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Ask HN: Startup promised me a job, then backed out after the internship
151 points by throwaway87 on Nov 6, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 88 comments
TL;DR; Student from Europe, did an internship in a NYC startup, got promised to be hired. After having made all the plans for moving to US, the offer was retracted.

In August I began an internship at a New York startup. Since I’m European, I had no expectations that it would have led to a full-time job, given the hassle of getting an H1B visa (in fact, I was already surprised that the company sponsored my J-1 for the length of the internship).

After just a few weeks, the company was impressed with my performance (they told me I had already accomplished more than they expected from the whole three months) and they gave me a full-time offer. Compensation, option, benefits, visa paperwork, all there. I took some time to decide, as I was considering other opportunities, and eventually accepted.

My girlfriend is American (we met in the UK, where we both did our master’s), and this was the best opportunity to keep living with her, with a nice, well-payed job in a cool town in the US. She stopped arranging for a post-study work visa in the UK. I refused opportunities with Google, Bing, and two startups. I told all those people I wasn’t able to consider any offer, since I had already accepted one (so I thought).

The last day of my internship we made the last arrangements for my return. I had a conversation with the main engineer, who also mentioned that the company could request a green card for me after a few years on the H1B. I received greetings and “see you soon” from everyone, including the founder.

Yesterday I received a phone call from the founder, saying that they "changed their mind", and they are stopping the visa application. He mentioned that, for that position, they want someone more experienced with web development and UX. He added that they expected something more from the last part of my internship.

I’m shocked.

No one ever gave me a hint that I was doing something wrong. The founder himself had called me several times to show the prototype I was developing to investors.

I cannot stress how unfortunate this is for me. I was making plans to live in the US with my girlfriend. I left some of my stuff in the city. I even lost the opportunity to apply to the green card lottery, since it closed yesterday. If I didn’t know I had a job, I would have spent the past two months looking for one, preparing for interviews, moving forward with the other possibilities I had. My girlfriend would have applied for a visa in the UK, since I was more likely to get a job there.

I am now in the US for a couple of weeks, using the grace period included in my J-1 visa to travel with my girlfriend. At the end of November I will have to leave the country.

I’m a Mathematics graduate, with good programming skills, knowledge of CS, experience with machine learning and information retrieval. I need to find a job in the US. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a startup, I will go for a big corporation if that makes it easier to obtain a visa. I’m also interested in any subtleties regarding visas: is there a way I can come back as a tourist and apply for jobs? Can my girlfriend do the same in the UK (or even just move there with me until she can apply and obtain a work permit)?

Any advice? Similar experiences?




There are three possibilities here:

1. You really did disappoint at the end of your internship. I've seen this happen. People get complacent. Take a good, hard look at what you've done and see if there's any truth to it or that someone could get that impression;

2. The company's situation changed. Funding may have fallen through. There may be a power shift in management. Who knows? or

3. They were lying to you the whole time.

I suspect (2) but, then again, we only have your side of it. I don't mean to sound harsh here. I know nothing about you.

It's time to look on the bright side: you got a three month internship out of this. If you can find someone from the company to get a reference from then that's valuable.

The US operates basically on "at will" employment. With very limited exceptions (eg the Americans With Disabilities Act) they can withdraw that offer and that employment at pretty much any time. If you can demonstrate damages and they can't justify it, you can sue but you'll need to show damages and honestly it's not worth going down that route even if there is a breach of contract, which is a somewhat separate issue.

If you had offers from other companies, go back and contact them. Tell them you'd originally planned to keep working for the company you were interning for as you were really excited about what you were working on and who you were working with but that offer fell through. This is a perfectly acceptable situation and one that won't tarnish you as a potential employee.

If the company was dishonest with you, either from the beginning or at the end, then what happened is a good thing. Better to discover this now than 1-2 years from now when they shaft you out of your options or the like. Integrity and honesty matters. Do not go work for a startup if you don't trust who you're working for. Reputation is everything.

