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International Artists/Animators: Visa Questions/Discussion

Hey AnimState/Tea Time!

I had someone hit me up regarding Visa questions, and I thought that this would be a great place to start a larger discussion. I am an international animator currently working in the States, and I'm sure there are many more out there who need questions answered and/or could provide insight to others, so here's a dedicated thread that could hopefully become a helpful resource in the future.

--Lana B


  • edited September 2017

    Hi guys,

    my name is liad, i am 27 years old from israel.
    i studied animation in isreal and left on my third year here in order to pursue my american dream becoming a 3d character animator. since i left my university i have been working in 3 jobs here for 2 years now to save the required money.
    dream is coming close but researching about school, visas and other stuff made me contamplating about difficult decisions and hope you can help me guys -Sheridan (Canada) vs AAU (USA)

    visa wise:
    USA (AAU):
    international students get student visa whice allow cpt, opt and hopefully h1b if get sponsership and HOPEFULLY get picked in the h1b lottery. if not, get kicked back to my country...bummer...
    student visa allow open work permit after graduating in the length of the the education - 4 years means 4 years after graduating.
    Also, after graduating, you are allowed to apply to PR - PARMANENT RESIDENCE and after 2 years get a Candian citizenship and passport and then TN status whice is temporary visa for USA, and stiil you can apply every year for H1B.

    To conclude:

    If I go to canada its 2d (its cheaper so maybe i will balance it by taking animation mentor while studying), i dont have the companies i have dreamed about there and dont get cpt and opt whice can make a big difference in gainning expereicnce and a job in USA BUT! its cheapier, canada do have some 3d animation companies, amazing ones as well but not the one i was dreaing about for so long but can be a step on my way by gaining experiecnce.
    also, i will be able to get a work permit - PR - citizenship whice will allow me later to get a TN visa in USA. that way, if i wont get picked in the H1B lottery i still have a valid option to work there. and if nothing goes in getting an offer from USA while i am in canada at least canada will let me stay and live there and gaining more and more experience.

    AND Yes, i know, it depend on your demo reel and motivation!!! I WILL kick my ass no matter what!!! But i figured out after talking to so many people inside there is more to it than just that. there is a lot to think about.

    My question and ask for advice:
    1) animators that studied in Canada and USA and got a job in USA can share some info from personal experience? what r the chances of getting a H1B if you study in USA? OR what r the chances of getting a usa job if i study in Canada? does my assumptions and plan are correct regarding for each country?

  • edited September 2017

    Hey Liad,

    Reading through your thoughts here, I have to say Canada stands out as the better option to me. I graduated from AAU, and as an alumni, I'll tell you a few of my opinions.

    1. It was really difficult finding gigs after graduation, even as a US Citizen. Competition is high, and most companies are frugal. Most of my international friends were not able to find a company willing to hire them under a visa. Even with amazing demo reels. Many of them returned home after their OPT ran out. A few were successful, but they were truly the exceptions.

    2. If you are able to live and work in Canada. You can continue to look for work in the US, and you will be in a better position than students with OPT or a visa. You wont have the stress of desperately needing that US job to be able to stay in the country. Plus you'll have more bargaining power when discussing wages.

    3. The cost of AAU really bites you in the ass (If you have to pay for it yourself like I did). If Sheridan is significantly cheaper, I would go for the Sheridan/Online School combo. There are tons of wonderful options for online education that connect you with industry professionals. The Pixar classes at AAU are great, but don't pick the school for that ONE reason.

    4. Girlfriends are awesome. Be kind to them and reduce stress where you can. When it comes to immigration status, Canada sounds like it would be a lot less stress for both of you. If you can both pursue your dreams in Canada, GO. FOR. IT.

    5. Canada is awesome, and there are industry opportunities there as well. That is all.

    -Jonathan M.

    PS - Tea Time Animation was one of THE BEST parts of my time at AAU. So you've already got a piece of what AAU has to offer, just by commenting here.

