Permission to Work in the USA
The United States has always been one of the most popular destinations for British emigrants, indeed for emigrants of all sorts. Unfortunately, the days when America threw open her arms to receive the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” are over, and if you plan to go and work there, you can expect to have to deal with a fair bit of bureaucracy.
Emigrating to the USAIf you want to work in the United States for a reasonable length of time, there are essentially two routes that you can choose from : permanent residency, also known as a “green card”, which grants you the right to work in the United States in perpetuity; or a temporary work Visa.
Unless you are something like a Nobel prize-winner, both options require you to have a specific job offer from an employer which must, in turn, have received prior approval from the US Department of Labour.
The most readily available form of Visa is the H-1B. H-1B visas are designed for workers in specialty occupations, that is professions that require advanced training, either through a university degree course, more specific vocational training or many years of on-the-job experience.
An H-1B visa or green card must be sponsored by a prospective employer who has to pay substantial application fees. The employer must approach the US Department of Labour and have it confirm that the offer of employment conforms to the rules. These rules state that the package of remuneration offered is equivalent to that offered to native workers doing the same job in the same area; that no American worker is available to take the post; and that reasonable adverts have already been made to advertise the vacancy.
H-1B visas last for three years but can be renewed for another three. After that, they cannot normally be renewed again. If you want to go on working in the United States, you must leave the country for a full year before you can begin the H-1B application process anew. The United States government takes a decision each year on how many H-1B visas should be issued. The applications lodged will be processed in turn until the maximum limit is reached. Processing will then stop until the following year.
If the holder of an H-1B visa has a partner or young children, they are eligible to receive H-4 visas, which allow them to attend educational courses in the United States but not to work.
Green Card LotteryYou may have heard about the Green Card Lottery system operated by the United States. Its formal name is the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program and its goal is to increase immigration to the United States from countries which do not normally send many immigrants there. For this reason it is not normally open to British people because Britain traditionally has a high rate of immigration into the United States. Country eligibility can change from year to year though, so if you want to emigrate to the US, it’s worth checking the requirements on a yearly basis.
Typically, around 50,000 people are selected at random from among all of those who applied. Being selected does not automatically mean that you receive a green card. There is still an application process and educational and work experience requirements which must be met. However, these are less onerous that those which govern the award of H-1B visas, for example.