Lastly, I'm glad (for your sake) that you didn't drag whoever this was into the public by naming and shaming them. As tempting as that might be, don't do it. You seriously undermine your ability to get any reference from someone working there and, honestly, this tends to make whoever is slinging mud look bad as well. Just move on.


If you had offers from other companies, go back and contact them.

Absolutely. If you (the OP) are from Europe you may be used to well-defined hiring windows where a job ad closes on date X and after that it doesn't matter if you are a triple-Nobel-prizewinner, you will not be considered.

The US has a much more fluid model in the commercial sector (in fact it is possibly to apply and be hired where no job has been advertised at all). There is nothing dodgy about directly contacting people you had good leads with and mentioning your circumstances have changed, recap anything positive they have said to you previously, and re-attach your resume.

Standard job-seeking advice applies, for example don't go into any details about the previous employer or the fact that you are desperate for a job in the US. Keep it to the minimum facts.


are from Europe you may be used to well-defined hiring windows where a job ad closes on date X and after that it doesn't matter if you are a triple-Nobel-prizewinner, you will not be considered.

That's not been my experience at all. I'm in Ireland, an EU member state, and I've worked at several small technology companies, and I've replied to job postings on mailing lists that are 12 months old and they are still hiring.

IMO it's only really big companies / public sector etc. that have these crazy rigid rules. (cf. Yes Minister)


Same here in Spain.


Same here in Germany


>(in fact it is possibly to apply and be hired where no job has been advertised at all)

I'm pretty sure that happens everywhere. It's firing, not hiring that's tricky in europe.


> 1. You really did disappoint at the end of your internship. I've seen this happen. People get complacent. Take a good, hard look at what you've done and see if there's any truth to it or that someone could get that impression

But why, then, make arrangements for his return instead of just telling him they couldn't promise anything just yet. The response he got just screams "something went awry on our end / the visa is getting too expensive / we found an equally good candidate here that costs us less, but we don't want to tell you so let's just blame it on you instead."


Because they did not handle the situation gracefully. But a screwup on their part doesn't obligate them to hire someone they've decided is a poor fit.

Put any moderately large company's activities under a microscope and you will find things to get "message- board- upset" about almost every day. People screw up.


But this isn't a moderately large company, and while it is not possible to get the full story from just one account, if one is to accept the OP's account as fact, then it is fairly poor form being shown from those running the startup.

By not being honest (or blunt) enough they've basically left this poor guy in total limbo. If you are going to mess with someone's life the minimum required in return is 100% honesty and unambiguous communication. If not now, as soon as possible (in the event that funding has fallen through and they don't want anyone to know right now).


Who's disagreeing with this? Nobody. Everybody is going to agree that the prospective employer handled the situation badly.


I just meant that this deserves more than a yeah "people screw up" response.


Like what? Should we burn them in effigy? Seriously, what more is there to say?


I agree that your explanations are quite possible and hinted by the reported facts. But also, there can be communication problems inside the startup as well. Maybe the people sending the strongest "can't wait for your return as full-timer" signals hadn't yet heard others' concerns. Maybe even the founder and lead engineer are being squeezed from other stakeholders. And even though a legal complaint is unlikely (and unlikely to succeed), liability concerns can lead to strange omissions and spin in the 'official reasons', to provide maximum legal cover 'just in case'.


It's unfortunate, and it sounds like they should have been better/earlier in communicating intent to you. But there could be other factors, like financing falling through or real skills-match concerns that only emerged in the last few weeks of the internship, that contributed to the situation. And even if they had hired you, it's possible for the situation to change in just a few weeks or months – so them following through with the offer was no guarantee of settled long-term employment, either.

On the bright side, there's lots of hiring of people with your skills right now, in NY and the Bay Area [1]. Though the work-eligibility factor will complicate and slow any processes, you could probably start (and complete) many interviewing processes in the next few weeks, and might have several offers by the end. So I would use your 'grace period' for that, rather than travel, if living/working in the US is your top priority.

