What do Recruiters mean by “We don’t Sponsor” and what can YOU do?
I am a sponsored employee in the US and I have heard the statement from 100s of recruiters that they are not looking to sponsor their candidates. Some that I have genuinely took the time and applied, some just throwing it out there to see if it works. To land my first interview for Product Management without any prior experience and for someone who is looking for visa sponsorship, I had to apply for more than 400 jobs in the US. That was just to land on one phone call. And, I promised myself that all I needed was one chance to talk to someone. If I did, I will make sure I will get the job offer. And fortunately, I was able to get the offer. And here I am, working in that same amazing company enjoying my role as a PM.
I would assume you know what this topic is about, if you don’t, I would recommend getting some basic understanding of how international candidates (students & professionals) get opportunities in the US and what are the limitations WE have in terms of switching jobs, changing career, the time we have left, and many other complications that we sacrifice in order to make sure we get good experience in this land of dreams and fortunately help our community back home and provide a comfortable life to our family which would be harder if we were to do it from our homeland.
Also, this is completely from my experience, and it has worked my way. Do not take this writing as your ultimatum, find what works for you. But I just want to increase your confidence, and give you a perspective of what they mean when they say what they say.
What exactly is a Sponsorship?
In short: It’s a temporary ticket to work for a company in the US and nothing more. I will explain what I mean by nothing more in a sec, but in short, it’s a ticket.
Can anyone sponsor? No. Only companies that are registered under the labor act will be allowed to sponsor a candidate. This is to mitigate the risk of unlawful immigrants. But more so to keep a track of what these companies hire for.
Can a company sponsor anyone? Yes & No. No, if they are trying to hire someone just because it’s a cheaper option. Yes, if all those candidates are following the guidelines, and well talented that it’s hard to find the same skillset in the US.
How many candidates can a company sponsor? Well, this is really dependent on the company’s financial ability, and need. Google for example sponsors 100s to 1000s every year because of their scale. SMBs usually sponsors about 10 candidates a year. There is no limit on how many candidates they could sponsor a year, but I would assume, companies cannot hire 90% of immigrants and try to get sponsorship for all in the same year, that would raise some red flags and scrutiny putting all those employees at risk.
There are multiple skillsets candidates can be sponsored under. The most common is Software Engineering. There is also an unproven fact that, if it’s a technical role, it’s easier to get sponsored and approved. Because there is very little software engineering talent pool available for the demand in the US. So, they have to outsource or pull in resources from elsewhere (China, India, Israel, and Russia are very common for these roles).
The process of Sponsorship
Before I dive deep into this, I want you to understand that many recruiters don’t fully understand the process of Sponsorship. They know as much as you do, and a little bit more from their experiences handling these requests. But nothing more. According to many of the recruiters I have interacted with, everyone knows it is something to do with the Visa status which is a ticking time bomb. The actual person who really understands the process in an organization is an HR partner, but usually, during the interview process, you won’t meet the HR partner or legal HR partner until you really are in legal trouble. For smaller companies, they will simply hire a legal partner to handle these.
Only an immigration lawyer ultimately understands the process of applying for the candidate, making sure they have the right documents to file for the applicant, help the candidate prepare and submit for any evidence if needed, and ultimately send post-approval/rejection instructions in order to continue working for the sponsored company without any legal implications at any point in the future. This whole process starts 2 months prior to the deadline depending on the Visa they are applying for. I will dive deep into the most common type of Visa which is H1B for professionals.
The process of an H1B visa goes this way, and in this case, I will consider myself as an imaginary “I”.
I will get approval from my manager for funding to apply for the visa.
I will reach out to the legal partner asking for the process sometime in December to apply for the next year.
I will get a response from the legal partner asking to submit the requested documents no later than the end of January.
I collect and submit all the documents by the end of January.
I will be asked to verify the application form which will have the details about my responsibilities, and the category the job will fall under.
I verify all the details with no clue if there is a better way but put all my trust in the lawyers. This will be done by no later than the end of February.
I then wait. Wait. WAIT. WAIT!!
I will get a confirmation that my application is picked in the LUCKY DRAW!
Yes, you heard it right. Among the 100s of 1000s of candidates, they select on a random basis. The maximum number of H1Bs in a year who can receive the visa is no more than 85000. This means, if there are 300,000 applications, you have about 1/4. We all know how lucky we are. So you can imagine the mental stress each of the candidates needs to go through during this once in a year process.
