You cannot apply for a visa to work in the U.S. until you have an employer willing to offer you a job and act as your petitioner in the application process. Yet finding a job when you don't yet have any right to work in the U.S. is a huge challenge. How do people do it?
Understand the U.S. Work Visa Options
As talented as you might be, the United States government only authorizes labor-based nonimmigrant visas for people in certain limited categories. The most likely visas include, in brief:
- E-3. Nationals of Australia who will work in a specialty occupation that requires a bachelor's degree (B.A.) or higher education.
- H-1B. Workers in a specialty occupation that requires at least a B.A., or else it's equivalent in on-the-job experience. This category also included distinguished fashion models.
- H-1C. Registered nurses who will work in areas where health professionals are in short supply.
- H-2A. Temporary agricultural workers who will fill positions that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has recognized as facing a labor supply shortage.
- H2B. Workers of various kinds who will peform temporary jobs for which there is a shortage of available, qualified U.S. workers.
- O-1. People of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
- O-2. Essential support staff of people with O-1 visas.
- P-1. Internationally recognized athletes and entertainers and their essential support staff.
- R-1. Ministers and other workers of recognized religions.
We've left off of this list various visas in narrower cateogories, say, where your existing employer might arrange for a short training stint in the U.S., or you might come as part of a group to give an artistic performance.
After reviewing this list, you might develop a better idea of which of your job skills can be put toward finding a job in an existing visa category.
Identify Employers in Need
Despite high levels of unemployment in the United States, there are still employers who cannot find the employees they need. Such employers might be happy to help someone from another country obtain a visa to work in the United States.
Look through want ads and at job posting websites for companies hiring large numbers of employees or that have been posting the same job for months. Those employers may be feeling desperate and may be more willing to go through the immigration process (which can be lengthy, complicated, and expensive) to fill their employment needs.
Look for Employers With Experience Hiring Foreign Workers
Employers with a history of hiring foreign workers are more likely to hire you than employers that don’t have much experience with the process. (Because immigration law is complicated, they may not even know what their options are.) Some large corporations have entire departments and in-house lawyers dedicated to bringing in foreign workers.
But even a smaller employer who has been through the process before, and successfully so, may be interested in bringing foreign workers to fill their needs. Keep your eyes open for employers who are advertising abroad. Also read the company's press releases or online sel-descriptions regarding hiring foreign workers.
Use -- and Expand -- Your Network
Start by asking everyone you know (including, of course, in your online social networks) whether they know anyone who has been hired by a company in the United States. Then contact those people to ask how they found their jobs, and whether they know of any openings or can ask around.
Contact the Employer
Once you identify employers that might be willing to hire foreign workers, you have to reach out to them. Use any names you might have as connections and try to have a name of a specific person at the employer to contact. Even if no job opening has been posted, there's no harm in sending a resume and a letter introducing yourself, just in case. If a job has been posted, carefully follow their application guidelines.
In preparing your resume, be sure to read U.S.-authored books on what's expected in terms of style and tone. You might even want to ask someone from the United States to review and edit your resume. Remember, it will be your responsibility to prove to the employer that your skills and talents are worth the process that it will have to go through to bring you to the United States to work for them.