Also, because of the arbitrariness of current-era US immigration law, I would make sure you get your visa advice from a specialist, or at the very least a sponsoring-employer, rather than a comment-thread. This seems to me like an area where a single inadvertent admission – "why yes, I did talk about job opportunities with a stranger standing next to me in line at Disneyland" – can lead to a bureaucratic troubles that are almost vindictive in their application.

[1] See for example the recent "Who's Hiring (November 2011" thread: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3181796


Sorry to hear about this situation as it sounds horribly stressful. My only piece of "advice" is to use the next few weeks to do the job search in lieu of traveling. NYC has lots of great startups and your background is prob relevant to many of them. It may require some 'ground & pound', i.e. cold emails, knocking on doors, etc but if you meet enough folks, one might click. And after all, you only need one job.

To this end, we're hiring for someone with a machine learning/information retrieval background so if you're interested, ping me (email is in my profile). We're going through the Visa formalities for another hire so are getting to know the process as well. Of course, that's putting the cart before the horse so reach out if interested and we can at least get the convo going. And we can expedite the conversation/interview process given your predicament.

More on the jobs here - http://www.cbinsights.com/hiring/.


Most likely is that something unanticipated happened at the company.

Anticipated funding didn't come in. Company is pivoting. Or maybe just the founders nephew needed the job that was going to be yours.

Ultimately, the chances of finding out exactly what the root cause is are practically nil. The employer had no formal obligation to you (this is how it generally works here), and on top of that general fear of lawsuits will also prevent them from telling you exactly what caused their change of mind.

It's an unfortunate situation, but your best option is to simply move on( recognizing that it may be less than 'simple').


I don't know what to say other than to agree with you: This was awful behavior on the part of your prospective employer.

I have no facts but I can ask more questions: How do the H1B rules work? If you had been working for the company for a single week before they fired you, would your legal status be different than it is now? Or would you have had to be there a month? A year? More than a year?

Many startups are on the verge of going broke. ;) It kind of goes with the territory. And it's not as if a company that is about to go broke always sends out clear signals of that. Generally you find out in a big hurry. Like when your employer shocks you by suddenly reneging on a deal that you both spent a lot of time making.

It would seem, then, that startups might be especially risky for visa applicants. Though much depends on the details of the immigration process. I'm sure many people around here know those details very well, however.


H1-B becomes invalid if the company fires you. It would have been worse if he'd already got here, but knowing how much effort goes into moving countries (particularly to the US), that is a very small consolation.


Some consolation, in that case, according to Wikipedia: "if the employer should dismiss the employee, the company is liable for any reasonable costs associated with relocation back to the employee's last foreign residence"


Reasonable costs here appears to mean "a plane ticket home", and appears to only apply if the former employee elects to return home; in particular, the first page of Google results will tell you that the company isn't responsible for moving the former employee's property (which is the real relo expense).


Ouch, didn't know that. Thanks.


Good luck collecting that from a bankrupt startup.


Contact me, you'll find my email on http://qbix.com/about (I'm Greg). We are in NYC.

Check out what we are building first, and let me know if that's something you would be interested in working on.


No offense, but visiting Andrey's website and reading the top post here:

http://tarantsov.com/

kind of rubbed me the wrong way. First he states that whitepapers are a 'shitload of crap' and then he has 'NIGGAS' in his most recent tweets. Now imagine you are a black grad student in CS -- not the most warm welcome. You might want to think about endorsing his personal site on your startup page.


> First he states that whitepapers are a 'shitload of crap'

I'd agree that whitepapers are often useless. But this site says academic papers are useless. Anti-intellectualism in programmers is a really weird thing, it's like pro athletes telling people that exercise is useless and we should just eat powerbars all day long.

"Academic papers are shitloads of crap. Want to read something? Read some beautiful source code instead."


It's more like pro basketball players telling people that proper basketball training, exercise and nutrition is useless and they should just go play 3 on 3 with the brothas in the 'hood.


If he was a cofounder or a member of upper management I would be concerned. But he's not, he's a developer. Are you saying you agree with the personal opinions of everyone you've worked with? That you shouldn't work somewhere because another employee has questionable / controversial opinions? Give me a break.


