How can a non-programmer move to the USA: step-by-step instructions

    On Habré many posts on how to find work in America. The problem is that it feels like 95% of these texts are written by developers. This is their main minus, since today it is much easier for a programmer to come to the States than for representatives of other professions.

    I myself moved to the United States more than two years ago as an Internet marketing specialist, and today I’ll talk about the ways non-programmers have working emigration.

    The main idea: it will be extremely difficult for you to find a job from Russia

    The standard way for a programmer to move to America is either to search for work on your own or, if you have good experience, to respond to one of the recruiter messages on LinkedIn, several interviews, paperwork and, in fact, moving.

    For marketers, system administrators, and other professionals connected with the Internet, but not development, everything is much more complicated. You can send hundreds of job postings from sites like, search for something on LinkedIn, the response will be scanty - you are not in America, and in this country there are not enough programmers, and admins, marketers and journalists are more or less enough . Finding a job remotely will be extremely difficult. Relocation on a work visa of one employee will cost the company ~ $ 10 thousand, a lot of time, and in the case of a work visa H1-B there is a chance not to win the lottery and be left without an employee. If you are not a quality programmer, no one will strain so much for you.

    It is unlikely that I will be able to move and get a job at an American company in Russia and ask for a transfer in a couple of years. The logic is clear - if you prove yourself, and then ask for a transfer to a foreign office, why should you refuse? In reality, in most cases, you most likely will not be refused, but the chances of getting to America will not increase much.

    Yes, there are examples of moving according to this scheme, but again, it is more real for the programmer, and in this case too, you can wait for relocation for years. A much more practical way is to engage in self-education, professional development, work on interesting projects, and then take destiny into your own hands and move on your own.

    To help those who move to the United States, I launched the SB Relocate project - This is a site where you can find the most relevant information on various types of visas, get advice and assistance in collecting data for your visa case.

    Right now, there is a vote on our project on the Product Hunt website. If you liked what we are doing, or have any questions - ask them or share your experience of using / your wishes for development here .

    Step 1. Decide on a visa

    In general, at the moment there are real options for moving, if you do not take into account the winnings in the green card lottery and all kinds of options with family immigration and attempts to obtain political asylum, there are only three:

    Visa H1-B

    Standard work visa. To get it you need a company that will act as a sponsor. There are quotas for H1B visas - for example, the quota for the fiscal year 2019 amounted to 65 thousand, while 199 thousand were submitted for receiving such a visa in 2018. These visas are awarded during the lottery.

    Another 20 thousand visas are issued to those specialists who received education in the USA (Master's Exemption Cap). So it makes sense to consider the option of studying in the United States and finding a job already with a local diploma.

    Visa L-1

    These types of visas are issued to employees of American companies that work outside the country. If the company has a representative office in Russia or, for example, in Europe, then after working there for a year you can apply for such a visa. There is no quota for it, so this is a more convenient option than H1-B.

    The problem is to find a company that will take you and then wants to engage in relocation - usually the employer wants a good employee to benefit in the current place for as long as possible.

    Visa for talented people O1

    O-1 visa is intended for talented people from various fields who need to come to the USA to carry out work projects. Business representatives are given an O-1A visa (this is your option as an employee of a commercial company), while the O-1B subtype visa is intended for artists.

    This visa does not have quotas and you can apply for it completely independently - this is the main plus. In this case, do not rush to think that it will be easy, quite the opposite.

    Firstly, an O-1 visa requires an employer. You can get around this point by registering your company and hiring yourself. You will also need to meet a number of criteria, and to prepare a visa application to hire a lawyer - all this will take at least $ 10 thousand and several months. I wrote more about the design process here , but herehere in the document there is a checklist for self-assessment of your chances of obtaining such a visa - it saves a couple of hundred dollars on the initial consultation of a lawyer.

