When you’re new to a country, you will have so many questions on how to start your new life. More importantly, you’ll have questions on maintaining your legal status, and how to abide by all the rules and aspects of managing your H-1B status. In this article, we’ll help you to understand some of the most common questions we hear from our clients concerning obtaining a work visa and the intricacies of keeping it valid.
Where can I look for jobs that offer visa sponsorships?
In the United States, for a company to sponsor a non-native employee, they must prove that you are a better fit for the job than an American citizen. With a population of at least 325 million people in the US, that’s a big task, but it’s not impossible. In fact, the US issued 180,057 H-1B visas in 2016.
A first step into obtaining a US-sponsored job is to look for opportunities within industries most likely to sponsor a visa, such as medical, education, service, transportation, hospitality, construction, and tech industries. These industries employ a large portion of the foreign-born workforce and are familiar with the H-1B visa process.
Also, consider looking for opportunities in the less densely populated regions of the country. You’re less likely to run into competition for jobs in small rural towns like Lawton, Oklahoma than compared to New York City. If you can bring skills and knowledge that no one else can in a small town, you have a greater possibility of landing a highly coveted visa sponsorship.
For more tips to help in your job search, read our article, “How to land a job that will sponsor your H-1B visa.”
How can I prepare for an American job interview?
Before your interview research the company and become familiar with standard industry terms. This will be helpful especially if English is not your first language. Don’t be afraid to ask your interviewer to rephrase the question or ask it in another way.
If you get nervous, it’s ok to take your time in responding. Your interviewer will appreciate your efforts to answer clearly and concisely. Practice common interview questions beforehand so that you will be comfortable responding and can speak with confidence. Our article, “Ace the job interview (even if you’re not fluent in English” offers interview tips if you are new to the English language.
A great first impression is often the key in landing an interview request. When you are applying for a job, consider sending an introductory video along with your resume. A video provides you with an opportunity to talk about your skills and the value you bring to the company. It’s also a platform to show your personality and make a brief personal connection that may set you apart from other applicants.
How can I practice my English speaking skills?
Being able to communicate is essential to your success in the United States. The more fluent you become in English, the more doors will open for you. Immersion into American culture is one of the first steps to improving your language skills. By surrounding yourself with the language, the people, and the culture, you start to pick up conversational speech and the small nuances of being American.
To put your language skills on the fast track, consider joining many of the free ESL resources available in Oklahoma City. The local library and many nearby colleges offer free classes on citizenship and language skills. Check out our list of “Fourteen immigrant assistance programs that new residents should know about.”
Another way to help practice your English skills is by watching American television. Whether you choose the news or a sitcom, you will eventually start to pick up on language cues, and new words will begin to make sense. Not only is it a great way to help you become comfortable with the language, but it can also help to introduce you to American culture.
Whether you choose to practice through a class, watching TV, or online resources, nothing can beat the knowledge you will gain from actually talking to American people. Give it a try; you’ll be surprised at how receptive your American neighbors will be at helping you to better your English. Not only that, you will be creating connections with new people and new opportunities that can prove to be invaluable as you integrate yourself into your new home.
Do you need a lawyer to accept a job in the United States?
While you don’t need an immigration lawyer to accept a job in the US, you will need their services if you and your sponsoring company are unfamiliar with the visa sponsorship process. There are many forms and documentation that is required from you and your new company to submit your H-1B visa petition. Without the professional knowledge of a lawyer who specializes in employment-based visas, you and your new company may be at a disadvantage that can cost both parties a lot of time and money.
Can I sponsor my H-1B visa?
To receive an H-1B visa, an employee/employer relationship must be established between you and the sponsoring company. This can get a little tricky for foreign entrepreneurs trying to develop new businesses in the United States. If you fall under this category, you may be eligible for an H-1B Visa for Entrepreneurs.
To be approved, you will still need to prove that an employer/employee relationship exists between you and your company. Meaning, you must create a Board of Directors, investors, or some other stakeholders that have authority over your employment status and earned wages within the company. To prove this relationship, you must be able to provide documentation such as a contract or terms and conditions of your employment.
Can I change jobs on an H-1B visa sponsorship?
When you change jobs, you will still need to file a new H-1B visa petition listing your new employer as your sponsoring company, even if your current visa status is still valid. While it may sound counterproductive to go through the visa petition process again, you do have some advantages to your current approved status. You will not be subjected to any visa caps or yearly visa application deadlines, and you can start work at your new job as soon as you receive a receipt notice from USCIS.
You can read more changing jobs in our article, “Changing jobs on an H-1B visa: The good, the bad, and all the possibilities.”
Can I work more than one job on a visa?
Yes, you can work more than one job while on a visa, as long as you file an I-129 petition for each company that you work for, even for part-time positions. Under USCIS regulations, you cannot work more than one job on a single H-1B visa.
It is also considered a visa violation if you freelance or provide any consulting services in addition to your initial H-1B sponsored job. An employee/employer relationship must be established for every position that you take on while working in the United States. Check out our article, “Tips for working multiple jobs while in the US on a visa,” to learn more about your options while still complying with your visa regulations.
Why should I be wary of accepting a consultant job?
To maintain a valid H-1B visa status, you must adhere to the USCIS-established requirements. One stipulation that impacts a consulting job opportunity is proof of continuous wages. As a consultant, your employment is often determined by how long a particular project lasts. Some consulting industries hire H-1B workers, only to “bench” them when an assignment or project is completed. That worker may be unpaid until their next assignment, with no guarantee on when that might be.
This situation is considered visa fraud committed by employers and can render your visa status as invalid because you are not receiving regular pay. To protect yourself from this situation, be sure to request written proof that you will receive a consistent salary and benefits regardless of your assignment status.
What are my employee rights as a sponsored employee?
All employees of certain enterprises, regardless of immigration status, are protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act and have a right to receive payment for the work they have performed and the right to work in an environment that is safe, and free of harassment and discrimination. If you determine that you have been unjustly treated at your place of employment, contact an immigration attorney.
I overstayed my visa. Now what?
If you’ve overstayed your visa, your visa is automatically canceled, and you are now considered “out of status.” This means that you are now in the country illegally and you may be barred from returning to the United States for three to ten years and may be denied an extension or change of status.
It is important to contact a reputable immigration attorney as soon as you realize you’ve overstayed. The sooner you act, the less severe your penalty may be. Your attorney may be able to request a waiver for grounds of inadmissibility. This can mainly work in your favor if you are a spouse or child of a US citizen or permanent resident. To be eligible for the waiver, you must be able to prove that your spouse or parent will suffer an “extreme hardship” if you are barred from reentry.
What happens to my visa status if I’m fired or laid off?
If your job situation has changed suddenly, you have up to 60 days or until your I-94 expires, whichever comes first, to find a new job or request a change in status. Consider applying for a B-1 visa while you are looking for a new job. It will be in your best interest to act fast and to pay for the premium process to change your status before the 60 days is up.
A B-1 visa is a temporary nonimmigrant visa status that allows you to stay in the US anywhere from six months to one year. It’s important to note that you are not allowed to work while on a B-1 visa, so you will need to re-petition for an H-1B visa after you gain new employment.
Since time is of the essence in this situation, you may need to consider contacting an immigration attorney if your I-94 expires before 60 days to determine when your best course of action should be.
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Stump & Associates is Oklahoma City’s most respected immigration law firm. With more than 30 years of experience, we know how to handle cases just like yours.