The issue is not so much that an employee has questionable opinions, but rather that his company endorses his blog containing those opinions with a direct link:

"Rather than talk about what he does, check out his website."

While I'm sure that post was not on his site at the time the company decided to link to it, they are still currently in the awkward position of endorsing it. I find it ironic that in support of his anti-intellectualism Andrey references an essay by Paul Graham discussing the differences between engineering and science. This essay does not support his point unless you only bother with the most cursory of glances at it.


True. I think xxbondsxx was just wondering about the wisdom of linking to his personal website from their homepage. I'm a developer myself, and I give a lot of importance to what my potential colleagues are going to be like. This is especially true when the team is small.


Often there are other factors involved, like an investor who backed out. Think about the last time you had to say no to somebody. It is hard to say no to other people and the reasons we call them are often not the real reasons. Try not to take it personal or understand it as something unfair. Things like that happen to everybody from time to time.


I always liked the saying 'you can control what others do, but you can control your reaction to it'.

It is entirely possible that the start-up you were working for is having some issues, and are therefore unable to hire you. Or maybe they are being acquired, and can't talk about it, but also can't hire any more people.

The fact is you don't know the actual situation, only what the founder told you, and it is possible that he can't tell you the real reason. Maybe he is saying what he is saying to make himself feel better about something. Whatever it is, it doesn't matter.

Have you considered going back to the other companies that wanted to interview you and see if they are still interested?

Though it may seem like things have been really screwed up, you never know what will happen. This could turn out better than your original plan.

Best of luck


In terms of returning to the US, you can enter and look at applying for jobs while you're there (meet people, have interviews etc) but you'll still need to go through the H1B procedure, which typically takes 6-8 weeks.

The visa waiver program (VWP) means you can be in the US as a tourist for up to 90 days at a time, with only 180 days in total in any one year period (* I'm 99% sure it's any one year period, though might be worth double checking). So the likelyhood is even if your in the US for that time you'll have to leave before the paperwork goes through. Immigration can get a bit funny though, so don't bank on being able to make loads of trips (they like you "out" as much as you're "in")

Now a word of warning. As a recent grad trying to convince US employers to H1B you and bring you over is hard. You're in a better position than 99.999% of the population though - math and machine learning is hot in any company. The issue the company has to decide is, "Is it worth us spending the money and time trying to get an H1B for this guy, or none of the hassel for a 'home grown' employee". If they can get your for 1-2 years it may well be, and experience with your previous company is a big plus.

Finally, trying to get interviews from the UK to the US is very tough. I wouldn't recommend applying for job boards, but look at contacting CTOs tech leads directly. Maybe my case is unique, but I applied to about 150 job board postings over about 3 months for a jobs in the US. I have an undergrad from Oxford (biochem) and masters in CS from Imperial London (GPA 3.7/4.0 respectively) and I heard nada from anyone except literally the first add I applied to. However, I've had quite a few interviews through just emailing people, so it is possible.

If you want any more info feel free to contact me (through the various means on my HN profile). For the record, I was in a VERY similar situation to you in terms of the US/UK issues.

[EDIT: Sorry, I totally projected that you're actually from the UK because of your English and what you said about moving there. I think everything still stands though, assuming your country participates in the VWP?]


As a recent grad trying to convince US employers to H1B you and bring you over is hard.

No doubt. I feel very, very bad for the OP, but I am a little surprised at this:

I refused opportunities with Google, Bing, and two startups. I told all those people I wasn’t able to consider any offer, since I had already accepted one (so I thought).

If the OP had done all the required research (and it certainly looks that way), it must have been clear that the H1-B is nothing to mess with. Turning down opportunities until you have the visa in your hand and you've gone through customs sounds crazy to me.

Getting a visa is very hard. It's not Google/Microsoft's first time at that rodeo. Even better, big companies don't change their minds in a hurry. The startup was always much riskier. Funding might change, a new better candidate might appear, the whole company might pivot away from your skillset.

