Foreigners both when beginning their job search and through the midst of applying to jobs and interviewing invariably ask themselves the question about how they can overcome the hurdle of broaching the visa sponsorship conversation. It is clear that whether this conversation is early or late in the hiring process or whether it is with an HR person or the person trying to hire you it is more often than not an awkward topic.
Ultimately it is topic that you can make less of an issue by not only understanding US Immigration better but also what different employers will more positively respond too and how you can fit in within their timelines. This differs across many factors;
- Eligible for the H-1B or E-3 visa
- The industry you are in and your job type
- The size of the company
- The demographic makeup of the workforce
- Whether the company is likely to employ outside legal help
- Education background
- The level of your salary
- How long the position has been open
H-1B or E-3 Visa
The H-1B visa is open to all nationalities and is generally applicable to most professional jobs (as well as fashion modeling) and it is for 3 years and is renewable once. Application season opens at April 1 each year and is limited to 85,000 visas each year and is currently in a high demand period so runs out quickly. There are also fees applicable for the application process. The E-3 visa is similarly for professional jobs but is only for Australian citizens. It is for 2 years and renewable indefinitely. It can be applied for at any time of they year and has no specific fees for the application process. There is a annual quota of 10,500 that has never been reached.
Industry & Job Type
Sectors like technology, consulting, finance, bio-tech and higher education are the biggest sectors for hiring foreign workers. They general have procedures for foreigners and many of the hiring and HR folks are aware of the general parameters. However few people are aware of the specifics so ensuring you are able to start in a reasonable period given the visa you are eligible for and any travel you may have to do to get it. Roles like Software Engineers and major experience working at big name management consultants, Big 4 accounting firms or major investment houses tend to be very valuable for larger companies in the traditional sectors to overcome the hurdle of being a foreigner. Usually it is harder for entry level roles as well given it is cheaper and more expedient to hire a local.
Smaller companies especially in sectors like technology while shorter in funds and HR processes for hiring foreigners can often be a great place because hiring people like engineers can be difficult when competing with the likes of Google, etc. Larger companies with HR folks and possibly immigration lawyers on retainer may be more ready to hire foreigners, however a hiring person may from past experience have seen the extra time it takes to hire a foreigner vs. a local US resident. If companies small or large explicitly say we don’t sponsor or local candidates only, then your only real chance is if you know someone personally who brings you into the fold.
If a company, especially at the management and executive levels has a multi-cultural makeup where certain people are clearly foreign citizens, then your chances will generally be higher. However if that person is from the same country as you and they are interviewing you, they may hold you to a higher standard than the average candidate. If you want to know if your company has ever sponsored foreigners before then you can either look at our top employer sponsor lists or the macro US database.
Use of Immigration Lawyers
Larger companies tend to have immigration lawyers on hand, smaller to mid tier companies may have ones they have used ad hoc in past or aware of from past associations. More likely with smaller and early stage companies and others who have never sponsored a foreigner they won’t have a known legal help but if they really want you will likely want to make use of one for their peace of mind. Be aware that doing the H-1B or E-3 visa process can be done by you if your company wants you to save funds as long as you are aware of the various steps.
US employers are in general unaware of almost all foreign universities save for well known ones like Oxford, Cambridge, London School of Economics or maybe Sorbonne. If you have a US education let alone an Ivy League, Seven sisters or other well known schools like Stanford you will be at a huge advantage, especially if this is a graduate degree. An unknown university and unknown company brand experience can be a tough hurdle to overcome unless you are applying for a very high demand position like Software Engineering.
For both the H-1B and E-3 visas, the foreigner must be paid a minimum of the prevailing wage is basically the average level a US worker is paid for doing the same job in the same locale. This is checked against official databases like ONET and is part of your Labor Certification Application with Department of Labor. Ultimately this is generally a case that the higher your salary level and thus your value and your title in the organization, the more likely an employer will sponsor you.
If you notice in your job search that a position has been open for a long period of time it can be worth trying to directly reach out, applying from a different email if you have applied before with no contact or find someone that can introduce you to the company. Vacant roles that are continually being advertised means a critical need for the company and a more willing need to expand beyond narrow hiring parameters like local candidates only. This can also help with salary negotiations in your favor.