Job Hunting Across Borders or even Continents - does it Work?

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Job Hunting Across Borders or even Continents - does it Work?

Postby Nakajima, Dr. Eng. » Tue Feb 22, 2005 4:27 pm

I am an engineer from Europe and I did my doctorate about medical engineering in Asia. After graduation I returned to my country. To my dismay I found that there are few jobs related to my specialization and that neither my academic efforts nor my international experience are really appreciated over here. In other words, I am unemployed.

Therefore, I am considering applying to academic and industry jobs in my former host country (my dream destination) and English speaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and USA. However, there are some things I am a little concerned about:

1) Would my application for an academic job or a research and development job really be considered or would it be rejected right away due to my foreign nationality and location?

2) In publications of the IEEE USA it is often claimed that H1B visa should be reduced. Does it mean that foreign researchers are not welcome in the US? Would I face hostility by American colleagues?
Nakajima, Dr. Eng.

Job Hunting Across Borders or even Continents - does it Work?

Postby Val » Tue Feb 22, 2005 7:15 pm

The days of hiring frenzy for IT staff in the US are over. It used to be in the end 1990s that everyone who "could turn on the power in the PC" was hired. But growing competition from India, and now from China means that the days of fat salaries in IT are over. However, people will still come to the US on H1B visas. From experience in other industries, about 30% of IT jobs will stay in the US.

It is relatively easy for foreign nationals to find a postdoctoral position in the US, because the US scientific industry is partially based on exploiting of cheap foreign labor for whom the US is still an attractive place to live. The most efficient way to get postdoc is to visit an international conference in your area of expertise, and talk to professors. Also, you can send an inquiry about postdoc to a US professor whose name you found in the leading journal in your area of expertise.

If you are a more senior scientist, then you would want to get a more senior position (Assoc. Prof and higher), which are better paid and more stable. There is a stiff competition for them among the locals. Those foreigners who get those positions usually made themselves known to the administration of the hiring institution several years beforehand and had productive scientific collaboration. They often bring their own funding with them. That's in my humble opinion. There are also junior tenure-track positions such as Assistant Prof. It is much easier to receive them (than Assoc. Prof), but the attrition rate is high.

I do not know what is the sitution for hiring overseas scientists in industry. Photonics used to be hot and H1B visas were easy for prospective employers to initiate. As for biotech industry, I hear that there are too many local job seekers, and the employers maybe less incentivized to bring a foreigner.

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Job Hunting Across Borders or even Continents - does it Work?

Postby Shawn Baker » Tue Feb 22, 2005 9:05 pm

I can't comment on the availability of H1B visas in the US (apart from my impression that they are much harder to get now), but I can say that I've never seen any hostility expressed towards foreign scientists by their American colleagues. Of course, all of those colleagues have jobs - maybe those without jobs would feel differently.

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Job Hunting Across Borders or even Continents - does it Work?

Postby Lora » Tue Feb 22, 2005 9:46 pm

I know this varies by region, but here in Massachusetts, about half our postdoc staff and a good portion of our faculty are Asian. There's some mild hostility from the undergrads who have trouble with accents, but you should hear them say "park the car in Harvard yard". When the department issues our annual contracts for graduate employees, you have to specify if you want the English or the Mandarin version to sign. So no, I don't think we're particularly hostile, although universities seem to be a lot more comfortable with the visa process than industry (Microsoft exception duly noted).

The H1B visa issue is a bit sticky: companies like Microsoft have exploited these visas as a means to drive down salaries for skilled workers over the past several years. Salary-talk is verboten here, but if you've ever read Upton Sinclair's _The Jungle_, you know that what sounds like a lot of money in some countries isn't very much at all in a large Western city--and especially not in New York City, Boston or San Francisco. Heck, people get sticker shock on cost-of-living just moving around the US. Lots of companies exploit their new hires' ignorance on this point, and the H1B visa and non-citizen status simply ensures that you have even less legal recourse than a citizen would in the event that a job doesn't work out for some reason.

It's much better, if you can manage it, to come in on an O1 visa (Worker With Extraordinary Abilities) or an L1A or L1B (Intracompany Transferee), because those are settlement visas for workers the company intends to be permanent residents. An H1B is a temporary worker who can be fired at any time, and the visa is predicated on that specific job. Permanent hires have a little more protection in some states--*depending on state law*, they may have to give you a certain amount of notice or severance before you can be fired or laid off, they may have to pay unemployment compensation, that sort of thing.

Job Hunting Across Borders or even Continents - does it Work?

Postby CT » Tue Feb 22, 2005 11:29 pm

I can't comment on the situation for industry (I would be interested to know too), but I can speak for academia. In general universities are organised to deal with H1B visas and the like. In my experience (private university and big public university) they have a special office that deals with the immigration service.

The two major issues are whether the people who are dealing with your visa are competent and follow through the process correctly (I have found it very disturbing to know more about my visa than the people whose job it is to get it for me!) and how long you can wait for it. Currently it takes around 9 months to get the paperwork that allows you to apply for the visa and enter the US. This is a huge pain in the ass for everyone involved. How difficult it is to get the visa depends on what country you're from and how many visas they have left to give out.

There are other options, though. Depending on your situation you can ask about a J1 visa which is much much easier to get, but only lasts 3 years and you're supposed to go back to your home country at the end of the visa (there are ways around this though).

My experience has been that in academia so many good post-docs/assistant profs are foreign that in general people don't mind so much about the visa aspect of hiring you if you're good. In the US prospective employers are not legally allowed to ask you about your immigration status when hiring you (obviously it comes up at some point, though).
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