I realize its easy to point out flaws from the safety of my desk chair, and I have nothing but sympathy for the OP. I've been there when I had to leave the US the first time after my studies ended, and it's really hard. But that experience has what bred my heathy paranoia for these things. Always take the safer bet.


Sure - I had sort of assumed those offers were for non-US locations though? I've been approached by a number of [american] companies and recruiters for jobs in London.

I'd be really interested to hear about the H1B from the employers' perspective; there must be some HN members who've engaged in the process?


Here's your best strategy in three easy steps:

1) Marry your girlfriend.

2) Get your family-based Green Card.

3) Get a job for one of the companies that you previously rejected or even from another company.


Agree with this- I'm going through this process right now (the only difference is I'm the US citizen and we're getting married as a result of a normal relationship)- it is fairly simple and most importantly for you- fast.

You get married (can be a civil ceremony- which takes a few hours to arrange), file your paperwork and pay the $1500 fee- in about 2 weeks you receive a confirmation and a short time later you receive a I-94, which gives you permission to work, remain in the US and right of return as long as your application is pending. You then go to an interview to prove that your relationship is real.


call back google and explain what happened. If you're good they'll get you back even if you said no at first.

Next time sign contract before saying no to others


Was there any other interns there at the same time as you were? That phone call almost sounds like it was intended for someone else.


I've been in similar position as you, so i feel for you. I've worked in the USA and Canada for several companies in the past, and also went through several visa procedures (partially). My suggestions is to start an LLC in the UK and contract yourself out to one or multiple (startup) companies. That's what I did. Not only does that evade a lot of visa headache's, and makes it way easier for companies to recruit your services. It also turns you into an entrepreneur, which is a more productive way to live your life ihmo. Who knows you might be hiring people yourself soon.

You have to fly back and forth atleast once every 3 (or 6?) months. But if you're smart you have your client pay for that. (much cheaper then navigating visa-applications) The only thing to watch out for at the customs is if they ask you what your doing here is that your here for either "sales meetings" or "training of people". Don't say your just working here. and always have a recent, written letter from one of your client-companies on you, inviting you to come help em out with trainings or other interim-solution providing. I've avoided any immigration problems like this for years. Worst thing: they will have you explain it, and then they realize its a grey area and they cant really give you any problems for it.


Not sure if that's good advice. Committing immigration fraud and lying to border officials can get you in serious trouble (18 U.S.C. § 1001). Not only you, but also the company that's paying for your services. It's only a matter of time until a CBP officer starts asking questions about those month-long sales meetings and training sessions.


Just a quick thought. There is the possibility they misunderstood the visa process. J-1 is a business/cultural exchange visa that requires a 2 year absence before re-entry under a H-1B visa or similar. Perhaps someone told them a J-1 visa was easier to get for an intern. During the H-1B process, they discovered the 2 year absence rule, and had to rescind the offer.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J-1_visa


If that's the case, why in the world wouldn't they tell the guy? According to his account, the closest thing to a reason for termination was that they "changed their mind."


If that's the case, why in the world wouldn't they tell the guy?

Just a guess: worry of a lawsuit.

If they give no reason (as they are entitled not to), it's hard to make a "counter-attack". If they give any specific reason the OP potentially has some sort of discrimination angle to pursue.


The absence rule only applies if you're in the medical field, or if the J-1 included got a government sponsorship.


[deleted]


Why do you think so? I have omitted one case: The two year requirement might also apply if the visitor is from a developing country and his skill is needed in that country, but there are very few European countries on that list.

Source: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1267.html#15


Sorry. Actually, you are right. I thought you meant exactly the opposite. I will delete my comment.

We just sponsored an H-1B and a J1, and all I can say is to be careful about advice on forums. It's good for background, but get a _good_ immigration lawyer.


