There are many benefits to living in the United States, from the high standard of living to the incredible range of geography, climates, and cultural experiences to be had. There are also several pathways to fulfilling this dream, including as a student, long term visitor, or spouse of a citizen. But for most people who want to live the United States for an extended period of time, a job is necessary in order to get a visa.
It’s not exactly easy to land a great job in the US as a foreigner, but it is not impossible either. Understanding how your skills match up to current areas of need in America makes a big difference. Follow our helpful tips for navigating the process and you’ll be boarding that plane before you know it.
Step 1: Choose the Right Visa
To avoid unnecessary delays or roadblocks, it is important to apply for the visa that best matches your situation. There are several types of visa related to work in the U.S.
The H-1B visa is for skilled workers in a specialized field. This is the best kind of visa for people who want to live in the United States indefinitely. However, to qualify you will need to show that you have an advanced educational degree as well as many professional achievements. But if you don’t have either of those things, the H-1B also covers working fashion models!
Apply for an H-2A visa if you are looking for temporary agriculture-based work, such as the seasonal picking and packing of produce. With this visa, your U.S.-based employer must provide you with safe housing and nutritious meals, as well as cover the cost of inbound and outbound transportation to the job site.
The H-2B visa is also for temporary or unskilled workers, but in a non-agricultural position. This could cover warehouse work during the holiday season, for example. Employers who hire workers with the H-2B visa are required to certify that they will not pay foreign workers less than citizens for the same work.
If you are currently an executive or manager with a company that also has a United States branch, you are in luck. You could qualify for an intracompany transfer that allows you to live and work in America by simply transferring there. It may take some time for a job to come available, but in general this is much easier than starting your job search from scratch.
Step 2: Mark Your Calendar
It can be quite challenging to navigate the complicated process of securing a job offer and applying for the appropriate visa. Each type of visa has a different deadline for consideration, and these deadlines can change with very little warning. You can usually only apply within six months of your job’s start date, not sooner.
Some visas are merit-based while others are drawn from a lottery. Each type has a limited number that will be issued each year, and this number is adjusted annually based on various factors. It can take several months to receive word on the approval or disapproval of your visa, so you will need to carefully coordinate the process with your employer to keep them happy.
All of this is to say that you need to keep a detailed and precise calendar for yourself as you navigate the incredibly complex process of applying for and receiving a visa.
Step 3: Consider Your Qualifications
No matter what type of visa you pursue, or what industry you are in, you’ll find that the U.S. prefers candidates who are at the top of their field. Think about what you could do to distinguish yourself in a crowded field of visa applicants. This could mean continuing education, taking on additional responsibilities at work, or volunteering your skills.
Note that you might also need to validate your degree – that is, determine whether an advanced degree earned outside of the U.S. matches precisely with an American degree in the same subject. It is not always necessary that it does match completely, but certain high skilled jobs (notably medical-based positions) will require you to pass an exam before being granted permission to work in the United States.
Step 4: Prepare Your Application Materials
In the United States, applicants for professional positions are generally required to submit a cover letter and resume. Resumes are a one-page summary of your skills, education, and experience. Many Americans maintain a few different resumes that target particular industries.
For example, if you have experience in both software development and mechanical engineering, you would write two resumes, one for each area of specialization. With multiple choices, you can submit the strongest resume possible for any given job opportunity.
Cover letters should always be customized to the specific company. You may maintain a basic template and alter it for every application to demonstrate that you understand the company’s needs and can meet them in a way that no one else can.
It is wise to enlist the help of an American resume-writing service to proofread and polish your materials so that your application meets professional standards and reads as though a native English-speaker wrote it.
Step 5: Apply for Jobs
In order to be granted a visa for work in America, you first need a job offer from a company that is willing to sponsor you. There’s the rub – even if your application is otherwise fantastic, most U.S.-based companies are not prepared to take on the cost and responsibility of sponsoring foreign workers. We recommend that you start your search with the website USponsor Me, which collects and lists jobs from companies that do sponsor visas.
You will also find that your search is easier when you target industries that are experiencing a shortage of workers. Currently in the U.S., businesses that struggle to fill positions are in media, technology, telecommunications, business services, education, medicine, and manufacturing. If you can show strong qualifications in any of these industries, it may be easier to land that job.
When you receive a job offer from a company that is willing to sponsor your visa application, you will have the support and backing of that company as you navigate the following steps. This is a huge help! Before then, you can get more information on job searching in America by checking out the Department of Immigration website.
There you can determine professional requirements for specific industries as well as get advice on how to write your resume and evaluate a job offer. You will also find the specifications, deadlines, and fees associated with the visa you choose.
It won’t be easy, but by doing thorough research, brushing up your professional skills, and targeting only companies that are known to sponsor visas, your pathway to America will become clear.