Indian MBA students in the U.S. of America have to go through the visa process twice. The first one is for their F1 visa before they can start their MBA in USA. [Related post: F1 Visa requirements in U.S. for Indian students]
The second one is at the time of graduation when they need to initiate their H1B visa process for the work permit to stay back in America and take up their dream jobs.
While the F1B visa process was never a cakewalk for international students (related post: F1 visa rejection after MBA admission with scholarship), the lottery system has made the H1B visa process more complicated than ever. Now there’s a whole new element of luck added to the mix.
Here’s the lowdown on what’s happening with the U.S. work permit application process and what you need to be aware of as an international student in USA.
What is an H1B visa?
The US H1B visa is the most popular option for international professionals to work in the U.S. in a non-immigrant capacity. It is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS).
However, you can apply for it yourself. It has been done on your behalf by your prospective employer. IT companies in India have been using up a big chunk of these each year.
In the regular category, the USCIS grants upto 65,000 H1B visas. However, there is an exception (upto 20,000 applicants) for those who have a Masters degree (or higher) from America. Indian MBA students studying in American business schools would get this benefit.
Why have a lottery system for the U.S. H1B visa process?
The limit of 65,000 and 20,000 to grant H1B visas might’ve looked big enough at the planning stage. But USCIS probably didn’t anticipate the demand for it. According to the Economic Times (Apr 11, 2014), the USCIS got 172,000 H1B applications.
Faced with the reverse Gabbar Singh dilemma (‘Goli 3 aur aadmi 6!’), the officials had a tough task on hand.
Not sure how it all unfolded internally, but somewhere along the way, some creative soul within the team who was inspired by Mr G Singh’s non-scientific problem resolution methods might’ve suggested delegating the difficult decision to lady luck.
So, out came computers to help out humanity in distress. The nerd who originally designed the random number generator function – used so ubiquitously nowadays in computer programs (including the H1B visa lottery process) – might’ve never realized the devastating impact he’d be having on so many careers.
Fortunately, H1B applications falling under the Masters degree category were given preferential treatment. But there were still many more petitions left. Those went back into the lottery process.
What does it mean for international and Indian MBA students in USA?
Many bright MBA students from India including those from the top MBA programs in USA are coming back home. Quite a few of them never planned for this eventuality. They don’t have jobs right now. And they have a big MBA loan staring them in the face. Not a good situation to be in.
The basic takeaway of the lottery system is that the story isn’t over when you clear the recruitment process and get a post-MBA job in hand. You are still dependent on the unpredictability of the H1B visa lottery process to seal your destiny.
What it also highlights is the importance of having a backup plan.
Start thinking about what you can do if the lottery process doesn’t favour you and you have no option but to come back to India after completing your MBA (or MS or any other advanced degree) in America.
Apart from reaching out to employers in the U.S., start networking with companies in India as well. There are many good MBA jobs in India that pay well, provide ample opportunities for career growth and allow you to use your MBA skills.
But all this won’t happen overnight. Job hunting is a slow and painful process. You need to have a strategy and an execution plan in place many months in advance.
If you’ve read Beyond The MBA Hype, you probably considered many of the risks inherent in going for an MBA abroad. The H1B visa risk is just one of them. Be aware of the others as well.
Policies keep changing and it’s tough to control many aspects that decide your fate.
Don’t put everything you have at stake, specially when you can’t afford to lose it all.
These basic principles apply to MBA programs in other countries too.
After getting the best education if you come back to India, there are still plenty of exciting things to look forward to. If you have the tenacity to ride through the rough patches, the tide will turn. So, keep an open mind and cheer up!
Read this related post:
– F1 to H1B Visa process
– Kellogg MBA: International student experience, H1B, OPT and life after MBA
Disclaimer: We have no expertise in legal matters. This post is to quickly get you up to speed on the changes in the H1B visa process with the introduction of the lottery system. Please visit the official website (uscis.gov) and carry out your independent research before taking any decisions.