Traditionally, interns and foreign exchange students are used as slave labour, then disposed of when their tenure expires. One thing that I found about business, which initially was a shock but soon became the expected norm, is that people will make all sorts of promises about all sorts of things (especially pay, employment or promotions) and the substantial majority of those promises will be broken. Usually such promises turn out to merely be pep talks.


Someone needs a history lesson. Slave labour? Please.


Feel relieved that you discovered their true character before you actually moved there and joined them and invested time with them. They are probably lying about your performance to have an excuse to rescind the offer --- now you know something about their character. They should have been honest about whatever circumstances changed such that they couldn't hire you anymore.


Out of curiosity, why was I down voted on this comment?


I did not down vote you but probably because people only know one side of the story.


Yes, that is a good point, and something I see too --- I was just trying to take a shortcut, and say it from the poster's p.o.v., and like usual, my shortcuts backfire.


Did your girlfriend finish her degree in the last 12 months - if so she can probably qualify for a Tier 1 (Post-study work) visa which will let her stay and work in the UK for up to two years (at which point she'd be expected to switch to a different visa if she wants to stay).

But the important point is that it wouldn't be contingent on her having a job offer.


just a word of advice, if you're on an H-1B, you probably don't want to rely on a startup for your job so maybe this is a wakeup call. You would ideally want to work for a more established, larger company to where you can have some assurance of their continued stability since, as you know, its rather drastic what happens if you lose your job. Not trying to be harsh but just speaking from experience of having worked with startups, both of which had at least one person on H-1B (I myself am American).


Let me address the visa part (with a disclaimer that I am not a lawyer, but have gone through the visa-related ups and downs myself).

1) You CAN come on tourist visa and try to look for a job -- it will give you about 90 days with a max of 180 days at a stretch. Super strictly speaking, tourists are not supposed to look for jobs, but I know people who have done this.

2) H1B visa allows premium processing so you can get it approved in 14 days, if you or your future employer can pay $1225 premium processing fees. You can get more information from uscis.gov -> forms -> premium processing. Let me say this again: H1B process does not have to take several months.

As others have mentioned before, I would suggest you to contact companies that offered you jobs but you declined.


Why even bother with H1b if he can easily get family-based green card by marrying his girlfriend?

BTW, that's best sort of marriage when love and business interests align.


If you're still interested in NYC startups, check out yipit.com/jobs and email me(steve@yipit.com). We're hiring and have sponsored visas before.


Sorry for you, that's a pain. My advice would be: let go this specific job and search for a job right now; you have until the end of November if I understood?

As you had opportunities with Google etc - why not recontacting them? Turns out the initial plan didn't work out.


Checkout out adaptly.com if your interested send an email to sean@adaptly.com. Articles:

http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-09-29/tech/30216948...

http://thenextweb.com/entrepreneur/2011/11/05/lessons-from-1...


The same thing happened to me, although thankfully I wasn't as invested in the promised job as you were. I worked remotely for a startup for 3 months. It was a well-paid programming internship, and the plan was for me to relocate and come on full-time at the end of the internship.

Three months into the internship, the founders scheduled individual meetings with every employee. They told they were letting me go, and that it was because the company was "going in another direction" or some such. I and another intern were being terminated, supposedly based on seniority.

The technical cofounder said it wasn't at all related to my performance, and even wrote me a great letter of recommendation that helped me get a job. And yet, a few weeks later, this startup had programmer job openings posted on its website. I heard later a rumor that they had basically run out of money, but I don't really know the whole story.

That was my first experience with a startup (after spending a lot of time here and becoming enamored with startup culture), and I must say it almost discouraged me from joining a startup. Luckily, I still kept looking, because I'm quite satisfied with where I ended up.


IANAL, but an option to consider is going to the US for the 3 months a tourist visa allows you. You can use this time to look for work and there shouldn't be any problems as long as you don't actually work ... and there shouldn't be any real problems even if you do work but that's highly illegal and I did not suggest you do anything like that.

A loophole exists however. You can open a business in the UK that does consulting for the US job so technically you are employed in the UK and are staying in the US on an extended business trip. These can legally last up to something like 6 months (I think). This should give you enough time to come up with a proper solution.