    Step # 2. Creating a financial airbag

    The most important point that is often not thought of is the cost of relocation. Moving to such an expensive country like the USA will require a significant amount of money. At a minimum, you will only need it at first:

    • To rent an apartment - pay a minimum down payment and a security deposit in the amount of a monthly fee. In large cities, finding an apartment cheaper than $ 1400 / month will be difficult. If you have a family with children, a more real figure is from $ 1800 for a two-bedroom (three-room apartment with two bedrooms).
    • To buy basic household items like toilet paper, detergents, some kind of toys for children. All this usually takes $ 500-1000 in the first month.
    • Most likely - buy a car . In the United States, it’s usually hard without a car, although there are exceptions. With high probability, at least some kind of car you need. Here, the costs may depend on preferences, but a more or less normal not quite ancient used sedan like Chevy Cruze (2013-2014) can be taken from $ 5-7k. It will have to be paid in cash, because no one will give you a loan with a zero credit history.
    • Eating - food in America is significantly more expensive than in Russia. In quality - of course, you need to know the place, but the prices are higher for many things. So for a family of two adults and two children, the cost of food, travel, household items is unlikely to be below $ 1000 per month.

    Simple calculations suggest that in the first month you may need more than $ 10k (taking into account the purchase of the car). At the same time, expenses tend to increase - children will need a kindergarten, which is usually paid, used cars break down more often - and mechanics in the United States just throw out a part and put in a new one with an appropriate price tag, etc. So the more money you have, the calmer you will feel.

    Step # 3. US Job Search and Networking

    Suppose you managed to save up several tens of thousands of dollars, find a lawyer and apply for a visa. You came to the USA, and now you need to look for new projects / work here. Make it real, but will not be easy.

    The main point to remember is that the more you actively engage in networking, the higher the chances of getting a job as soon as possible. It is clear that there is nothing worse for introverts, but if you want to build a successful career in America, then the more different acquaintances you make, the better.

    Firstly, networking is useful even before the move - in order to get the same O-1 visa you need letters of recommendation from strong specialists in your industry.

    Secondly, if you will have acquaintances among those who have made your way earlier and already work in an American company, this opens up new opportunities. If your former colleagues or new acquaintances work in good companies, you can ask them to recommend you for one of the open vacancies.

    Often in large organizations (such as Microsoft, Dropbox, and the like) there are internal portals where employees can send resumes to people who they think are suitable for open vacancies in HR. Such applications usually take precedence over just letters from people on the street, so extensive dating will help you get an interview faster.

    Thirdly, you will need acquaintances at least to solve everyday issues, of which there will be a lot. Dealing with medical insurance, the intricacies of renting, buying a car, looking for kindergartens and sections - when you have someone to ask for advice, it saves time, money, and even nerves.

    Step # 4. Further legalization in the USA

    When you solve the problem with work and start earning income, after some time the question will arise about further legalization in the country. There may also be different options: if someone comes to the country alone, then he can meet the future spouse with a passport or green card, working in the conditional Google can also quickly get to the green card - the benefit of such companies is a lot of naturalized employees, you can achieve residences and on their own.

    By analogy with the O-1 visa, there is an EB-1 visa program, which involves obtaining a green card based on professional achievements and talents. To do this, you must meet the criteria from a list similar to the O-1 visa (professional awards, speeches at conferences, publications in the media, high salaries, etc.)

    Read more about the EB-1 visa and estimate your chances using the checklist here .


    As it is easy to understand from the text, moving to the USA is a difficult, long and costly process. If you do not have a profession that is so demanded that the employer will deal with visa and domestic issues for you, you will have to overcome a lot of difficulties.

    At the same time, the advantages of America are understandable - here you can find the most interesting work in the field of IT and the Internet, an extremely high standard of living, unlimited prospects for you and your children, a general positive atmosphere on the streets, and in some states, a wonderful climate.

    In the end, is it worth it to strain for all this, everyone decides for himself - the main thing is not to have unnecessary illusions and immediately prepare for difficulties.

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