Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

Getting A Job With a US Work Visa

2012-02-15 13:18:34

I'm going to put this disclaimer here right off the bat: I am not an immigration expert, so I am not offering legal advice. My observations are based on my experience as a recruiter and in no way, shape or form should be construed as legal advice.

I get contacted fairly frequently by professionals around the world asking my help finding them a job in the US. These candidates don't live in the US, but they really want to come here to work. Many of them think that all they need to do is just impress an employer enough and they will be able to get a visa with little or no problem. But the reality is that US immigration is a tough nut to crack and that someone needs to be in an exceptionally high demand field where a sponsoring company can prove that there are not very many citizens or permanent residents ("green card" holders) to fill the jobs OR that they are globally recognized as experts in their field (I've used this category visa when I was recruiting PhD's for Microsoft Research.)

My experience is pretty much limited to technical (software/IT) professionals. I've used the H1-B, O (that "expert" visa), TN (North America - Canada and Mexico), L (intracompany transfer), E3 (Australia, Chile) and the educational work (CPT/OPT) visas in my line of work. First off, *very few companies sponsor corporate H1-B candidates*. It is expensive, and the biggest challenge is often the wait: a visa that is approved in April often cannot be used until October, and most employers just cannot wait that long to fill a position. When a job is opened, it is an *immediate* need.

Instead of going into all kinds of detail, I'm going to give you a few observations and suggestions. The easiest way to get a US job from outside our borders is to work for a US subsidiary in another country and then get an intracompany transfer. It's akin to going to a branch campus of a school with very tough admission standards and then transferring to the main campus. Speaking of can come to the US to get a degree or graduate degree and use your CPT/OPT as a springboard. But here is the chance you take with your CPT/OPT Visa: it does not automatically guarantee that the company that you are working for will offer you an H1-B. I've lost two great candidates in the last year because my company will not put in writing that we will sponsor someone at the end of their OPT.

There are many international consulting companies that have access to H1-B visas for their employees. Look up "global management consulting companies". My experience is mainly with companies in India and Ethiopia for technical employees, but there may be other options in other countries.

But another suggestion is to consider moving to Canada, which is very similar to the US in terms of culture, standard of living, and opportunity with a much higher chance of getting a visa; Canada seems more welcoming to global professionals. If you are thinking of using a Canadian work permit to try for a TN, you need to note that to be eligible for a TN Visa, you must be a Canadian citizen; it is not enough to be a resident of the country with a valid work permit.

I freely admit that Americans take the quality of our freedoms, our general standard of living, the opportunity to make personal wealth based on a capitalistic economy, and the legal protections we have as workers for granted. I believe in a diverse workplace and global economy. But I need aspiring professionals to understand the realities *I* face as a recruiter and the limitations I have.

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