The consulting thing is how developers are usually employed in my neck of Europe because it enables a lot of tax tricks and is generally easier for people. And while this scenario is battle tested for remote work, I am not sure how it actually goes over when you also relocate to the US.

Take all of this with a grain of salt, consult with an immigration lawyer before you do anything.


For what it's worth, I quit a bad investment banking job a couple months ago. Shortly after, a company (also in NY, the same?) approached me and gave every inclination that they wanted to hire me (not the first time the company had approached me). I did a contract for them, to see whether it was a good fit for both us of (I had doubt about the specific position). I thought I did a good job, took 3 weeks instead of 4, got positive feedback, blah blah blah. Silence.

Finally, I got the 'you are too qualified' email. Which to me is just a really rude way to say 'you aren't qualified enough'.

Anyways, I lost 2 months of not looking for a job and not focusing on the right goals. I'm obviously to blame (at least in part) because I know/knew stuff like this happens, and that's life (I'm 10 years out of school, and have seen it before).

The point though? Some people are asses. Some people aren't honest. Some people simply can't handle a bad situation. Often times, people are just really, really, poor communicators.

I hope things work out for you.


I had a very similar experience. During my internship with said startup, there was talk of giving me some equity at the end of the summer, going big and doing some really nice and fancy things.

At the end of the summer, I wasn't even paid for the work I did (this was supposed to come in a lump sum at the end summer). I could have tried to harass them but concluded that it wasn't worth the effort as things could have gotten really nasty.

The lump sum was pretty much peanuts anyway, and wouldn't make any difference in the grand scheme of things.

My takeaway from the episode was the experience of building a lot of really cool software, and because of the work I did over the summer, I've gotten interview calls from Ebay, Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon, and the list goes on.....

Life is too short to be stuck on things you have no control over. Take the positives from the experience and move on.


Also H1B is a double edge sword. If coming via H1B is your only option, I would stick with well established and profitable companies that won't just change their minds on a whim.

With startups you take huge risk and expect huge rewards, and adding H1B to that mix doesn't help matter.


The US (and probably the UK) are quite strict about not looking for jobs whilst on a tourist visa. Both countries also make it really hard to get a work visa.

Given your experience it sounds like your best chance is big data style jobs. Off the top of my head try Mozilla Labs, DNAnexus, EpidemicIQ, Twitter.

Worth looking through here too: http://startuply.com/#/machine%20learning/1


So the UK is ok too? Or even going to Appsterdam (NL) or Berlin where startups are thriving, less stressful and better healthcare/social benefits/pension arrangements?


Care to link to a Berlin startups page? I may be interested in pursuing opportunities there.


get over it, 99 % this is not personal. An H1B will cost the company between 15 and 20k, in legal fees and fees to government. Only big companies do this.

Look around you, maybe return on visa waiver for 3 months and apply. Enough jobs, and yes probably you will wind up with a bigger company that a)has done this before and b)is willing to pony up the money

Good luck, Silicon Valley or NY are awesome places to be and you will learn a lot more about startups than in Europe


What's your email? I'd like to contact you and chat (as someone seeking an internship in NY); feel free to email me if you're not comfortable posting an email.


When they promised that they would hire you, you should've gotten that in writing (along with what happens if they don't hire you).

Welcome to America.


Any company is unlikely to have offered such a written contract, with break-up contingencies, except in rare situations (known superstar, heavily recruited, known complications/opportunity costs of acceptance).

In the case of a traditional 'offer letter', the envisioned employment is usually ongoing at-will employment. So that 'writing' doesn't create much protection against changing-minds or changing business situations. Either party can end the relationship at any time. ("Welcome to your first morning at work! I regret to inform you we will no longer be needing your services. Good bye.")


The offer letter is the written contract we're referring to, but your underlying point is valid because no competent offer letter is going to concede to the candidate the employer's right to terminate employment at will. Most offer letters go out of their way to bolster the employer's at-will employment rights, for instance by making mention of "probationary periods".

