Getting a H1B job in USA is in no way different than getting a job anywhere else, just that the standards are way higher. Let me explain.
First off, H1B visa is for skilled workers. What that means is that you have to be exceptionally skilled in your line of work. Companies in the US hire folks from other countries if they can’t find the talent in US. So, if you have a good track record of what you’re doing (say a Software engineer) and that job is in high demand in the US, then you might have a chance in getting an H1B visa.
Now, keep in mind that one cannot apply for a H1 Visa like the visa in UAE or Gulf countries. It works the other way round, where the company seeks you and invites you to US on a H1B visa. Let me give you some context before going too far ahead.
The coasts, San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles in the USA are very expensive, yet very attractive when it comes to getting a job and settling down in America. Engineers, programmers, mathematicians and so on, who can have a very highly paid profession, prefer these places; whereas nurses, school teachers, doctors, etc., look for smaller towns that are cheaper to live in and don’t have enough qualified professionals. Similarly, entrepreneurs find smaller towns cheaper.
Researching Cities and Jobs in America
The US has several cities that are far more appealing than others in terms of jobs, lifestyle, affordable housing, cost of living, weather conditions and good healthcare facilities. The choice become more obvious when you have friends or relatives from your country in that area. Narrow down your city choices further using company websites and job search websites, based on your field of expertise in those selected cities, while looking at the pay for your profession.
Job Application in Select Cities
After shortlisting your job choices, create a résumé, personalized for specific positions. Remember, your résumé is a marketing tool that can persuade the employer to invite you for an interview. It should be a short profile of yourself, clearly stating the objectives and/or goals of your career.
Now It’s Time for the Visa
You should know that getting a work visa to the USA will always take several months. Most employees do consulting work with the company in the USA from their home country to create familiarity amongst the authorities. However, it is strongly advised to move to America as a student first on a student visa. Start looking for job when you are done with your education.
Apply for an Appropriate Work Visa
A visa gives you temporary permission to stay in America, whereas a green card allows you to reside permanently in the country. People need to first get a work visa when moving to America for work. After spending a specified time in the US, they can then apply for a green card. Talking of visas, there are many kinds for people who immigrate to work for a company, such as:
- Specialty Workers, also called an H1B Visa, is designed for immigrants who wish to work in a specialized field, for which many companies would love to sponsor their employees.
- Temporary Skilled or Unskilled Workers, also known as the H2B visa, this one is for immigrants who want temporary, non-agricultural positions.
- The Intracompany Transferees, or L1, is meant for immigrants who will be working for a company that has operations in America.
- Employment-based Preference Visa are for those immigrants who are already employed. This visa needs to be requested for by the employer.
There are special visas for immigrants coming from certain countries, where the E3 Visa is meant for citizens of Australia and the TN Visa is meant for Canadian and Mexican citizens.
When moving to America, a good option would be to rent an apartment for a few months, while being careful of the immigration scams, so that you get the time to decide where you eventually want to be. After some time in your job, you can look into applying for a green card. Here are some tips for first time immigrants to USA.
How to get a H1B visa
Getting a H1B isn’t easy. There are several steps in the process and lot of uncertainties. But simply put, here are the steps to getting an H1B visa to USA.
- You need to posses a specialized skill. H1B visa is offered for those with specialized skills like Doctors, Software developers, Scientists etc. In order to be eligible for one, you need to have already built a career that excels in your specialized skill. Keep in mind that nobody can apply for an H1 visa on their own.
- Once you have a good career path or skills to boast about, you need to find a sponsor/employer in USA who is willing to hire you.
Companies have lot of costs involved in applying for your visa, so not all companies will be willing to take the risk. Few companies do.
- In order to file for an H1B visa for you, the company will have to file an application (called LCA – to be able to apply for an H1 visa) and get it approved first.
- Then they have to file for your H1B visa. At this point, you have to know that only certain number of visas are available in a year and you have to have applied at the right time (the earlier the better) to be able to get approved.
- You also have to do an interview at the American consulate in your city once the visa comes, and the immigration officers there have to screen you and approve you. Once done, they will stamp the H1B visa in your passport.
- At this point, you can travel to USA.
H1B Step by Step Process
Here is a graphical representation of the entire H1B process.
Source – HappySchools
Life for first time H1B holders in USA is tough. There are lot of things you have to learn and get accustomed to. I’ve written and in-depth article on how to cope up with it here > Tips for first time immigrants to USA.
Some frequently asked questions on H1B visa.
How to apply for a H1B visa?
No, you cannot apply for H1B visa yourself. The company applies for a LCA and for your H1B visa on your behalf. Once approved, you attend the interview. (Please refer above image)
Where can you find companies looking to hire candidates on H1B visa?
There is no one specific list. You could look for high profile companies on job search sites like LinkedIn, find profiles matching yours and apply for the job, while mentioning that you need a H1 visa/ sponsorship. In most high profile company’s job application forms, there would be a section where they specify whether or not they can offer sponsorship/H1B visa.
How much does it cost to apply for a H1B visa?
Remember that it is always the company that bears the cost of applying for an H1 visa. If any company ask you to bear the cost, in full or partial, it is illegal and should be reported. Usually, the cost ranges from $2,500 – $6,000 (including LCA petition, attorney charges, H1B visa application etc)
What qualification you need to get an H1B visa job?
H1B visa is a speciality occupation visa, and usually needs high educational qualification and/or proven long track record in your career. A basic degree is a must and post graduation and further studies always helps. Having said that, these aren’t absolute essentials.
Where to apply for H1 visa?
You cannot apply for H1 visa yourself, but your company who is willing to hire you can, if they have applied for LCA (Labour Condition Application). Here is the website where your company can apply for H1 visa.
When should I apply for h1 visa?
Every year, the H1B Visa season starts on April 1st. And USCIS begins to accept H1B visa applications for next fiscal year starting from April 1st of the current year. So, it makes sense to apply for H1B visa before April of every year if you wish to get it approved that year.
Can I apply for H1 visa on my own?
No you cannot. Your employer has to apply for H1B visa for your position and on your behalf.
How long does it take to get an h1 visa?
Since the visa is based on a lottery system, there is only a limited number of visas available every year. You will need to wait anywhere from six to one year (depending on when you applied for the visa) to get your H1 visa.
All the best! If you have any questions, let me know.
P.S – I’m not an attorney. Please don’t consider any of the above as legal advice.