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H1B Update Analysis for International MBA Applicants

Hello everyone, this is a bit of a confusing time to go to business school for international students. Recently, Trump put an end to H-1B visas for applicants outside of the United States for the rest of the year, which incites a lot of panic for those of you who want to leverage OPT – and hopefully H-1B status – to pay back your student loans while working in the US. Understandably, it would be an unmanageable burden to repay loans in your home country.

Thankfully, OPT has been spared so far, at the urging of universities and republican politicians alike. OPT is what makes an MBA in the US a viable possibility for most international students, who bring a huge chunk of money into the US economy.

More details can be found here: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Trump-Suspends-Temporary-Work/249037

I spoke about the nuances of this new policy with Kristie Bowerman, my former law school roomie, and the founder of Immigration & Nationality Law Group. What’s interesting is that she says, “This whole thing is just for show. Only H-1B visa applicants outside of the United States are currently affected. People who are in the US and are changing status to H-1B are still currently allowed to do so. Visas are only issued outside of the United States. This doesn’t do a lot right now, because all of our embassies are consulates are currently closed to routine visa processing due to COVID.” She also mentioned it’s important to keep in mind the visa ban does not affect visa-exempt Canadians.

The takeaway message here is that none of this should stop anyone from submitting MBA applications this coming September to study in the US for August of 2021.  

While international students are not currently allowed into the country, under the auspices of COVID, this particular order does not impact F-1 student visas in any way. Unchanged is that if you enter the country under an F-1 visa you will have the right to do an internship. This also applies to those entering the country with J-1 visas for academic purposes.

Also, this executive order does not impact current or future students This new executive order this impacts MBA graduates where the clock has run out on their OPT. Not current students or even future students.

Let’s look at the timeable

Again, people who are in the US and are changing status to H-1B are still currently allowed to do so. But lets look at the timetable even if for some reason that policy changes.

Most MBA programs have either a STEM option or in the case of Berkeley, all the MBA programs are STEM certified. If you follow a STEM program, this adds two more years of OPT on top of the one year otherwise granted for a total of 3 years to repay your loans working in the US.

If you start an MBA program in August of 2021, and graduate in May of 2023, you can stay in the country for 90 days plus one year of OPT. This takes us up to August of 2024. If you graduate from a STEM program, then, August of 2026. At this point you would be in need of an H-1B.

I’m writing this all out because in light of all the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, unemployment, and Trump’s capriciousness, this might tend to “scare away” international applicants.

It’s true that students starting this fall might be impacted by Corona, and will have to do distance learning in the first semester. However, I highly doubt this will be the situation in August of 2021.

Yes, it’s possible that Trump will tamper with OPT but obviously we are not dealing with border jumpers here; rather, cream of the crop highly skilled workers who keep the boat afloat with US companies. But again, this is unlikely to be taken away permanently and if Trump did, this policy is likely to be reversed once COVID is less of an issue. It’s fair to say that would be the case by May of 2023.

While nothing is guaranteed, I think waiting for everything to be settled and sorted will put a big lag on your MBA plans and at that point, you might be a bit over the ideal age for applying.

It might be helpful to note that one possibility is to seek out a J-1 visa through the Fulbright Scholarship. I recently helped one of my clients secure a Fulbright scholarship, so that his soon to be wife will be able to work the 2 years he is here pursuing his MBA at Harvard. This visa requires returning to his home country for 2 years before moving back to the US if he chooses, however, for couples, this might be an important way to reduce the overall debt load upon repatriation.

My reason for writing this article is to state that

1.)    this is a policy that impacts you 4 to 6 years from now, depending upon whether or not you do STEM program. So please don’t allow this to bully you out of a decision to study in the US, or put off your plans indefinitely until everything looks rosy.

2.)    I hope this administration comes to an end in November, along with its xenophobic policies being used as political footballs. It looks optimistic on that end, at this point, should US citizens continue to take active measures to countervail the voter suppression efforts being asserted against us.

I’m not sure if or when things will get “back to normal” but walking in faith might be the most practical choice for many of you. Many of us, rather.

If you would like to discuss these recent developments and how they will impact you, email Kristie at kbowerman@inlg-usa.com to set up a $100 consultation. She will help you make sense of the process and figure out what to do next.

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