Currently, there are two main ways to immigrate to the United States. The first and more common option is through a family-based visa. The second is through employer sponsorship. An employment-based visa may take less time than a family-based visa. And it may also provide you with access to financial and legal resources through your company to help assist in the immigration process.
Getting a job in the United States with a company that will sponsor your visa can be a complicated undertaking. To put yourself in the best position to get hired in the U.S., you’ll need to understand the current job market to meet the needs of American employers. The U.S. job market is competitive, and many factors go into employment-based visa sponsorships. USCIS will consider circumstances such as your education, job industry, country of birth, employer, and even your company’s location within the United States.
In this article, we hope to provide you with some insight into employment-based visa categories, and how you can gain the skills to set yourself up to get one of these high-demand jobs.
The basics of employment-based visas
Employment-based visas are divided into five preference categories determined by your level of education and job skills. Every year from October 1 to September 30, approximately 140,000 employment-based visas are allocated to qualified applicants. The limited number of visas available each year are first divvied up into categories and then further divided based on nationality. Immigration officials can adjust the numbers based on demand. For example, engineers from India may fill their quota before engineers from Australia.
The preference categories are:
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.
The in-demand U.S. careers
While the First Preference category has many advantages when it comes to the chances of an approved visa application, most applicants fall into the Third Preference category.
To increase your chances of landing a job in the U.S., and securing visa sponsorship, concentrate your career focus on high in-demand jobs. Chris Bentley, a spokesperson with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, confirms this: “We’re looking for people that have some type of skill and whose job is in demand here in the U.S.” By focusing your area of expertise on jobs that are more specialized and difficult to fill, you are in a better position for visa approval.
- Registered nurse
- Application software developer
- Computer systems analyst
- Data scientist
- Product designer
- Scrum master
- Financial manager
- Clinical laboratory technician
- Physical therapist
Expanding your employment-based visa qualifications
If you lack an “extraordinary ability” or a graduate level of education, there are other ways you can improve your chances of employment-based visa sponsorship.
Location is everything – In large cities and more populated areas, the competition for your job of interest will be high. Try looking for job opportunities in rural areas of the country.
Bigger is better, sometimes – Larger companies generally have the financial capabilities and the legal know-how to sponsor international employees. Smaller companies may be intimidated by the immigration process and hesitate to consider it. However, if you can successfully prove your value, the size of the company may not matter.
Experience in the United States – Many companies want to make sure their new employee is set up for success by ensuring that they can fit into the culture of the company. Starting a new job and moving to a new country can be overwhelming for any person. Not only do you need to make sense of the American culture, but you may also struggle with American office culture as well. If you have previous experience working with Americans or have gone to school in the United States, you’ve put yourself a step ahead if your international competition.
Getting the skills you need while in the U.S.
Landing a US-based job with a company that will sponsor your visa is challenging. If you’re in a position to do so, consider increasing your chances by pursuing a Master’s degree-level education. The higher education will qualify you for Second Preference, and provide you with a wider variety of career opportunities.
The U.S. is home to many accredited and prestigious universities with top-tier graduate-level programs. These programs can help you gain the skills you need while also introducing you to life in the United States. While not practical for everyone, studying in the U.S. can open the doors to future job opportunities that you may not have access to while in your home country. A student visa will not provide you with a straight path to citizenship or even an H-1B visa. However, it will allow you to expand your skills and learn first-hand the terminology, processes, and applications that you’ll find in your future American workplace.
It’s important to keep in mind that most international students will only have 60 days after graduation to either leave the country or land a job with a U.S. company that will sponsor an employment-based visa. Use your time as a student to better position yourself for hiring by learning about American culture, networking with people in your industry of interest, practicing your interview skills, and earning practical training through OPT.
Knowing how to market yourself
You may find yourself in a situation where, despite having the education needed, applying to the right jobs, and having an impressive resume, you’re still not getting any job offers.
Here are some things you can do to help you stand out from your competition:
Lights, camera, action – Create a video that you can send in with your CV that lets you tell your story and make a memorable first impression. The video doesn’t have to be a big production. In fact, with the right lighting and sound, any video shot on your mobile phone can look professional. A well-done video can showcase your personality and allow you to talk about your accomplishments without the added pressure of an interview setting.
Know how you compare – If you’re not already, get familiar with LinkedIn, a social networking platform for business professionals. On LinkedIn, you can search for people with your desired job title and view their work history and job skills. Look for job skills that you could add to your resume or any programs and software platforms that you may need to become familiar with.
Join associations – A Google search can help you find any local associations in your industry that you can become a member of. Professional associations are a great way to introduce yourself to other people in your industry, learn about the newest trends, and show your potential employer your ongoing commitment to your field of expertise.
Spread the word – You never know which of your connections might know other business people who might be looking to fill a position that you are perfect for. When appropriate, tell people that you are looking for a job and they may be able to point you in the right direction. Offer to forward them your resume or connect on social media. And be sure to practice your elevator pitch, as you never who you may be introduced to.
Know the ins and outs of employment-based visas – You will encounter companies that have no interest in hiring an international employee simply because they don’t know what’s involved. It’s in your best interest to understand what is required to sponsor an employment-based visa and know how to explain the steps clearly. A reputable immigration lawyer can help with the details and paperwork, but you need to be able to reassure your potential employer that the value you bring to the company will far exceed the time and effort that will go into your immigration application.
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