Over the last decade as a corporate immigration attorney in Silicon Valley, advising founders and venture-backed companies, I’ve seen that the battle for the world’s top STEM talent (irrespective of national origin) has been relentless. What can seed or series A–stage companies do to realistically compete for such top talent against some of the world’s largest and most recognized tech companies?
Focus internally on your immigration program. Build out a thorough immigration policy that reflects your company’s needs, and ensure that everyone who touches recruitment becomes intimately familiar with it and can speak with some basic level of understanding and compassion to foreign-born job applicants.
A study in late 2017 conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy revealed that well over half of graduate-level STEM students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities who were studying computer science were international students. The same trend of large international student numbers was found in almost all STEM programs. Further, these STEM graduates tend to focus on finding jobs in tech hubs across the U.S., even further concentrating foreign national talent in these areas, resulting in a high likelihood that job applicants for technical roles will be candidates requiring immigration sponsorship.
International students normally utilize employment authorization obtained via a program called Optional Practical Training, which allows graduates to apply for an employment authorization document in order to work in a position that draws directly from their field of study in the United States.
Unfortunately, many early-stage companies take a just-in-time approach to immigration and thereby often miss out on tremendous talent. I’ve commonly dealt with series A– or series B–stage companies that still have senior-level executives involved in trying to understand details like visa options and how to launch cases. Failing to dedicate resources beyond executives to these tasks and not having clear workflows for assessing and compiling cases is a surefire way to struggle with onboarding talent and also fails to provide a positive candidate experience.
By Hendrik Pretorius for FORBES
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