Discover your dream Career
For Recruiters

Banks, hedge funds need H1B visa holders for AI jobs

For all the complaints in Trump's America about immigrants and threats to suspend visas like H1B, some areas would be woefully understaffed without talent from outside the country. They include the growing sector of artificial intelligence/machine learning.

A recent study from MacroPolo, a thinktank run by the Paulson Institute in Chicago (founded by former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry M Paulson) found that only 20% of the world's top A.I. researchers come from the USA, while 29% come from China. The remainder are from Europe (18%), India (8%) and elsewhere.

Even though the U.S. ony accounts 20% of top tier A.I. researchers (as defined by the nationality of individuals submitting papers to the 2019 Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) conference), the MacroPolo study found that it employs 59% of the top A.I researchers in the world. - That shortfall has to be made up somehow, and sourcing talent from overseas is the answer. 

Most top AI talent comes in the form of PhDs. MacroPolo found that 88% of Chinese AI PhD students who complete graduate school in the U.S. work in the country.

Students who've completed PhDs can work in the U.S. under an Optional Practical Training (OPT) visa for up to three years after graduating. However, many AI specialists also work under H1B Visas. Last month, the New York Times reported that Trump was considering barring the issuance of both H1B and OPT visas in some categories of work. An update is expected in early July. This may result in STEM students, who are currently able to spend three years in the U.S. working under OPT visas, having that privilege removed and being restricted to the standard 12 month OPT Visa instead. 

Banks and hedge funds stand to suffer from any changes. As we've reported here often, banks like JPMorgan are busy building machine learning capabilities, and overseas recruits are often used to fill their roles. The chart below shows representative salaries allocated to AI experts who've successfully renewed their H1B visas in the past few months. Many are well paid (bearing in mind that the figures below are salaries alone). If visas are withdrawn, it's not just tech firms that will struggle.


Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: in the first instance. Whatsapp/Signal/Telegram also available. Bear with us if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article: all our comments are moderated by human beings. Sometimes these humans might be asleep, or away from their desks, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. Eventually it will – unless it’s offensive or libelous (in which case it won’t.)

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash


AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Ri
    Richard M
    23 June 2020

    Speaking as a professor, availability of funding is what makes a top researcher. US graduates are just as able as those of other countries and will excel just as well when given the opportunity. Trump is giving them that opportunity - he's giving the US that opportunity.

  • Ge
    George Campbell
    23 June 2020

    These jobs can be done from anywhere. In fact, with workers at home, the execs can't tell the difference. I don't see a big boon for U.S. citizens from canceling the H1B program. Capitalism will always seek the lowest labor costs, and jobs will easily move off shore.

  • Fr
    18 June 2020

    How is this go along with the "end STEM" movement?
    I don't know if they're connected but the antifa BLM and end STEM. Seem to go hand in hand.
    since minorities don't do well in math and sciences They claim we should just cancel stem.
    Sounds crazy to me

  • PS
    18 June 2020

    There is not a lack of American students studying in STEM, but there is a lack of TALENTS since the majority of them simply pursue a general track and not many can do well comparing to their foreign counterparts. Also, only a few them are capable of passing FANNG company interviews.

    Cutting out foreign talents will be the death knell of American technology dominance. Any work visa suspension, even if it’s temporary, sends a strong signal to the world that American no longer welcomes foreign talents. What a pity.

  • mi
    18 June 2020

    Any private study must be read as lobby work. America First

Sign up to Morning Coffee!

Coffee mug

The essential daily roundup of news and analysis read by everyone from senior bankers and traders to new recruits.

Boost your career

Find thousands of job opportunities by signing up to eFinancialCareers today.
Recommended Jobs
Eka Finance
Quant Tech Engineers/ San Francisco
Eka Finance
San Francisco, United States

Sign up to Morning Coffee!

Coffee mug

The essential daily roundup of news and analysis read by everyone from senior bankers and traders to new recruits.