Personal experience: how can an IT professional move to work in the USA, relying only on himself

    A fairly large number of materials with stories about how developers move to the USA and other countries to work are published on Habré. Most of these articles relate specifically to programmers who tell their stories about finding a job, interviewing experience, getting an offer, and then relocating.

    My experience does not fit into this scheme, and therefore, it seems to me, it can be useful for other IT professionals - I moved to the United States on an O1 visa, which is devoid of some of the shortcomings of a traditional American work visa.

    I must make a reservation right away that this method of migration involves quite serious monetary expenditures, months for preparing documents, as well as the presence of general life activity. But with all this, this method assumes that much more depends on the applicant, and not on luck.

    Disadvantages of the traditional work visa migration method

    First, let's talk about how the “standard” process of moving to work in the USA works. Typically, IT professionals - mainly programmers - either find vacancies in the companies they like and send resumes, or their resumes are passed on to HR services by their friends who already work there (this is a more advantageous way), or company recruiters find professional in the right direction and offer him to try to get an interview.

    In the future, if we talk about the successful development of events, the initial screening by phone leads to the appointment of a series of interviews - first telephone, then in the office of the company. During these interviews, the applicant communicates first with recruiters, and then with potential direct colleagues and supervisors. If everything is ok, then the candidate receives an offer, accepts it, after which the process of preparing documents begins.

    How to look for companies that, in principle, are not afraid to hire specialists from abroad and help them in obtaining a H1B work visa, is written well in this article.. Everything is fine here for the applicant - all expenses are borne by the company, you just need to show yourself well at the interviews and receive an offer. But there is one drawback - not everyone who received an offer from an American company will be able to immediately come to work.

    There are quotas for H1B visas - for example, the quota for the next year amounted to 85,000 visas , while last year 236,000 applications were submitted , and for 2018, about 200,000 applications were received .

    As a result, those who receive a visa and who do not, even despite the presence of an employer, are determined during a special lottery - using the algorithm, a random selection of candidates is created. Those who did not enter it are forced to wait - sometimes people can lose in the lottery for years, having already passed all the rounds of interviews.

    If you are not in the quota: type L visa

    Some large American companies with offices in other countries bypass H1B type visas with L-visas . They are designed to transfer employees from overseas offices of the same company to the head office in the United States. There are subtypes of L-visas for management and talented employees (special knowledge worker). In general, in order to be able to move to the United States without any quotas or lotteries, an employee must work at least one year in a foreign office.

    According to this scheme, talented specialists are transported by companies such as Google, Facebook and Dropbox. I have a friend who works at the Dropbox office in Dublin for exactly this reason.

    As you can see, there is a chance to move to the United States on a work visa, even in case of failure during the H1B lottery, but here you need to ask yourself whether I have a valuable shot so that the company not only spends from 5 to ten on the preparation of my work visa to the USA thousand dollars, but then still transported to a foreign office and waited a year until I can join the team at the head office? I think most people who want to move to the United States will be able to honestly answer negatively, as was the case in my case.

    But there is a way that gives a little more control over what is happening to the candidate himself - this is an O1 type visa.

    O1 visa: pros, cons, pitfalls

    The O1 visa is issued to “outstanding specialists” in their fields. It is quite actively used in the field of IT startups - many employees and founders of young projects are trying to move to the United States with its help.

    It is often written on the Internet that the degree of exclusivity of the talents of the applicant is determined, for example, by the presence of the Nobel Prize - at this point many people think that this is clearly not their option, and proceed to consider other options. In fact, in practice, an experienced lawyer can quite qualitatively “submit” a really good specialist, so his talents will not cause special questions.

    Important disclaimer: to get this visa you really need to be a strong specialist and meet a number of criteria. If you objectively do not have enough achievements, an attempt to get an O-visa will be a waste of time and money.

    Further, a story about my experience in obtaining this visa (in order not to flood in the comments off-topic material, answers to many questions about life in the USA can be found in this article of mine and discussion about it).

    I read about the option with O1 before, but I didn’t always understand one thing: the articles about obtaining such a visa always said that many entrepreneurs make such a visa, but at the same time an employer is needed to obtain it.

