I'm a non-US citizen considering looking for jobs in the US. After some time, it is clearly obvious to me that if you don't check the 'legal right to work' box, you will most likely get zero responses and hits. This is the classic 'no visa without job, no job without visa' dilemma, nothing new here.

As far as I know, some companies offer visa sponsorship to foreign candidates (still haven't run into any, is that even true?). It would be nice if companies could specify this in listings, so you could filter out those that don't, just like you can search for telecommute jobs.

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    As Todd explained below, it's a bit of a process to sponsor a foreign national, and something that most companies would hope to avoid. That said, they may for the right, exceptional individual. Not something easily captured by a check box and best left to the communication between candidate and employer. Dec 20, 2010 at 15:11
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    @KorneelBouman I think it would be really helpful to be able to filter listings based on work-permit/visa, because some companies specifically offer or deny it. Currently I have to read full text of an opening to see if they have or have not specified it somewhere. Aug 22, 2013 at 20:15
  • @KorneelBouman looks like this was done after all? Oct 17, 2015 at 6:40
  • @KorneelBouman, Odd, there's definitely a way to filter by "offers visa" now. Why is the tag "status-declined" instead of "status-approved"?
    – Pacerier
    Nov 21, 2015 at 21:16

2 Answers 2


As far as I know, unless you have some sort of seriously important reputation and/or have a unique skill set that cannot be found in the US you are basically out of luck. Though in not as bad a shape as the general job market the general programming market is a buyer's market at the moment. There are a lot of people looking for positions right now who are already here and there is little to no incentive to take on the expense and obligation of a foreign worker. Unless the company is very large (like Intel) the overhead associated with the process, in terms of both time and money, versus the benefit they gain from another employee makes it an unattractive option. I went through the whole process myself and eventually got my green card. It is a long, long road, with or without help.

Not a great answer but I wanted to provide some context. I wish you the best of luck with your search. If anything is going to pick up it will be in the new year. Right now everybody is settling in the for holidays and there will be very little action in terms of recruitment.

The "long road" I refer to is the lengthy process of getting your paperwork processed, even if you do find an employer willing to go to bat for you.

If your goal is a green card (at which point you can work for any employer, in any job in the US) then your only real path (as an individual) is to get an H1-B visa and then petition for a green card.

Getting an H1-B is subject to an annual cap of X thousand (changes with each year) and those are allocated using a bunch of different rules, not the least of which is being someone who qualifies as being on the "schedule of occupations" (click here for the first link that popped up on Google on the topic). Basically, you have to have a university degree in the field you want to get a job in or education plus applicable professional experience.

If you DO get one of these H1-B visas it is for a specific employer, doing a specific job. There IS a way to change employers, if your next employer can satisfy all the requirements of the first one (that they require somebody with your specific skills, background, etc. in that particular profession).

The H1-B is issued for a fixed amount of time, with extensions possible but really won't go much longer than five or six years (yes, years).

In the meantime, again assuming that the employer is willing to take on the hassle and expense, you can start the process for a green card.

The first and longest process is the labor certification. This requires the employer to go out and recruit for your job, to prove to the Bureau of Labor that an American cannot be found for your position, and that you are qualified, etc. There is a new semi-automated system in place for this called PERM but you still have to get into the system. When I went through it took almost three years for my certification (after a couple of false starts).

If you manage to get that then the employer has to petition the government to grant you the green card and the paperwork goes through a government bureaucracy (and the delays that that implies).

When that is approved you can then apply to adjust your status and you will be:

  • interviewed,
  • examined by a civil surgeon,
  • photographed,
  • finger-printed,
  • retina-scanned and
  • have an extensive background check performed.

If all of that goes well then you have to wait for them to issue the actual card, which can take six months or more.

That, my friend, is the "long road".

In the interim you are bound to your employer and they have significant leverage over you. It is not unusual for an employer to use this to get you to accept all kinds of things that you would never put up with if you were free to seek other employment. You are also not allowed to change your job for that employer (i.e., no promotions).

