visa sponsorship to move to PE in the US? Ideally, I would like to work for the likes of Thoma Bravo, Vista, PSG, Summit Partners etc., but wouldn't mind considering a more regional MM if they could sponsor. I have a European passport and have been living in London for the past 8 years (graduated from school in London and also did 1-year international exchange in the US). I'm considering MBA in the US, but is it really essential given I'm already in the industry and probably by the time of my MBA I'll have 5 years in PE? I have been applying for the diversity green card lottery for the past 5 years, but with no luck so far. 

Any advice would be appreciated. Please let me know any firms that sponsor as well as any buy-side recruiters that could provide some insight. For context, I'm a 27 years old female.  

Comments (3)

Most Helpful
May 12, 2022 - 6:24am
kodi, what's your opinion? Comment below:
If you don't have US citizenship and are not a long-term permanent resident....
1) Internal transfer within your own company should be the easiest way forward, if you know how to leverage your network and the contacts you have. It is probably also the "most likely" scenario, especially for a US destination.
The initial, relevant visa avenues should be L for the transfer, E1/E2 for either personal investment or corporate transfer (depends on details like how the company is structured, nationality of the company, etc), F visa for students if you want to go for a degree, H1b for transfer or post F, E3 if you hold Australian citizenship, O if you have extraordinary skills. J should no longer apply to professionals (J could apply post degree though!)

If the goal is to permanently move and reside in another country, however, there are alternatives that may make sense

- further education if you can afford it (employers paying for this is increasingly rare, but also possible); and then go the CPT/OPT/H1b route which may take a few years.

- date/marry someone in the destination country. This makes even more sense if you come from a community where people prefer partners from their own culture. Doesn't have to be arranged, but there is a reason why so many niche dating apps and portals exist. You may have a preference that your spouse has a certain cultural, religious or linguistic background. Or maybe you don't want to be alone any longer. It doesn't matter, marriage is a key route into a new country these days and it is one that will  work for many people for generations to come.

- family sponsorship is also possible and a straight-forward route, normally. Your first degree family members can sponsor you (i.e. parents, children, siblings)

- if the destination country is more important than the career you currently have - some people have a life-long dream of starting their own business or do something else than sit at home or commuting to the office. If you have already decided that moving to the other side of earth is the right thing, why not go one step further and also rethink your career? Now might be the best chance.

- investment based green card; possible if the amount of investment exceeds 900K (immigrant route)

- Extraordinary abilities, O visa for professionals in entertainment, modeling, acting, singing, science, business, (..) - if a strong case can be made based on outstanding, published results (i.e. SAG/AFTRA credits, scientific awards, noble prize, published in national/international media, Olympic medals, ..). It is possible to get the O visa if you are a strong contender within your space, but not for a regular finance employee who works in an office.

- Always have a plan B or alternatives. Maybe the US won't work out, but Canada might (it is far easier getting into Canada than the US). Maybe your employer won't move you internally, but another one might? Maybe starting your new business is too risky, but maybe starting a franchise might work? ETC - come up with LOTS of avenues before you decide...

It depends on what your ultimate goal is and the reasons behind them.

1) Is the goal to live and permanently reside in the US for the rest of your life? Then I'd consider investing the right amount of money for the education, investment visa or business visa. This, however, can also work as an internal transfer.

2) Is the goal to only spend a limited time in the US? I would not make a large investment into a business or education, but seek easier routes into the country.

Internal transfers happen all the time, I have seen them across multiple industries and companies.

If you are not married yet and want a more permanent residence in the US - dating/marriage is also a solution.

There is, unfortunately, no working holiday visa in the USA. These are just ideas and I am not an immigration attorney, of course, and a legal professional may provide further assistance.

As you can see, there are various avenues into a new country and many options are available. Simply applying to a job in the US and hoping to land a visa sponsorship is indeed a possibility, but I wouldn't bet my career or life on it. You would have to time the application in the right window, the employer would have to file the visa application, pay the attorney, justify the investment internally and also externally (labor market assessment), and then in all likelihood not be able to get you the visa anyway (due to the lottery of H1b). This is a very unlikely avenue, but it is not impossible.

Also, you are already participating in the the diversity lottery- keep doing that.

On the VWP you are legally allowed to enter the US at an official PoE and you are then (normally) given 90 days to exit. In this time frame you are also allowed to meet prospective employers, even interview or undergo training - just not work, or get paid. It is very unlikely that a US based employer would interview someone who doesn't hold a work authorization.
Also, the MBA (or any degree) is no guarantee for the H1b or a green card. They may make things easier to get further jobs/visas, but there are plenty intl. grads who go home in the grace period given by USCIS. The only guaranteed way for immigrant purposes into the US is to invest a large amount of money (EB5), win the DV lottery, or marry a USC/LPR.
For non-immigrant purposes there are quite a few alternatives that are easier, if all you want is to live in the US for a while and then return to Europe.

May 12, 2022 - 8:55am
K.king, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you Kodi, that's very helpful.

Unfortunately, I can't apply for the internal transfer as my UK shop has only offices in the UK (we have the UK only focus- i.e. I'm also the only non-British person out of the 50 Investment professionals). That being said, I could always try to transfer to a more international PE fund in London and then try to get an internal transfer. 

I'm currently dating a green card holder, however, I'm very independent and would never want a guy to have this leverage over me. I want to achieve this all by myself, not by going through an 'easy' way of marrying someone. I also came to London all by myself without financial support or approval from my parents from a poor family & country, but always had this dream of moving to the US and London was a great first step in getting my foot in the door. I hustled and worked super hard, but it paid off and I'm proud that I established a very good life in London all by myself. 

Family sponsorship doesn't work here, as I don't have any family in the US. I'm also the first-generation immigrant in the UK. 

Your post is super helpful, please could you tell me more about how do I go about opening my own business in the US/ what visa do I need? Do I need to have a minimum investment (like for the investor visa with a $900,000 investment)- or is that one less strict and I could open literally any business (i.e. nails salon- not what I want to do, just throwing a random example). 

Thank you so much for your help!

May 12, 2022 - 9:09am
kodi, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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