Just Say No

4 June 2024

Sponsorship?! I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Sponsorship!

How International Students Should Respond To That Visa Question

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Big Supporter of His International Students…

If you are an international student in the United States, you’ve probably been asked by hiring managers whether you will need sponsorship in the future.

It’s a trap.

If you answer “yes,” most companies will automatically reject you. Below is a direct quote from the HR department of a large company explaining to a manager why his highly recommended applicant didn’t even get an interview. The applicant had answered, yes, she would need sponsorship.

"…looks like she was rejected for indicating that she will now or in the future require sponsorship for employment. If she answered this question incorrectly and will not require sponsorship for employment, then she can re-apply ensuring she marks 'no' for this question."

Most companies don’t want to sponsor. It costs time and money, and since the visa system is a lottery, it might end up going nowhere. Why go to all that trouble and risk, when they can just hire an American?

Piece of advice 1: Look for jobs that don’t receive enough American applicants. These include gigs that require full fluency in another language (your multilingual skills are a competitive advantage).

Piece of advice 2: When asked about sponsorship needs, say “no.”

Wait, isn’t that lying? Maybe… if you decide that you love that company near the end of your OPT period, you will likely seek sponsorship from them. But given the prevalence of job hopping in the United States - a necessity if you wish to move up quickly - you will likely be working for another company by then. So, no, you probably won’t need the first company’s sponsorship.

In addition, everyone changes their minds. I have known companies that say they don’t sponsor, but then they fall in love with an employee, and will do everything they can to get her a visa. I’ve also known companies that say they will sponsor, then wind up laying off that employee before the OPT period is over. (How convenient for them.) So you, too, can reserve the right to change your mind.

I know, it’s a ridiculous game shaped by irrational immigration laws. But since it is a game, you just have to play it.

Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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