8.2. Working after graduation: Standard H1-B process

After obtaining your degree, you will be able to work in the US for 12 to 18 months, as part of the practical training (12 months for F-1 visa holders, 18 months for J-1 visa holders). Keep in mind that, if you worked in the summer with optional practical training permission, this period of time is subtracted from the 12-18 months.

The usual way for foreign MBA students (and just about any foreign professional) to work legally in the US after the practical training, is by obtaining an H1-B temporary work visa. The H1-B allows the holder to work for up to three years, and is renewable once for three more years (for a total of 6 years). After that period, you need a permanent residency. We suggest you to visit www.usvisanews.com

To get an H1-B visa, you need the following:

1) A sponsor: that is, a company that has agreed to hire you (and for which you will have to work while on the H1-B visa).

2) Certain academic requirements: A college degree will qualify you – an MBA even more so.

3) Job certification The employer has to get the Department of Labor certification, stating that:

– It is paying the higher of what it pays its own similar-workers or what similar workers in the area are paid.
– Working conditions of its US workers are not adversely affected.
– No strike/lockout in the work-site and the occupation for which a worker is sought.
– That they have given notice to current employees that they want to hire an Hl-B worker.

Tip: the sponsoring company might want to get creative in order to assure no other candidate fills the description. The position might have to include extensive language and culture-related skills, as well as specific job experience, so as to make it hard for somebody else to fit.

4) Fall within the year’s quota: there is a quota for the number of H1-B visas granted every year. Currently it is 65,000 (this number might rise as companies are lobbying for a higher number).

Tip: In 1998, the quota was filled by May (the fiscal year is from Oct 1 to Sept 30), so it is a good idea to file for it early in the year. There is a bill in the Congress to increase the quota to 95,000 (the number would increase to 105,000 and 115,000 the following years, then would go back to 65,000 by 2003), pushed by the High-Technology industry.

5) An immigration lawyer: immigration procedures are complex. An experienced and trustful lawyer should be used. Usually, the sponsoring company takes care of the legal details. Tip: if the legal process is an obstacle to getting a job offer, volunteer to do it on your own – you can find a lawyer and pay for it (usually between $3,000 and $12,000 for the whole process).

Note: J-1 visa holders may be required to return to their countries for two years before being readmitted in the US (for other than tourism). If you are subject to this requirement, you will need to get a waiver before getting any immigrant visa.

Although a six-year period might not be enough if your intentions are to stay in the US permanently, consider that after a few years with an H1-B visa, your employer can request your resident visa (Green Card), with a high probability of success.

The green card process takes 5 years or more. After getting a green card, you are eligible to become a US citizen after 5 years. Legal permanent residents, like US citizens, are free agents in the US economy. They can look for work, bargain for wages, and change jobs just as any US citizen.

The green card procedure itself has several different categories. The best, from the worker’s point of view, is EB-1, the so-called National Interest Waiver. If the worker can document that he is of truly exceptional talent, i.e. world-class, he can actually sponsor himself for a green card. There are also the EB-2 and EB-3 green card categories, which are employer-sponsored.