How Do You Convince a US Employer to Hire You and Sponsor Your Work Visa?

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.

Company Size
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.

Education Background
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.

Salary Level
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.

Open Positions
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.


Green Card Process For Marriage to a US Citizen

If you are marrying a US citizen as a foreigner one of the major potential benefits is being able to get permanent residency and a Green Card. However this process is not automatic, nor is it quick and it is certainly not cheap.

We will outline the process, timeline, documents, fees, interview, etc. for the foreigner and the US citizen spouse assuming that the foreigner is currently legally in the US as a tourist or another non-immigrant visa. It is certainly possible to do this without a lawyer, particularly if your case is completely normal with no anomalies in the background of the foreigner or the US citizen and no questions about the bona fide nature of the marriage. This can save you many thousands of dollars in legal fees.

If you are illegally in the US as a foreigner, essentially the process is the same in theory however you may face additional hurdles, background checks, financial audits and interview steps to end up being successful.  Remember this is different to the K-1 visa and K-3 visa which are meant for foreigners who are fiancees and wives of US citizens who are currently outside the US and get those visas from a US Consulate.  Also since the Supreme Court ruling last Summer, legally married gay couples also are eligible for this process.

Ultimately the benefit to obtaining a Green Card as a foreigner is to freely travel in and out of the US without restriction, freely move from employer to employer and/or hold multiple jobs in any capacity, choose not to work and not have to be tied to any employer, have access to some social service benefits and generally enjoy most of the benefits of a US citizen outside of voting and serving in some Government roles.

The Timeline

  1. Obtain a marriage license (cost varies by state/city between about $10-$115)
  2. Get legally married (cost varies wildly depending on civil vs. wedding)
  3. Get medical exam from approved USCIS doctor (est. $100-$500)
  4. Collate and fill official documents including; I-130, G-325a, I-485, I-131 (optional), I-765 (optional), I-693, I-864, I-485a (optional), I-601 (optional), G-1145 (optional)
  5. Collate proof and required documents including; Cover Letter, I-94, Passport Photos, Marriage License, Passport ID Page copy for both, Passport Visa Page copies, Copies of DS-2019 if applicable, Official IRS Tax Return Summaries for both, Bank Statements, Travel Tickets, Photos, Lease Copies, Payslip copies for both, Any series of documents showing period of cohabitation (i.e. monthly bank statements), Birth Certificate copies for both, Affidavit Letters copies signed by 3rd party people proving marriage validity, Any other documents and history showing joint life
  6. Write checks for I-130 ($420) and I-485 ($1,070 includes $85 biometric fee). If forms I-131 for advanced parole for travel and I-765 for employment authorization are filed at same time as I-485 no additional fees are required
  7. Put together package and send to USCIS Chicago Lockbox
  8. Receive notification of biometrics assessment and foreigner attends nominated facility
  9. Receive Employment Authorization card, along with Advance Parole approval
  10. Receive notification of interview date and couple to attend USCIS interview at nominated location (in some cases a second interview may be required)
  11. Received approval notification and Green Card in the mail

(A great guide for putting together your packages can be found here and a step by step help for filling out all the different forms is here. The USCIS official guides themselves on each form’s page are pretty good as well)

Now all going well that process can take 3-4 months from beginning to end if you are diligent at each point of the process and your case presents no red flags or missing information. However this whole process can take many years as well and of course they could be denials at any point in the process for any reason. Some may be able to overcome like paying back taxes and applicable penalties owed to the IRS but others like the marriage not deemed to be legitimate may not be able to reversed.

Often the process is determined by the caseload of USCIS workers at the time or the individual assessing your case or conducting your interviews at each stage. If in doubt give more proof documents as you would for any other non-immigrant visa US Consulate interview. Sometimes it can be a month or two between updates at each stage but you can receive updates online at USCIS at sign up free for text message notifications as well.

Top Tips

  1. Get your medical exam done as early as possible
  2. Find out the marriage license rules in your state as might be a waiting period between getting license and being allowed to get married
  3. Include as many proof documents as possible including pictures of the two of you together (ideally in different cities and times), pictures with friends and family, boarding passes, every financial document, postcards, IRS summaries going back 5yrs, etc.
  4. In your interview be natural and answer questions about your life in a future context and not as if you have memorized for a test. It’s ok to laugh and talk about your life together, engagement, honeymoon and plans for future!
  5. Often you might be able to go do your biometrics exam before the nominated date on your sheet. Search google for experiences in your city and the best times to go for less volume
  6. Sign up for email and text notifications at USCIS for your case numbers
  7. Do NOT travel outside the US during this time unless you have received Advanced Parole authorization
  8. Make copies of your entire package before sending in case anything goes missing and you can bring this just in case to your USCIS interview