    It turned out that the situation is being solved this way - you can register a company in the USA that will invite a talented specialist to work, that is, you. It is desirable that your share in the company does not exceed 50%, then it turns out that you do not have full control over the company and you can, in principle, be fired. It is also possible that the company is managed by a board of directors, which theoretically can fire the employee.

    The scheme is not the simplest, so it is important to choose good lawyers. An incident helped me here - one of my acquaintances issued such a visa and gave me the contact of lawyers involved in opening firms and preparing petitions.

    Speaking of me, I’m at least an educated developer and have been professionally creating IT content and marketing in technology in recent years. So I needed to show talents in this area. So I opened an agency engaged in the creation of English-language content for the promotion of IT companies, but the direction can be, in general, anything - from business management to system administration.

    The main difficulty in obtaining a visa is the collection of all necessary documents, about which the designer wrote well , a couple of years ago, who settled in Pebble startup that closed not so long ago. I needed to provide (from what I remember):

    • Letters of recommendation from marketing professionals are also quoted by journalists. It is important to find colleagues in the workshop here, and from the very beginning I planned to get letters from the general directors and chairmen of the boards of the companies I once worked with, but my lawyer rejected this idea. I had to spend time searching and negotiating. In general, letters are the most difficult: you need to persuade people, then coordinate the text of the letter with them - lawyers help to prepare it and use a very specific language at the same time - and some are embarrassed by such laudatory odes.

    • Media publications. I have many publications on work in Russian and English, so this was the easiest point. The only difficulty is that all Russian-language documents need to be translated, and this is time and money.

    • Membership in professional associations. It is important here that the community be quite old and respected, and that it is accepted not just for money, but on the recommendation of members. I managed to join the Russian Guild of Marketers, so this issue was also closed.

    • Public performance. With this, I was not a lot, I had to try and organize several seminars, including at the journalism department and the PR department of Moscow State University.

    • The presence of awards. As an example, everyone cites the Nobel Prize here, but as it turned out, a good lawyer can imagine as a reward, for example, getting my article into the selection of the best on any site.

    • Membership in the jury of professional competitions. Already in the course of collecting documents, I was really invited to become a jury member in one small online competition among content editors.

    The lawyer told me that in general, my case is more or less promising, but not directly “wow”, so any result could be expected. As a result, in April I was approved by the O1 visa. The subtle point is that I got the authorization to work in the USA in my company for three years.

    I do not have the visa in my passport - I executed the documents while already in the United States. To get it, you need to travel outside the country and go to the consulate, which, in theory, can start to request additional documents and generally refuse to issue a visa (the story about this is in the publication by reference). And a visa is issued for a period of two years, not three, which are indicated in the approval notice from the migration service.

    Some of my American friends with such a visa decide not to take risks and do not leave the country, but my family and I need to return to Russia in the summer, so there is a certain risk in this, although it is small.

    The whole process of preparing documents and considering a visa took about seven months, despite the fact that we paid $ 1225 for expedited consideration of the petition (premium processing) for 15 days. But I had a hitch with the preparation of documents and other force majeure circumstances that all dragged on. Usually, the preparation of the entire case takes several months, and then there is a consideration in the migration service.

    As they write on the Internet, the O1 visa allows you to change jobs, but for this you need the new employer to submit a new petition - and the migration service will consider it again. Another option is to stay in your company to work as a contractor worker in another company.

    The total cost of applying for a visa, translations, payment of expedited processing along with the opening of a company in the USA in my case amounted to a little more than $ 10,000.


    Summarizing: having spent more than $ 10 thousand, a lot of effort and six months of time at the initial stage, you will get the opportunity to work in the United States in your company. Further, you can either develop this business, or look for employment options under a contract or on a full-fledged basis. Doing this while in the country is much easier than from Russia.

    This option is not fast, expensive and, in general, difficult, so it is not suitable for everyone. But it offers active people who have achieved some success in their profession - which is important, not necessarily related to programming - the opportunity to work in a new country. To earn money to pay lawyers, collect documents and then look for clients and work will have to do it yourself. However, this is a plus - the ultimate success of the enterprise is more dependent on the candidate himself.

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