If you’re a citizen of another country and want to work in the United States, getting an employer’s sponsorship can be a bit tricky. A specialist on this topic, attorney Amanda Goodman of Goodman Immigration Group provided some insight to Find & Follow Passion at Eugene Lang The New School for Liberal Arts attendees.
Below are her top five guidelines for international students seeking work visa sponsorship:
1. Don’t Google.
USCIS.gov, the official website of The U.S. Department of Homeland Security regarding citizenship and immigration, is the only trusted source. All other websites, videos and articles (including this one) should only serve as starting points. It’s your job to do the research and be equipped with the latest accurate information.
2. Be upfront about your visa sponsorship.
Don’t wait until the last round of interviews to mention your visa situation. You want to be honest from the beginning so that you won’t waste yours or your employer’s time.
Be informed about your visa options in order to help walk your potential employer through the process.
3. Small companies are the way to go.
Any company can sponsor you but with small boutique firms, you have a direct relationship with your supervisor, which increases your chances of sponsorship.
Big corporations often sponsor mid-levels and executives rather than recent college graduates. However, there are no set rules. Each situation is different and you can be the exception.
4. Take advantage of your Optional Practical Training (OPT) year.
After completion of an academic program in the U.S (Bachelor’s and/or Master’s), students holding a F-1 visa are granted employment authorization for 1 year. You can be self-employed, create your own company, freelance, volunteer, intern, or hold a regular full-time job. Need a somewhere to start looking? Our FindSpark Job Board has new, curated creative, business and tech opportunities every day!
To maintain your legal OPT status, you must work at least 20 hours a week and not accumulate 90 days of non-employment. You have tremendous freedom to make connections and find sponsorship during this year so plan ahead. Contact your school’s adviser to be prepared for your transition from F-1 to OPT status.
5. Be familiar with the different types of work visas.
The three types are:
- J-1 (Exchange Visitors)
Lots of foreign professionals come to the U.S. as interns or trainees to work short-term for a specific program sponsor. This is a great way to gain hands-on experience and knowledge of American work culture. Note that there are many categories within the J-1 visa and your employment status depends upon the regulations of your individual visa approval. For more information, visit the official USCIS J-1 website.
- O-1 (Person of “Extraordinary” Talent or Achievement)
O-1 visas are awarded to individuals who have demonstrated that they are at very top of their fields (through publications, awards, peer reviews, etc.).
Letters of recommendation are a crucial component of the O-1 visa so don’t burn bridges – always keep in touch with your former employers.
- H-1B (Specialty Occupation Worker)
This is one of the most common ways for international professionals to be employed in America; thus, the process is very competitive. The government only grants 65,000 new H-1B visas each year and starts accepting sponsorship petitions on April 1st. Your company is the one paying for all the H1-B filing fees. As such, to assist your company and to ensure a smooth application process, be organized with your paperwork and be responsible with deadlines.
For a complete list of employment visas, visit USCIS.gov.
Navigating the immigration process is no doubt challenging but not impossible.
Stay positive and good luck!