So you’re ready to move on from the UK but aren’t quite ready to go home yet. If this sounds like you, then packing your bags for a career in the US could be an option.
While getting an American visa might not be the easiest process (the country’s immigration system is said to be the world’s most complicated), the system’s complexity means there are plenty of visa options and there’s probably one to suit you.
There are four main ways to get into the US: an immediate family relationship, Green Card lottery programme, employment and investment.
This means that for most of us, an employment visa is the most realistic option.
Generally the same visa classifications are available to everybody, regardless of nationality.
“It comes down to your professional experience and education rather than nationality,” says Amanda Gillespie, a US immigration consultant and owner of US-based consultancy firm Amanda C. Gillespie.
“Australians, though, are subject to one happy exception. The E-3 visa.”
The US issues a maximum of 10,500 E-3 visas annually and it allows Aussies of a ‘specialty occupation’ to work in the US. While there’s no definitive list of ‘specialty occupations’, you will be required to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree relating to the occupation. They also require a ‘theoretical and practical application of a body of specialised knowledge’.
Other employment visas include the O-1 (Gillespie’s specialty) and the H-1B.
The O-1 visa is designed for immigrants of ‘extraordinary ability’. “While it’s largely known as a visa for artists, it also serves designers, scientists, consultants, musicians, stylists, businesspeople, entertainers and sportsmen and women — anyone whose career is thriving in such a way that you meet the government’s ‘extraordinary’ standard,” Gillespie says.
The H-1B visa runs along similar requirements as the E-3, but it caters for all nationalities.
It can be quite difficult to get one as only 65,000 are issued annually worldwide, and they get snapped up quickly.
All employment visas require you to have a sponsor, so you must have a job lined up in the US before you qualify for a visa.
“A great many of my clients come in as tourists to get the lay of the land in a few different respects — to meet as many people as possible for prospective jobs … to get a sense of cost of living, and if they are really organised, they swing by an immigration office to get a sense of what’s possible,” says Gillespie.
Her advice is to meet with an immigration consultant and find out what your options are.
» See www.uscis.gov for more info on US visas. Amanda Gillespie will be available for appointments in the UK from February 2009. See www.amandagillespie.com