Suppose an assistant professor from a reputable Indian university wants to apply for tenure-track positions in the United States. Would he or she have any chance? Assume that his or her publication record is on par with faculty members at top-level US universities.

  • 6
    I imagine the answer here may be highly field-dependent. For instance, I doubt that a nuclear physicist would have much success looking for positions in the US.
    – aeismail
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 19:59
  • 2
    aeismail - is this because the field is very narrow or because of national security concerns?
    – RoboKaren
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 20:27
  • 1
    I don't know if other fields are similar, but in mathematics, there are semester-long or year-long focused research programs at places like IAS, ICERM, MSRI etc, for which you can apply to participate. That is a good way to spend some time in the US, get your work known in the US, ask advice from people who will understand your specific situation, and (if you're lucky) perhaps impress people who might recommend to their departments that they should try to hire you.
    – Anonymous
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 0:08
  • Is this professor has experience writing US grants, familial with the differences in education, has maybe experience working with grad students?
    – Greg
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 12:31

1 Answer 1


Yes with caveats -- and the caveats have nothing to do with being Indian and everything to do with being outside of the American educational system:

  1. There are particularities of the application process that are culturally bound and that you may not be familiar with (the style of the cover letter, its importance [or not], the style of your research and teaching statements, the format of your CV, who you ask to serve as a reference).

  2. Your references may also be unfamiliar with American letters of reference styles. I find that foreign letters tend to be much shorter and much less enthusiastic.

  3. Search committee members may not be familiar with your universities and its rank, with the ranking of the journals you've published in, and the significance of your teaching and service. They may be concerned that you do not know how to teach to American student audiences or that you may not be able to successfully apply for grants from American grant agencies.

  4. The provost (who oversees searches) may be unwilling to authorize the search committee to bring in an international candidate due to the cost of airfare.

  5. The university may be concerned about whether or not you will be able to obtain a visa to work. Even if you are able to get a visa, even under the best of cases, an international candidate who accepts a job offer in March may not be able to start by August of the same year because of visa delays. This may have programmatic repercussions (i.e., they need someone to teach CS101 in the Fall).

  6. Rarely, some jobs are closed to non-Americans because the government grants or cooperating agencies require security clearances or have other restrictions. This is more common in the engineering and physical sciences.

  7. In Canada, some positions are required to be offered to Canadian citizens before they are permitted to open to non-Canadians. The same rule technically applies in the USA for immigrant visas, but is not scrutinized as much.


As you can see, none of these have anything to do with you coming from India, and everything to do with being an international candidate. You'd have much more luck if you were applying from inside the USA (e.g., take a post-doc in the USA for a year or two and apply while on that).

  • 3
    #2 sometimes tends to be a result of letters being visible to the candidate.
    – aeismail
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 20:23
  • #4 sounds rather dumb. The university may be saving a few thousands dollars, but also they are going to spend ~90k$/year for many years just in salary. From any economical balance, it is worth the risk if the applicant may be better.
    – Davidmh
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 8:10
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    @Davidmh you haven't dealt with many provosts, have you? Logic is futile. From the provost's perspective, foreign faculty are a source of ongoing cost from the interview to the paperwork for visas to family issues.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 13:45
  • @RoboKaren I have had my share of bureaucracy, so I am not doubting it is true. It is just that one wishes they were able to reason in long term economy terms too.
    – Davidmh
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 14:01

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