Applying for a H-1B visa to work legally in the United States can be something of a catch-22—you can’t apply until you have a job lined up with a company willing to sponsor you, but some companies would rather hire someone already authorized to work legally in the United States.
However, this doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Plenty of companies need people with your talents and will be willing to help you through the visa process.
To successfully get a H-1B visa, you have to convince a US-based company that what you bring to their business is worth the extra fees, sometimes up to $5,000 or more, to hire you instead of a US citizen.
This may sound impossible, but we represent companies large and small that believe foreign-born employees are worth the extra expense and paperwork. Companies are willing to invest in you for many factors. You can help them to be more competitive on a global scale and to fill highly specialized positions.
The H-1B Visa Cap
The number of H-1B visas granted each year is capped, and in 2018 the H-1B visa cap is 85,000. Receiving a visa is based on a lottery system and the visa is valid for three years. The demand for US visas continues to exceed the supply, so often the cap is filled within a matter of days. But don’t give up—if you have the drive to succeed, and if you prepare by setting goals with actionable timelines, you can create your own destiny in America.
A good first step is to sign up to receive updates on the H-1B 2018 caps and stay up to date with any changes in the visa sponsorship process, so you know what is expected of you while you are working towards citizenship.
Visa Employment-Based Preference Categories
There are various employment-based categories of preference when it comes to applying for a visa, dependent on many factors, including your professional specialty and the country you are from.
The limited number of H-1B visas available each year is first divvied up into the categories and then further divided among certain nationalities. Immigration officials can reconfigure the numbers based on demand. For example, engineers from India may fill up their quota before engineers from Australia.
Employment First Preference (E1): This category includes professionals with extraordinary abilities, such as world-renowned scientists and researchers, as well as athletes, professors, artists, and business executives.
Employment Second Preference (E2): This category is made up of professionals with advanced educational degrees, including masters, doctorates, and PhDs.
Employment Third Preference (E3) The third category is made up of skilled workers and professionals who hold at least a bachelor’s degree or have two years of qualified working experience. This is the most common status of H-1B visa applicants—because of this, it has a longer turnaround process, which could be four years or more.
Employment Fourth Preference (E4) The immigrants that qualify for this category are considered “certain special immigrants” and receive only 7.1 percent of employment-based immigrant visas. This category involves immigrants who have performed special work for the United States government, and has many subgroups, including NATO civilians, ministers of religion, former employees of the Panama Canal Company, and more.
Employment Fifth Preference (E5): This category is for immigrants who wish to invest capital for new businesses in the United States.
Ten Recommendations for a Successful H-1B Job Search
To give yourself a better chance of H-1B visa success, aim your training and expertise for jobs that are in high demand in the US workforce, like university professors, nurse, physical therapists, and professionals focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
When you first start looking for jobs, you’ll be able to immediately cross out a lot of companies that don’t accept international applicants. This isn’t about you—it’s about the company culture or the company knowledge of the process. Don’t get discouraged by these companies, because there are many other companies in the United States who are looking to hire someone with your talents and skills.
Below are some tips to help you search and land jobs with H-1B sponsorship opportunities.
1. Make your résumé stand out.
You only have a few seconds to catch your prospective employer’s attention. Your wording needs to sound natural, and the tone needs to be right. Ask an native English speaker to take a look at your résumé to make sure that your choice of words match the position you are applying for.
2. Tell your story.
Most applications require a cover letter as well as a résumé. Your cover letter should tell a good story about your journey. This article provides excellent tips on telling your story in an interview setting. For even more tips on how to market yourself, The Global Mingle Party is a great resource.
3. Research before applying.
Before you apply for jobs, do your research. Check out the company’s website to get a good idea if they have hired foreign employees before. Even if a company isn’t advertising that they’re hiring, it’s always a good idea to send your résumé to companies that sponsor employees ahead of time. Don’t wait for companies to tell you they’re hiring.
4. Recruiters are your friend.
Recruiters and staffing firms can be a great resource for sought-after job openings. Keep in mind that they may also have temporary or freelance positions that aren’t eligible for H-1B sponsorships.
5. Understand the hiring process.
Become well-versed in the international hiring process. Some companies may shy away from hiring outside of the United States because they aren’t aware of the process. Explain the process directly, and they may be more willing to offer you a position.
6. Use tools on the internet.
7. Think small.
Try targeting lesser known and smaller companies, or companies in rural areas of the United States that are less competitive.
When you get a job offer, make sure you can negotiate H-1B sponsorship before you accept. Remember, you’re bringing exceptional skills to the table, so you should be able to negotiate with your potential sponsors.
9. Try to find H-1B visa cap–exempt opportunities.
Universities, non-profits, and some hospitals are exempt from the annual H-1B visa cap. However, if you receive a visa through an institution that is exempt from caps, your visa will not be valid if you decide to work somewhere that isn’t exempt from the caps.
10. Be open to working abroad.
If a company is hesitant about sponsoring your visa, offer to work remotely from abroad first, or work from one of their overseas offices in your home country. This can help you get a “foot in the door” and show the company your value.
When Should You Bring Up Sponsoring During the Interview Process?
If you’ve already filtered your job search by companies that sponsor H-1B visas, then you shouldn’t need to worry. If you decided instead to take a chance at a position that isn’t for international applicants, but that you really want and are exceptionally qualified for, you should be upfront with your interviewer and make them aware by the second round of interviews at the latest, that you need H-1B sponsorship.
Impress them with your skills and what you bring to the table in the first interview. Convince the company that you are the best person for the position, they’ll be happier to sponsor you.
Let your interviewers know how much you are enjoying American culture. Share with them your long-term plans to remain in the country by offering where you see yourself in five years at the company. If employers are considering you even though you require sponsorship, they want to know you’ll be committed to staying with the company for a considerable amount of time.
Landing a job in the United States is a huge step towards becoming a citizen and integrating into American society. By contributing your skills and talents to the American workforce, you are enriching American culture and giving yourself a better future. Immigration can be a stressful numbers game, but it can be made easier if you work for a supportive company willing to offer their resources to help you stay in the US.
Don’t give up! If you or your new employer need help wading through the H-1B visa process, contact us for a consultation. We’re here to help make your new life in the United States as successful as possible.