  • edited September 2017

    Hey Jonathan!

    thx for the reply and help!! it sure did help a lot.:} and yeah tea time community is a.m.a.z.i.n.g!.
    another question that bothers is and forgot to write is about sheridan itself. all good about canada but sheridan BFA is more 2d emphsize. now, i like 2d a lot but more 3d and want to become a 3d character animator.

    few things worries me and couldnt find any answer:

    1) I know Sheridan has a one year digital animation course. i want to do the BFA 4 years. so,do they give 3d classes in the classical BFA like in ringling? do they have good 3d alumni teachers? do students there actually help building good 3d characeter animation demo reel or it will be my own job? not saying someone have to do it for you at all BUT for example ringling students get the benefits of using their assignments and stuff cause its more 3d oriented. (i thought about ringling but i didnt have the money and also its still USA).

    2) another thing is regarding and connected to the first question. do companies such dreamworks, disney and pixar actually come to canada to recruit? couldn't find anything about it except for sheridan website career info...but does it happen? do you know someone that graduated from sheridan animation BFA and got into those companies as 3d character animator? even for image sony imageworks whice is in canada but doing 3d stuff.

    yes, Sheridan looks like an amazing school but still, things worries me...

  • Unfortunately, I can't answer most of your questions about Sheridan, as I probably know less than you do.

    However, on company recruitment. It's been my experience that even when schools say studios directly recruit their alumni it doesn't really happen that way. Yes, companies will send a recruiter or an animator to the school, but most of the time they are subject to the studio's needs. (Do they have a movie/game in production? Do they need animators right now? Do they have the bandwidth to bring on an inexperienced junior animator who will need to be trained?)

    Usually they don't have any open positions, and you end up getting a portfolio review instead of an interview. Useful, but not really what you were hoping for. People do get hired from these reviews, but it is a rarity. Most studios have great internship programs, and this would be your best bet at getting into a studio as a fresh or soon to be graduate. You need to search for internships though. They're not going to come to you and ask you to apply.

    Another awesome route to a job is to impress your teachers. They've probably worked in the industry and still have connections. Don't bet on them getting you a job directly, but they can be a great referral when it really matters.

    -Jonathan M.

  • Thx for the tips Jonathan:)) helped a lot!
    The only thing i think about now is the question if its possible to apply for an internship in usa thru another country for example canada. I havent heard of anyone yet that got into sheridan and made an internship in usa company like i have people get when they went to AAU.

  • Liad,

    I've tried to do some digging to see if I can get concrete answers regarding whether or not you can get an American internship on a Canadian student visa, but my gut tells me it would probably work the same as any sort of 'study abroad' program. Yes internships can be (and should be) paid, but they still technically count as a 'class' you are registered in, so my gut tells me you should be fine to pursue them under your student visa. This is a question that is definitely better suited for the international admissions office at Sheridan.

    When it comes to the 2D vs. 3D debate for Sheridan, I'm with Jonathan: Sheridan definitely seems like a better option. One of the most beautiful things about animation is that like a pencil, the computer is just a tool. Some of the best 3D animators I know studied 2D animation exclusively. Furthermore, the companies you listed as being interested in working for explicitly value individuals who can draw making Sheridan even more valuable to you. Besides, AAU ALSO weighs heavily on the fundamentals like drawing and understanding form, so you won't be escaping those types of classes by going there.

    As for recruiters, I advise not waiting for them to come to you. There are many conferences throughout the year dedicated to the art and technology of animation, and there are typically stations set up to chat with recruiters at all of them. CTNx, GDC, Siggraph -- all very valuable experiences. Furthermore, they all have volunteer programs that typically provide a free ticket for those willing to help out. (That was what I did!)

    Hope this is helpful. Good luck in your decision!

  • thx a lot lana!!!! really healpfull and relaxing tips! ;)
    about the internships - i am with you on that opinion but, after researching a little about people who graduated and work in the industry in USA, there isnt even one that actually made an internship outside canada whice what made me think and wonder.
    any way, you both gave me a lot of important tips and info. for now, i know how to continue..

    soon coming to open house maybe ill see one of you there. ;)

  • Perhaps they never made an internship outside of Canada because they realized they didn't want to ;)

  • perhaps, but they ended up being at dreamworks, pixar, disney and blue sky.

  • edited December 2017


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