You can ask for anything, but in general there's no piece of paper you can get (outside of executive recruiting) in the US that is really going mitigate the risk that the employer can change their mind. You might be able to cover any expenses you incur getting ready to take the new job. If you negotiate that.


If Rinum was referring to a traditional offer letter, I don't think he would've suggested getting a binding description "with what happens if they don't hire you". The idea that an offer letter to an intern might include such a section is so far-fetched as to be unhelpful.


In many states, explicitly agreeing on consideration in the case of rescindment isn't required for a claim.

In contract law, there's a doctrine called "promissory estoppel" (see http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/promissory_estoppel) that basically says, "if somebody promises you X, and as a reasonable result of that promise, you do Y, and Y is very bad for you if promise X is revoked, you can sue for damages." The OP's case is a classic example where promissory estoppel can be applied.

Alas, New York does not recognize promissory estoppel (see Marino v. Oakwood Care Center http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ny-supreme-court/1371955.html), but many states do.


Good to know... and also another way in which the premise of Rinum's suggestion – that it would be either possible or necessary for the OP to have gotten the rescindment details in writing – was off.


I agree with you. I'm saying that unless you're negotiating for the job of "EVP Sales North America" or "Chief Operating Officer", no contract at any level of employment from intern through janitor to engineering manager is going to insulate you from the employer's right to change their mind. As I'm sure you know, the right for employers to change their mind is one of the fundamental features of the US labor market.

It's generally a good thing, too.


That's exactly what I've been saying, too, but not what was implied by Rinum's advice.


I believe that the written offer letter helps you seek damages related to relocation, losing health coverage, etc., due to the expectation of starting a new job. At-will employment lets you fire people without consideration, but it doesn't let you scam them into investing their time and money into the business relationship.


This is true, but I think everyone would be aware that fighting a court case as a recent grad will be far too expensive, and doing that from outside the country adds even more on top.


Would this still apply for people on work visas?


Try to look forward not back, call up a few start ups and see how fast you get a job.


Yeah because a lot of start-ups are willing to navigate the clusterfuck that is H-1B.


You might be right, but considering all his options I wouldn't give up without a tough fight.


Advice: Stay in the UK. It's better.


Stop pissing and moaning. ASAP. New York will eat you alive with that attitude. This is not a setback; this is an opportunity. http://nytm.org/made/

You've made it to Ellis Island. Now it's time for you to hustle.


Perfect link!

Take today/tonight to make a game plan. Identify companies on that list that you like, map them, and go out and talk to them. If you're "in the area" it's really easy to pickup a few coffee meetings and eventually one of them will lead to something bigger.

When you meet with them be completely up front about your situation in the US, but DO NOT dwell on why the last job offer failed. Talk about their company/products/space- show that you've done your homework. That should lead to discussions on your passions/experience and if you've researched them and they have a position open, great! If not it's perfectly ok to ask them about other companies looking for someone with your talents.

Edit Xtify is hiring in NYC and they're pretty awesome! http://www.xtify.com/jobs


I love a The Strokes song that says "When they say promises they mean promises..." ("Meet me in the bathroom").

Well, welcome to the US (I'm an immigrant too) the place where you can, indeed, get fired when they want (even first day). I've got promises like that too, trial periods that end suddenly, "Hey this is temporally, we gonna start working normal hours in a month when we launch" (and get fired after we launch, since the product was working).

You might think that there's no ethics in US businesses, but that's just the way here works.

If I were you, I would call out that startup. Ever since I got fucked up by an US company, you can expect 0 loyalty from me (something that you take for granted overseas), I've had 4 jobs this year, and switched only because the next one offered me more money... only if you are a co-founder of the startup you should be attached to it. The company I work with today offerred me a good salary and options and they treat me well, so I'm happy.


I do not mean to be flippant, but why the sense of entitlement here? I can understand the need for common decency, but the hiring market will sort that out in due time.

What happened to the OP sucks, but this truthfully sounds like a dating story. She's just not that into you.




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