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Hiring International MBAs: A Guide for US Employers

Columbia Business School’s commitment to a global perspective is reflected in its ability to attract the best international talent to campus. Students currently enrolled have experienced more than 50 different international markets and speak the languages of many more. Over 40 percent of the graduating class holds a non-US passport.

Employers continue to seek the value of the Columbia MBA by hiring both non-US and American students who have been immersed in the international marketplace by living, studying, and working across territories and cultures. With this exposure to many markets, international and domestic Columbia Business School MBAs are of particular value to employers dealing with the nuances of the global marketplace.

Although not intended to replace specialized, legal advice from an immigration attorney, we hope this guide provides a clearer overview of the recruitment options available to your firm as you seek to benefit from this international perspective.

Recruiting Process for International Students in the USA

The recruitment process is more straightforward and cheaper than most employers expect. International students at Columbia Business School typically hold F-1 (foreign student) or J-1 (exchange visitor student) visas. Both F-1 and J-1 visas allow students to work in the United States for up to 15 months before and after graduation with minimal effort and investment by the hiring company. 

Aside from F-1 and J-1 visas, there are a number of other work visas available to foreign nationals, including the H1-B visa. In addition, visas are available to citizens of a number of countries that have a special agreement with the US government. Advantages of these special agreements can include lower processing fees, no quotas, and faster processing times.

Working with the various visa options may seem complex, but it is not, and the Career Management Center team is here to help employers navigate the process.

Jump to: F-1 Student Visa | J-1 Student Visa | H1-B Visa | Other Visa Options

F-1 (Foreign Student) Visa  

The hiring process for F-1 summer interns is quick, free, and easy for employers. Students with F-1 status can work for the summer through Curricular Practical Training (CPT), which is processed and issued for free by Columbia University’s International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO). All employers need to do is to extend an offer and provide a letter stating the name of their company, their work site address, and the intern’s dates of employment.

For full-time positions, F-1 students have access to up to 12 months of work authorization directly related to their major area of study through Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT requires minimal effort from employers as no full-time job offer is necessary when submitting an OPT application. While in OPT status, the graduate can transition to another visa type, such as H1-B.

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J-1 (Exchange Visitor Student) Visa  

Employers do not have to file any forms or pay fees on behalf of students with J-1 status, as this group has access to work authorization through the University’s academic training program. This authorization can be granted for employment before or after completion of the student’s program of study and allows a student to apply knowledge obtained in an academic program to a practical work experience. The employment must be directly related to the student’s field of study.

Academic training authorization is granted at no cost by Columbia University’s International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO). This process is free and straightforward for employers, and requires a letter from the hiring employer stating the employer’s name, supervisor’s name, work site address, the student’s dates of employment, position description, and salary. The ISSO will work with employers to ensure the academic training request relates to the student’s program of study.

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H1-B Visa 

The H1-B is an employer-sponsored temporary work visa for foreign nationals employed in a “specialty occupation,” which includes any position that requires an MBA. In most cases an H1-B provides up to six years of work authorization. The H1-B visa process is also a straightforward, two-step process. Employers submit an online application, file a petition, and pay a nominal filing fee for each H1-B visa application. Since this is a temporary work visa, employers are not required to document or prove that a citizen from another country will not take a job from a qualified American.

Filing fees for H-1B visas can be found at the USCIS website, but currently the filing fee is $325. Employers will also pay a $1500 ($750 for employers with 25 or fewer employees) “US Worker Training Fee,” which covers the cost of the initial petition and first extension on behalf of a particular employee. Lastly, employers are required to pay a $500 “Anti-fraud Fee” for the initial petition filed on behalf of a particular employee.

If all of the required documentation is filed with the application (petition), the process can take from 6 to 16 weeks to complete. The USCIS offers a premium processing option which guarantees adjudication within two weeks of filing for an additional optional fee of $1,225.

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Other Visa Options 

By special agreement with the US government, citizens of the following countries have access to additional work visa options:

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We hope that this has helped clarify a process that is often confusing and fraught with misconceptions. We look forward to supporting you as you hire international and domestic Columbia MBAs across markets. Please reach out to Michael De Lucia, director of international advising and business development or Sabeen Ali, associate director of international advising and strategy, for additional information.

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