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. But that’s not all. USCIS issues only 65,000 new H1B visas per year. Applications are analyzed from April so your file must be ready by April. If the USCIS receives more than 65,000 applications, a draw is conducted. Once 65,000 visas are validated, it takes a year. Count about $ 3,000 in file fees plus $ 1,000 to request an accelerated procedure plus $ 1,000 in attorney fees.
An H-1B visa is valid for three years and is renewable. You can renew it in the same company or find a new employer. You are not subject to the 65,000 limits for renewal or change of employer but you must retype all paperwork and fees. In all, you can stay up to 6 years under the H-1B diet. Your spouse does not have the right to work.
The L visa is reserved for multinationals who have both offices in the United States and abroad, in our case in France. To begin, you must work in the French branch of the company for at least a year. Then you have to make a file explaining that you are indispensable to the American branch. There are two types of L: L-1A for chefs and L-1B for employees with unique qualifications. To prove that you are unique, the lawyers usually inflate a little the job title and the prerequisites like “I code in COBOL” or “all the engineers are deaf and I know the sign language”. You can stay up to 7 years with an L-1A and 5 years with an L-1B. The fees are the same as for an H-1B. Your spouse will have the right to work.
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.
Once you have obtained your visa, you must go stamp it on your passport. It will be necessary to send a money order then go to the American Consulate in Paris with a valid biometric passport and a pre-filled recommended envelope. Once there, you will fill out some more paperwork and answer questions in English. They will keep your passport, print the precious sesame and send it back to you by post. You can now have a farewell party and fly to the US. On-site, you will go through customs. They will check your visa and ask you some basic questions like “what are you doing here?” And “who are you working for?”. Once in the US, avoid messing around. If you commit a crime, you can lose your visa (green card included) and be deported. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is considered a crime so do not be stupid and take an Uber / Lyft.
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.
If you find the love of your life or someone claiming to be, getting married to gets a green card. Obviously, immigration will have some suspicions so it will have to prove that it is not a white marriage. You will have to complete a file and have an interview with an immigration officer. Holiday photos and sex tape are a good start but you have to prove that you live together: names on the lease, invoices, joint account … Do not play games and take a lawyer. Not only will he handle the paperwork but he will also explain what to say and what to give as papers.
You can also count on luck. Every year the US government launches 55,000 green cards in a lottery. Registration is in October and the draw takes place in May. The registration is free: you just need a photo standard and own the tray. It is not necessary to go through a lawyer unless you want to be sure that your photo is up to standard and/or that you are afraid to forget to play every year.
Another way to get a green card is to be an exceptional person a bit like the O visa. Top athletes, world-famous players, and renowned researchers can claim it. For researchers, you need a doctorate in a promising field (global warming, image analysis, artificial intelligence …), one or two post-docs and publications in well-known scientific journals. Academic awards help a lot.
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.
Say you found an employer willing to embark on the adventure. Then you have to prove that the company can not find an American to do your job. For this, the company must post a job offer for your job to the local labor agency, in several newspapers and on company premises. If after 30 days no one has answered or the candidates do not match the position, you are good. So how can I be sure this happens? There are several techniques.
One of them is to create a fictional office in a cluttered hole and announce that the position is based there. Another is to inflate the job title by insisting that you have to speak French and master the TUIO protocol. Lawyers are paid to embellish the reality so they know how to do it very well and make sure that the duck is not too big. Then you have to compile everything and build a folder for the Department Of Labor (DOL) to get the PERM. This is the most important step. The DOL will verify that the company has complied with the rules of competition with the Americans, that the job is not fictitious, that it is paid correctly, that the company is viable … The procedure takes about six months except in the audit case. In this case count, up to a year more.