Want to work in the U.S.?
Before you continue down this page, dear reader, I would like to point you to this website’s disclaimer page, and highlight the fact that the following is by no means a replacement for legal advise. Please be mindful that I am but a mere layman of the subject matter that I am discussing here and that the following is only a personal account of my experience immigrating into the United States…
Since I am often approached by foreign designers, and sometimes share the story of my immigration with them, I thought it was time to recapitulate the legal process I went through here on this site.
If you are looking to work in the U.S. as a foreign national and don’t have an existing work visa or a green card, there are several ways to acquire a work visa for you. As far as I know, the most common one – which happens to be the route that I took – is the H1B visa. You have to find a prospective employer that is willing to sponsor this process: Beyond the single fact that they offer you a job, they will most likely also help you by providing the services of an immigration attorney, and support the case financially by paying the appropriate visa application fees… in my case, Carbon Design happened to be the sponsor for the H1B visa.
My current employer Artefact has also done this for several designers and I know of other firms – both smaller design offices and larger corporations – that have gone through this process for foreign employees.
There are a few catches, though with the H1B visa application process:
1. Applications can be filed, beginning on April 1st of each year.
2. The U.S. government approves a maximum of 65,000 H1B visas awarded per year. Once this H1B visa cap is reached, no new applications can be filed during that particular year.
3. Visa applications are usually approved after 4-6 months.
In my case, the visa cap for the fiscal year 2008 was reached on the first day of the application process, April 1, 2007. In fact, over 150,000 H1B applications had been filed by midday and a lottery was used to determine whether or not I could work in the U.S. While the H1B visa cap reach date varied greatly over the past decade, to be on the safe side, you should consider to applying early.
My visa had been granted in September of 2007 and I began work in the States on January 3rd of the following year. For this year, a company that is interested in hiring you, can begin the application process in April, and you could only begin to work in the U.S. at some point between August to October. The H1B visa is valid for an initial three years, and extendable to six. After that period is over, you would have to apply for a Green Card if you wanted to continue to work stateside…