I insist on the aspect “legally”. No US company will hire you illegally – without a work visa – unless you want to mow lawns or work in the building. So you have to get a visa. There are roughly three types: resident visas (aka the green card), temporary visas (H, L, J, O) and investor visas. All this may seem complicated and that’s exactly the case. Do not take legal proceedings without consulting a lawyer or you will fail. Generally, it is the future employer who pays for the lawyer and the fees. Note that if you get a visa, your spouse and your children also get one automatically and gay marriage is recognized in the US. Cohabitation is also recognized but it is more complicated. Many couples are getting married just to get a visa
Let’s start with temporary visas.
The O-1 and O-2 visas are reserved for people with a particular talent: scientists, sportsmen, artists, actors … It will have to prove that you fall into this category and that a company in the US wants to use you. If you are an artist, for example, you need a well-supplied portfolio and a name in the business. There was a time when we could fake by creating fake press clippings and photoshopping the work of others but the USCIS (the agency in charge of immigration paperwork) is now using the Internet. to verify that you are a recognized artist. For example, if you want to work in the animation, you have to get out of a concrete school (randomly Les Gobelins) and have your name in the credits of movies (long or short) and/or series. Once the visa O obtained, you can work in the United States but only in your field. Your spouse does not have the right to work.
The visa J-1 is a visa a little catch-all which gathers as well the researchers in post-doc, the trainees, the teachers, the au pairs and the VIE. In all cases, the procedure is the same: you must first find a post-doc / employer and then fill in some papers. It is a pretty simple visa to obtain and it is probably the only one where you can do without a lawyer. Your spouse will have the right to work. You will not pay taxes! Depending on the type of work you do, you can stay up to three years in the United States on a J-1 visa. Those who wish to stay switch to an H-1B visa see on a green card. Count $ 400 of fees.
The H-1B visa is the one I know best because I stayed for six years under this regime. Big computer boxes like Microsoft or Google hire thousands of new engineers every year with this visa and they come mainly from India and China but we find a lot of French in the lot. To obtain it, you have to find an employer and the employer must prove that you have vaguely special qualifications and that you will be paid at least above a salary defined by the American government.
For the investor visa (E-2 visa), it’s simple: it’s enough for you to have a lawyer and a mountain of wheat. The goal is to prove that you are going to start a business in the US and that you have enough money to survive and pay for your employees and yourself. In principle, capital of $ 75 000 is sufficient but in reality, you should count at least $ 150 000. The E-2 visa is valid for two years and is renewable an infinite number of times provided that your company still exists. If you invest at least $ 500,000 and you provide full-time work for at least 10 people, you can apply for a green card. With an E-2, your spouse will have the right to work.
The ultimate visa is the resident visa or green card. You officially become an immigrant. It gives you and your spouse overall the same rights as Americans without homework (vote and jury). You can enter and leave the territory, find a job without any constraint, bring your parents and it is valid for life provided you spend at least six months a year on US territory and not to commit a crime. After 5 years of resident visa (3 if you got it through a marriage), you can become an American citizen. It is nicknamed green card because we file a green card with magnetic tape that contains your information and you drag in a machine at the customs. There are many ways to get one. We have already mentioned that for investors so study others.
Finally, as in my case marriage is not an option and you are neither lucky nor exceptional, your last chance is to find an employer who agrees to sponsor you. This is the longest, most difficult and most expensive process of all. Allow at least a year and $ 20,000. The first step is to convince his bosses that you are worth the investment. This is a risky bet for employers because once you have the green card, you can stop at any time. Big boxes like Google or Disney are more likely to spin green cards but waiting lists are often long.
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