For international students who have been in the U.S. for a while already, this question may seem a little basic. But it’s important for anyone looking for a job in the U.S. to understand what an H1B visa is and how to get one.
What is an H1B visa?
Speaking broadly, the H1B visa is one of the most common (if not the most common) form of work authorization used by graduating international student to begin US employment. The challenge with the H1B is that unlike some other types of visas, you can’t just send some paperwork to the government and get one sent to you. You need to find a company willing to hire you and “sponsor” you for your visa. Note that I mentioned “willing to hire you” first in that sentence. “Sponsoring” involves money and paperwork, and there are many reasons why companies don’t want to sponsor an H1B visa (which are outlined in my book).
Make it easy for your employer to sponsor your H1B
Because the issue of sponsorship looms so large, many international students waste a great deal of time trying to find out what companies are open to sponsoring visas (and putting too much faith in lists of companies who sponsored in the prior year), instead of focusing on giving companies a reason to consider hiring (and sponsoring) them. No one is going to sponsor you if they don’t want to hire you, so it’s best to deal with that first. H1B visas materialize for candidates that companies desperately want to hire. Be the best candidate you can be and let the visas come to you.
In short, you get an H1B by motivating an employer to hire you, and then making it as easy as possible for that employer to sponsor your visa. Making it easy means the following:
1. Knowing enough about the visa application process to guide your new employer through it.
2. Being flexible on your timing so that you can accommodate the gaps between application date and start date.
3. Being flexible on location should your employer need to move you around.
But focus on job first and visa second. That’s the way the employers will approach it. Get this backwards and you’ll find many companies telling you they don’t sponsor.