International Students Weigh in on Visa Issues

For EC students, recruiting and the associated stress of deciding on where to go after graduation is just on the horizon. To make the epic decision on which job to accept, many HBS students will weigh compensation, lifestyle, and location. For some international students who wish to stay in the US, visa issues are also an important factor.

Many international students at HBS are currently on an F-1 student visa or a J-1 exchange visitor visa, which allows them to work during the summer between their RC and EC years on the Curricular Practical Training or Academic Training programs, respectively. These programs are meant to complement one’s studies through applicable work experience and to make hiring international students relatively painless since companies do not need to sponsor a work visa. (Indeed, all of the paperwork is taken care by the students and the Harvard International Office.). Florent Catu (OI), who found his job at Neolane, a Paris-based start-up launching its operations in the U.S., through intensive networking, says that with his F-1 visa, “it was really easy. I have worked here at three different points in my life and I have found that if you follow the procedures, everything does work out.” He adds, “HBS makes it easy to come here as an international student.” Carlos Roman (OB) had an equally positive experience working at British Petroleum in Chicago this summer. Roman says that, “recruiters at BP had no problem and made it easy to work under the CPT.” However, he noted that some US-based companies do not recruit international students but says, “I don’t have a problem with that.”

Upon graduation, F-1 and J-1 visa holders have the possibility of working in the U.S. for between 12-18 months on the Optional Practical Training or Academic Training programs. However, after this time period, employers are required to sponsor an H-1B visa, a controversial non-immigrant visa category that allows highly skilled foreigners (like HBS graduates) to work in the U.S. However, with the quota of granted H-1B visas dwindling (While 116,927 H-1Bs were issued in 2005, the quota was cut 65,000 H-1B visas for FY 2006) while demand still remains strong, this may pose some difficulties for international students seeking to work in the U.S. after graduation.

Riddhesh Gandhi (OB), who spent this summer working at Great Point Partners, a Connecticut-based hedge fund, says of the visa restrictions, “Obviously it’s slightly more difficult but it’s not enough of a disincentive to not take the job you really want. For me, I wouldn’t be hindered by the process. Most HBS students get jobs which will ultimately sponsor your H1 so I don’t think it’s a real deterrent.”

Fabrice Morin (OG) worked for McKinsey in Canada and San Francisco before HBS and for Lazard in New York this summer. Morin says that, in his experience, his employers have been familiar with the appropriate visa procedures and have placed few restrictions on hiring foreign nationals to work in the U.S. He explains, “they’re looking for talent wherever it is and they are going to pay for it.” However, he does realize that as an international student “it’s tougher to sell yourself. since people around the world would give so much to work in the U.S.” Warren Hogarth (OG), who worked for a Boston-based venture capital firm Flagship Ventures this summer, says of smaller firms, “it can be challenging because they may not understand it.” However, Hogarth remains undeterred and plans on staying in the U.S. after graduation since “the VC industry in the U.S. is so unique in terms of its environment and culture that I would not be able to get a comparable experience elsewhere.”

October 1, 2007