On the employers side you are talking about a minimum of $10k USD in lawyer's fees, filing fees, etc. plus the time for their HR folks to handle all the labor certification, etc. in addition to having to provide reams of paper on demand to the government related to you and your job.

In retrospect I'm not sure I would follow the same path again as it caused me a lot of grief on different levels. As of a few years ago I was done with the process and perhaps it has improved (if anybody else wants to jump in here). I am a Canadian and my process was a bit easier because of it. Some people I know from India and China I compared notes with said that there are quotas for issuing visas to them so even when they've jumped through all the hoops they might still be in limbo. While you are in this limbo you are not allowed to leave the US unless you get written permission for a significant life event such as a death in the family. From your user name I do not know where you're coming from so I do not know what rules will apply to you.

TL:DR - the green card process for an individual is very long and expensive. Employers are avoiding such entanglements.

  • thanks for your input -- could you ellaborate a bit on the steps that 'long road' implied? Is there anything i should do apart from actively lurking job sites that could help?
    – axel_c
    Dec 16, 2010 at 21:24
  • It really depends where you're from, etc. and what kind of job you're looking for. Hmmmm. I'm running out of characters. I'll write something longer. Dec 16, 2010 at 22:20
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    Wow, great answer and some fascinating insight into the process. If it's this difficult for a Canadian....
    – Pekka
    Dec 16, 2010 at 22:49
  • thanks for the very useful information, Todd. And btw, I'm from Spain which probably qualifies as Thirld World for visa considerations :)
    – axel_c
    Dec 16, 2010 at 22:50
  • WOW, that stuff is horrible. What Pekka said.
    – badp
    Dec 16, 2010 at 22:51
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    @axel_c naah! Show some European pride here :) Reading about this makes one really appreciate what the EU has accomplished here - the freedom to live and work anywhere in a huge area.
    – Pekka
    Dec 16, 2010 at 22:53
  • That said, I don't mind that the naturalization process is so hard and long-winded - but the part where you are effectively your employer's slave sounds unbearable and terribly unfair. I bet this is costing the US a lot of good people. (Which is not to say that the regulations over here aren't equally ridiculous.)
    – Pekka
    Dec 16, 2010 at 22:57
  • @Pekka certainly not SO ridiculous. You could come tomorrow to work in Barcelona and I could go to Cologne too. I think that's great.
    – axel_c
    Dec 16, 2010 at 23:04
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    @axel yeah, it definitely is. And it's something worth defending against the current separationist tendencies in some places - I hope the union makes it through the its monetary problems all right. I meant the latter for Non-EU citizens - they often have a similarly hard time getting in, with similar restrictions and dependencies on the employer.
    – Pekka
    Dec 16, 2010 at 23:07
  • @Todd Williamson btw, just to clarify, are those H1-B issued via "lottery" too like green cards? Meaning, if you can get an H1-B without an offer then you can apply for positions that do NOT offer sponsorship, right?
    – axel_c
    Dec 16, 2010 at 23:10
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    So to be considered an upstanding, capable person worthy of employment, I have to be treated like a criminal first? I'd tell them to get lost.
    – Jon Seigel
    Dec 16, 2010 at 23:17
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    I think the H1-B does not have a lottery program. An H1-B is issued for a SPECIFIC job for a SPECIFIC employer, for a set amount of time. There IS a green card lottery: travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1322.html . Another option would be to go work for a company in the EU that has operations in the US and get transferred to a US location. There is a completely different set of rules for that. Some people I know through my son's soccer team came here from Scotland as transferees for a large electronics company and had their green cards in something like two years, total. Dec 17, 2010 at 0:25
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    There's a similar setup in place here like in the EU for employment, but it is only for "professionals". There is a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and it allows for a professional visa called a TN. It is adjudicated on the spot as you cross the border and only requires an employment letter and proof of your credentials, education, etc. However, they are only good for one year (renewable) and are like the H1-B in that they are only for a SPECIFIC job for a SPECIFIC employer. The other catch is that they are non-immigrant, meaning you cannot transition to a green card from one. Dec 17, 2010 at 0:28

"Offers Visa Sponsorship" tag is now added to job listings.

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