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Published: Thursday, 20 July 2017 11:30 AM

What visa options are open to international MBA graduates in the US?

The most common US visa for MBAs is the H-1B. This is available to highly-skilled graduates, sponsored by an employer. Applicants enter a lottery to win one of 65,000 places; an additional 20,000 places are available for those who have completed a master’s degree (such as an MBA) in the US. The visa is valid for three years, with a possible three-year extension. Have a family? Dependents of H-1B visa holders may stay in the US on H-4 visas. Since 2015, spouses of visa holders have been able to apply for an extension (EAD) which allows them to work.

On graduation, MBA candidates can work in the country in a relevant field for one year, perhaps while waiting for an H1-B visa to be processed. This 12-month period is called Optional Practical Training (OPT). Any work done during the MBA will count against the total. The OPT is not a visa, rather an extension of the F-1 student visa, which you must have to study. Spouses and children may remain on an F-2.

A very small number of MBA graduates may be eligible for the O-1A visa, which is for people of extraordinary ability in business. You would need to have significant and exceptional experience prior to your MBA, so not one on which many people are able to bank.

An MBA with concrete business interests in the US can also stay in the US on an E-1 or E-2 visa, though these are strictly for business purposes and not a path to residence. E-2 Treaty Investor visas are available for a year for those who have invested significantly in a business based in the US, in order to direct and develop its operations. The E-1 Treaty Trader visa allows the same for an executive, manager, specialist or majority investor responsible for carrying on substantial trade between the US and another country.

Are any changes expected?

There has been a lot of discussion around post-study work visas for international students from the Trump administration and senate activists both on the campaign trail and following November’s election. No changes have been passed at the time of writing. It remains to be seen whether tough talk will be converted into policy; which is a lot more complex than simply saying “Buy American, Hire American.”

A draft executive order looking at reversing a policy that extended the already-longer OPT granted to STEM graduates from 29 to 36 months, passed by the Obama administration, came to light earlier this year, though would not by applicable to MBAs unless they held an undergraduate STEM degree and worked in a relevant STEM field. Trump’s administration also asked for some time to chew over a reversal to the EAD extension for spouses of H-1B holders. Again, nothing yet has become law, though the fast tracking of applications for H1-B was suspended in April, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services citing a backlog in applications.

Otherwise, there have been various proposals from within congress for reforms of H1-B. These include raising the minimum salary it is permissible to offer H-1B holders to $130,000, holding back some visas for small businesses employing fewer than 50 people, removing caps that only allow 7% of green card visas to be awarded to citizens of any one country (this comes later down the line, though the effects can be felt in the backlog this creates), and giving further priority to those who study advanced degrees in the US. Nothing, however, has been passed yet. It’s worth noting that higher salary caps, removing country caps for green cards, and giving priority to those educated in the US may actually work in favor of those studying MBA degrees in the US, as might a revocation of the lottery system, as touted by Trump.  

Indeed, while the talk may be worrying, highly-skilled, highly-educated workers, such as MBA candidates, are unlikely to be hit hardest by any proposed changes.

Employment opportunities in the US

For one thing, MBA employers still going to be as in need of highly-skilled employees as they ever have been. MÄ“gan Lewis, senior associate director of MBA admissions at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, states, “Microsoft and Amazon are among the companies that offer the highest number of H-1B visas in the US. Along with Expedia, they have also been active in legally fighting anti-immigration legislation and winning.”

Indians make up a large number of the highly-qualified workers filling H1-B positions. A massive 70% of H1-B visas go to Indian applicants. Silicon Valley dominates, with Indian-headquartered IT companies Infosys, Wipro., Tata Consultancy, Tech Mahindra and HCL Technologies, alongside American firms Cognizant, Accenture, Amazon, IBM and Deloitte the biggest employers using these visas to bring in talent. There is clearly high demand, though you would do well to also remember there is high supply too. Every single H1-B place on offer taken since 2004, and at least 200,000 applications made each year.

More generally speaking though, MBA hiring is healthy in the US. The latest QS TopMBA.com Jobs & Salary Trends Report shows that hiring increased by 16% over 2015/16 in the US. The average salary in the region stands at an impressive US$97,300, on top which the average bonus stands at US$26,100.

We can say nothing with certainty; almost anything could happen. MBA talent, however, is clearly in high demand in the US. This is unlikely to change any time soon. While we may see changes taking place, it is unlikely that the MBA elite will be hit too hard, given the uniquely-high level of talent they can bring.

Find out all about US student visa regulations and post-MBA opportunities from admissions directors from Berkeley, Cornell, Emory, Michigan-Ross, Illinois-Urbana and many more at the exclusive Study in the US event in India from 29th July to 5th August at the QS World MBA Tour in a city near you. Book your spot at www.topmba.com/mbarendezvous

Written by Mansoor Iqbal

Source: Topmba.com