I will have a couple of interviews for postdoc positions in the US (at big universities). I have read that it might be very convenient to get an H1-B visa (I'm from a non-US & non-EU country).

Shall I talk about this and/or try to negotiate it during the initial interview? Or maybe only after getting an offer? Or isn't it just 'not' under discussion?

  • I suspect that during the interview you'll be talking mainly to faculty who won't know anything about visas; those issues are typically handled by a dedicated "international scholars office". You could perhaps contact that office directly; they are usually not in the loop of the hiring process, so any discussions you have with them wouldn't likely affect whether you get the job. Jan 31, 2017 at 21:00
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    You don't negotiate anything during an interview. If/when they make you an offer, this is a completely reasonable thing to ask about. The only time it would make sense to mention it during an interview is if the visa issue is a deal breaker for you and you don't want them to even consider you for the position unless they are willing to sponsor you for an H1-B.
    – Dan Romik
    Jan 31, 2017 at 21:10
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    @NateEldredge I wouldn't advise a postdoc candidate to directly (and without solicitation) contact any other unit at the university where they are interviewing outside the department that invited them. The unit is highly likely to just forward the email to the department to ask them who this random person emailing them is and what is going on - not a way to leave a good impression.
    – Dan Romik
    Jan 31, 2017 at 21:16
  • Most place already has a policy which visa they offer for given people. Since taxes are completely different for H1b and J1, it also often means you need significantly higher salary if you are for H1b..
    – Greg
    Mar 26, 2017 at 8:27

2 Answers 2


Generally in an interview before you've received an offer, your overriding priority is making yourself look like an appealing candidate, and so bringing up points that will present a difficulty for your employer may not be so wise. Trying to negotiate a point like this will at best put your interviewer in an uncomfortable spot (since they are almost certainly in no position to commit on a point like this) and at worse come off as arrogant. I think it would be reasonable to ask if they can put you in touch with a staff person who can explain how visas are usually dealt with (it is probably not wise to try to look this person up beforehand separately).

After you have an offer, then you are in a better position to make requests, though honestly, most postdoc positions are pretty much "take-it-or-leave-it." Visas (as opposed to salary or research funds) are even trickier since they are not usually handled by the department, and have legal constraints that most of the parties involved understand poorly. You can try, but I wouldn't have a lot of optimism you will get them to do things differently than they would have.


Several suggestions:

  • First you want to get them to tell you what their take is on the whole visa situation. That is, don't ask for anything or even tell them what kind of visa situation you would like to achieve before they've described the "possibility space" to you (or made an offer without talking about visas at all).

  • Either before the interview or after the offer, figure out who is in charge of administrative affairs at the department/group you're interviewing at, call them up, tell them you're about to interview, and ask them, rather the professor whose time is better spent on academic affairs, what's it like for post-doc's with respect to work visas. It's an innocuous question and they are likely to answer it. I personally think it's ok to do so before the interview already, but if you want to be more cautious, then wait even with that.

  • After you've received an offer and are inclined to accept, talk to the person who made you the offer and say something like "I understand that w.r.t the work visa, sometime X happens and sometimes it's Y. Is that something that is up to me to choose? Will you be able to help me make it Y rather than X?"

Note that I've tried to make my advice non-US-specific (as I don't have much of a clue about the US visa situation, but your question is relevant in a wider context).

  • I'm surprised at the downvotes for this answer with no comments. In fact point #1 is extremely pertinent. Depending on project and funding source not all visa types are possible. Reg #2: I feel this should happen after the interview rather than before.
    – kabZX
    Mar 25, 2017 at 20:25
  • @kabZX: This kind of behavior is very common on StackOverflow, too bad we see it here as well. Edited your reservation in.
    – einpoklum
    Mar 25, 2017 at 21:03
  • @kabZX I'm surprised that you are surprised. What exactly is wrong with downvotes with no explanation? They may not be helpful to the answer writer, but they still offer useful feedback to everyone else.
    – Dan Romik
    Mar 25, 2017 at 21:10
  • @einpoklum since you bemoan the lack of feedback: your advice in #2 contradicts (in a slightly dangerous way IMO) my Jan 31 comment, so I see that as a good reason to downvote. Also your recommended language in #3 is IMO not good language to use in a hiring negotiation. And finally, the question was US-specific but you don't address that context and in fact admit to not knowing anything about it, which detracts from both the usefulness and credibility of your answer.
    – Dan Romik
    Mar 25, 2017 at 21:22
  • @DanRomik therefore it is indeed very useful if voters actually point out what is wrong or you don't agree with. Also, i guess you are from US, so it would mean you have no knowledge of the visa situation neither
    – Greg
    Mar 26, 2017 at 8:31

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