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The Visa Issue

Recently I've been getting a lot of emails/calls from applicants and my friends who are admits at other schools. So I thought it best to summarize what I know here. Many many thanks to my dear friend Simba for talking to me extensively on this topic. Thanks S, for clearing the air on the many doubts I had! She's also written on this topic, suggest you read that too.

So what exactly is the visa issue?

H1B (US Work visa) applications are accepted from Apr 1. This year the number of applications exceeded double the no of visas on offer (65,000) by the 2nd of Apr, so the window was closed 2nd Apr itself. And as per a new system, who'd get the visa and who wouldn't, was decided by a computer lottery as against the first come first served system in place earlier.

Apart from these 65K visas, there's an additional 20K visas on offer in the Graduate category. Only those who have a master's degree from a US univ, can apply in this category. But this year, this too filled in by 30-Apr! Not sure, but iirc, last year the graduate category cap was hit only in Jul.

Here comes the problem: Most MBA students graduate from their programs only in May. So they wouldnt be able to apply for a vias in the year they graduate. Lets say XYZ graduates in May 2007. She would be able to apply for the work permit only in the next cycle of April 2008. Once she's graduated, she's no longer a student. So technically, she's out of status. She can be out of status only for 2 months. So by July, she'd have to either have a valid work permit or move into OPT or leave US.

OPT stands for Optional Practical Training, which extends uptil one year. It is different from CPT - Curriculum Practical Training, the category under which she'd have done internship. She doesn't need a job or an employer or a sponsor to invoke the OPT. So lets say she invokes OPT in Jul 2007, then she can legally stay in the US until Jul 2008. Lets assume her employer files for visa in April 2008 AND she's lucky (remember the lottery system?) enough to get it. Even then, she would get her visa stamped only by Oct 2008. So what happens between July 2008 and Oct 2008? Yup, she'd be out of status once agin! So she'll have to leave the country for the period that exceeds 2 months. And oh yes, when you are out of status, even though you can stay in the US, you cant work!

Because of all these hassles involved, some employers might not be very enthusiastic about hiring internation students. I guess we'd know the true picture only after the next batch also graduates.


There are some workarounds available for this:
1. US aint the only place, look at other geographic regions as well! UK is making the best out of this confusion in US by welcoming all graduates of the top 50 international BSchools. Getting a 1 yr HSMP (UK's work permit) is fairly easy from what I hear, and apparently it can be easily extended too.
2. Take more credits than necessary each term, and try to graduate by Dec - All schools might not offer this option.
3. If you are socially inclined, this could be a golden chance for that required push! Nonprofits and education orgs are not included in this visa cap. But at the same time, not too many hire international candiates either (my perception).


Class of 2007 bore the brunt of this new situation. It was highly unfair to them! Especially to be left like this with almost no forewarning. Some employers have been very understanding though. They are either transferring their employees to an overseas location during these "out of status" periods or giving them unpaid leave.

Although I accept that the situation will only get worse in future, I strongly believe forewarned is forearmed. Atleast we guys, class of 2009, are aware of the problems that can crop up. And we can start working towards a solution right from the first term. Also, the US congress is mulling over several options to resolve this problem - but there's no guarantee that any of them will see the light of the day.

BSchools were instumental in creating that new Graduate Category of 20K visas. So have faith. Efforts are already underway to do somethign abt this. There's already alliance of the business schools. This alliance had hosted some info on Tuck's website. But I am unable to find that link right now. If anyone has it, please pass it on.

Hope that clears some air. Let me know if have any queries, I'll answer them to the best of my efforts, else will get the reqd info from people who are more knowledgeable.

And ofcourse, if I've stated something wrong, please let me know ASAP so I can correct it.

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If you're Canadian or Mexican you can transfer to a NAFTA visa (TN) to bridge the period between OPT and H1B.

Thanks for the comment. I am about to start at Georgetown.
Note- CPT stands for Curricular Practical Training

thanks Hairtwirler, duly noted and changed. :)

yep, yep yep. the visa issue seems to be the largest concern for all international MBA grad.. I just hope that the sutiation may improve a little bit by 2009 when we graduate

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Hobbes, I have been accepted at Duke (with scholarship) and Darden (scholarship status not known). Can you please let me know what was the reason you chose Duke over Darden? I myself am confused big-time as I like both schools. Please do let me know! Thanks!

Congratulations, Jaguar Paw! Thats gr8 news! Email me: candh25 AT gmail DOT com and we can talk more about it.

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