International students always want to know when the best time is to reveal that they require H1B visa sponsorship. The most important thing to remember is that you should always be up front when someone asks you directly what your work status is. If you don’t have full time U.S. work authorization, don’t tell a recruiter that you do simply because you have OPT. It’s misleading and I speak more about this issue in my OPT to H-1B blog entry. Being clear about your work status when asked about it is critical to establishing trust. So if someone asks, tell them you require visa sponsorship for full-time employment.
If someone doesn’t ask, my opinion is that you’re not under any obligation to share that information until you’re being seriously considered for a job. What does ‘seriously considered’ mean? That’s up to you to decide, but certainly before you go in for a second round interview.
International students are always afraid to say that they require sponsorship because it tends to end the conversation before they have a chance to pitch their value. My advice is, someone will only ask you about work authorization when you’re speaking to them about jobs. If you’re approaching a hiring manager for an informational interview (which is my recommended job search technique for international students), there’s no reason for anyone to ask you about your work status because you’re there to gather information from the manager, not a job! As I describe in detail in my book, asking for a job in an informational interview is a job search cardinal sin, and it will cut short many networking conversations before you have a chance to present your value.
When to tell a company you need visa sponsorship
So the short answer to “When do I tell the company that I need visa sponsorship” is:
1. When they ask you
2. When you believe you’re being seriously considered for a specific job
The preferred situation is to reveal to the hiring manager that you require sponsorship, and not HR. The reason why is because you have an opportunity to explain to the hiring manager what’s involved in sponsoring a visa (he/she probably won’t know), and winning an ally, before HR gets involved. And as I say in almost all of my presentations, hiring managers should hear from you how easy it is to sponsor an H1B before they hear from HR how hard it is!