Hiring Data Scientists from Outside the US: A Primer on Visas

This post was written collectively by myself, Michael J. Wildes, & Adam W. Moses. The full, original post for this piece can be found at Harvard Business Review



It’s no secret that there’s a shortage of data scientists in America’s workforce. Many companies look to hire overseas to help ease the domestic talent shortfall (in fact, one in three data scientists are born outside the U.S.) so understanding the ins and outs of visas is rapidly becoming a business necessity. Not all visas are created equal. Some are drastically more expensive, can have lengthy approval processes, and low approval rates. In a tight labor market, it’s imperative that a hiring manager understand the immigration issues that affect who they can hire and how.

At The Data Incubator, we help companies hire data scientists from our big data fellowship.  Visa and immigration issues for our non-domestic fellows are one of the most common questions that the companies we w
ork with ask us about. So we’ve teamed up with Wildes & Weinberg P.C., a leading immigration law firm, to come up with a short primer for employees on technical visas. We compared the six visa categories our data scientist fellows most commonly qualify for (F1-OPT, TN, H1-B, H-1B1, E3, O1) across the six criteria employers care about (eligibility, legal fees, filing fees, quota, length of process, and chances of approval).  Here’s what we found: 

F-1 Visa “Optional Practical Training”

Who’s eligible?
Undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 visa status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than nine months are permitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work for one year on a student visa towards getting practical training to complement their education. This year of employment is known as “Optional Practical Training” or “OPT.”

Typical legal fees
For the F-1 OPT there are typically no legal fees. Most F-1 students apply for their optional practical training employment cards on their own and without the assistance of an attorney. The international student department of most colleges and universities provide hands-on instructions for students in navigating the processes.

Approximate filing fees
There is a $380 fee for filing the initial OPT application for one-year of work authorization. Graduates with STEM degrees can file for a 2-year extension, which costs another $380 (most companies pass this cost along to the employee, but not always).

Is there a quota?
There is no quota, all F-1 graduates of degree programs at the bachelor’s level and higher are eligible.

How long does the process take from filing?
It takes 90 days from submission of application, or around two to five months from the student’s graduation. F-1 visa holders may apply for work authorization in a 150-day window, 60 days before graduation and 90 days after graduation. USCIS, by law, must approve it within 90 days of the application (unless it requires additional information). If the student already has their Employment Authorization Document and is merely switching employers, then it takes one to two weeks.

What are the chances of approval?
Nearly guaranteed.


For a full list of visas and their descriptions + requirements visit the original post at Harvard Business Review



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