If you didn’t get picked for that year, your fee to the lawyer is the only cost for the company. If you had paid any amount to the government, that will return to the company as they didn’t pick the application.
Say, you are lucky and your application is picked in the lucky draw. It’s not over yet. Now, you may receive approval or you may be asked to submit additional documents.
These additional documents range from just a few papers to writing an essay about your job responsibilities because what you submitted didn’t convince them.
You may also need to justify what you did in the past is exactly helping you to do your current job well. You may think, “Hey, didn’t I already go through the rigorous interview process to get selected among 100s of applicants already? Why are you asking this now?” -Well, because they can.
While all these things are happening, you cannot leave the country. Yes, even if you even have a medical emergency, you need to wait to die. If you leave the country, forget the Visa that year. See you next year.
What exactly do they mean by “We are not looking to Sponsor a candidate?”
Now to the topic.
You now know how much mental stress it is to go through this process to get you working in that company. Also, you only understood from your shoes what you will be going through to get your visa. Yes, I understand your skills cannot be matched, and you are the only one who can do what you do. From the company’s standpoint, it’s more than just sponsoring for you financially.
When companies recruit a candidate, they look at that candidate as a 3 to 5-year investment. They have a budget of say, $300,000 for a candidate, the job of the recruiter is to figure out how much of that cost is on the operational needs (Computer, License, Travel, etc), on the basic necessity (Insurance), on annual bonuses, etc. And then it boils down to $65,000 per year base.
So there are some constraints on the financial aspects. But more importantly, your current visa status and how this will change within those 3 years?
Say, you are in your H1B visa and it is valid for 1 year from now, the company needs to first transfer your visa from your current employer to the newer one. And then, within that year, the company also needs to file for an extension, which comes with the risk of being rejected and they have to let go of the candidate.
Would they really think about going through all this without knowing if the candidate can even fulfill the job?
What they mean by “We are not looking to sponsor” is that they don’t want to go through the mental stress while they have other candidates who could reduce the stress for them and you. It’s not because you are not a good fit, it’s not because they cannot afford to pay for the visa, it’s because of all the risk of you switching companies as soon as you receive your visa status (their past experiences), all the risk of your application getting rejected for no fault of yours nor the company, but say the pandemic in this case.
So, what should you really do during the interview process?
I understand your concern. This is a never-ending game. And no one knows the future. But here is my advice.
YOU should NEVER bring the topic of sponsorship on your first few calls unless your visa is expiring very soon
It’s the decision of the Manager at the end of the day to say whether they would like to apply for your visa. If your Manager really likes your work, they will approve the fund, then the ball gets rolling. the recruiter whom you spoke on your first interview will not even be involved in this process. You will directly deal with your legal partner and they will guide you.
Remember, you are not lying, you are just not bringing your weak spot.
Also, what’s the harm in just going through the interview process?
I have applied for jobs, get the calls for the initial rounds, I clear my first few rounds, and then in one of the calls before I get to speak with the hiring manager, I get the question of sponsorship and everything stops there. But, what’s the harm in meeting new people and learning about their company?
Also, this is the best chance you have to try something different. I love to show that I am different. I like to make some infographics to my resume to see if that works. What other situations can you test it out? Only when you don’t have any expectations. One of those companies that you know you will not be interviewed because of your visa, that’s exactly where you can experiment on your creativity. If it works, well, you got positive feedback, add that resume on your other applications as well.
Those are the interview you can absolutely go without preparation to see where you stand and what you need to focus on. By all means, you don’t even have to prepare for an interview, you may just be good at communication and have a nice conversation, make some good connections, and move on.
Give them the confidence that you know what you are talking about
Do the research about the visa you are on, and what the process is, success rate, and so on. Don’t just simply expect the other person to know everything. If you give them the confidence that your profile is not going to have any issues with the visa, and you are really passionate about the team and their vision and looking forward to working with them, they will at least consider giving you a shot before stopping there.
You as a candidate should never ever bring the conversation about Visa Sponsorship. Of course, you need to do some groundwork, obviously, you cannot get into the American army, but go on LinkedIn and see if you find any employees who have an international background, they probably also gotten sponsorship. Which answers your question of whether or not they sponsor. That’s all you need to know to get off the ground. If nothing works, you at least have some interview experience and new connections.
All the best!