The search for H-1B jobs can sometimes be a mystery for international students in the US to crack.
Don’t be too harsh on yourself, though. These are understandable obstacles for all non-citizens – after all, you’re in a new country and dealing with a completely foreign system, from immigration rules all the way to labour policies. The intricacies of the US job and visa systems can be a maze to untangle.
With enough research and persistence (and just a smidge of luck), however, the job search can be much easier and you’ll be on your way to negotiating the details of your future career.
Until then, here are our top tips to help you along:
1. Know your visa rules
It’s important that you understand the scope of your F-1 student visa, the Optional Practical Training work authorisation, the H-1B visa and how they all relate to each other.
The H-1B program has been through a flurry of changes lately so the need to stay informed is even more vital. To avoid misinformation, always refer to your international student services office or immigration attorneys, instead of just relying on news sites, articles (even this one!) and hearsay.
If you must look for immigration information online, don’t just turn to Google. According to attorney, Amanda Goodman of Goodman Immigration Group, you should only refer to the official website of the US Department of Homeland Security (USCIS) to gain an accurate understanding. While other sites can serve as starting points, USCIS’s website should be your only trusted source.
Note that it can also be tricky moving from your F-1 visa status or OPT work authorisation to a H-1B visa status if you aren’t aware of the time restraints. This can hamper your job search process as you need to look for jobs within the time frame allowed by your respective visa status.
If you wish to up your game in this job search, you can even take a free online course on “How to Find US Companies that Offer H-1B Sponsorship”, offered by GlobalMe School.
2. Research the company’s stance on the H-1B visa
A good place to start is to find out which US employers have hired employees with H-1B status in the past. This information is provided by the US government here under the Case Disclosure Data, H-1B Data subsection.
You can also use myvisajobs.com to research any company and find out if they offer H-1B visa jobs, though note that even if they do sponsor H-1B visas, they may not hire international students for all available positions.
Goodman suggests targeting smaller companies as it’s easier to have a direct relationship with your supervisor, which increases your chances of sponsorship. Also remember that bigger companies often sponsor mid-levels and executives rather than recent college graduates.
3. Talk to alumni or find inside connection
Once you’ve confirmed that your chosen companies sponsor H-1B visas, you should start working towards scoring and succeeding in the upcoming interview. As an international applicant, you would need to stand out even more than local applicants. The usual advice about overcoming cultural barriers, brushing up on your communication skills, etc apply.
Another important thing to note is that the average open position online receives over 200 resumes, of which only two percent proceed to the interview stage. To help your application get noticed, try looking for alumni from your university or people you know who are already working in the company. Having a personal connection inside can help quell employers concerns about hiring international applicants.
5. Give yourself time
The truth is, this can be a tough and frustrating search, so it’s crucial that you give yourself enough time to explore your H-1B options early on. Bear in mind that employers need to file their H-1B petitions on April 1 to obtain H-1B approval for the following October.
What this means is that your job search must start way before April 1 of the year your F-1 or OPT will expire.
A good tip is to start as soon as your OPT begins. This will give you up to one year to make connections and find sponsorship, as well as to sort out any visa transition issues.