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Job Hunting in the USA

America is the land of the free and the home of the brave, including an estimated 14 million immigrants of whom around 750,000 are British. Cities like New York and San Francisco present a powerful draw to expats heading stateside for work, and there’s the added benefit of low taxes, more favourable weather and greater ethnic diversity than elsewhere in the world.

You’ll need a Green Card or a Work Visa to work here for any period of time, so check out our helpful guide to US visas here to get an idea of the application process and associated costs.

H1B Visa Sponsorship

Put simply, it’s just not easy to get a work visa for the States, but it’s easier if you’re a ‘speciality worker’ in sectors like engineering, computer technology, gas and oil exploration, medicine or law. If you’re a professional applying for positions in these sectors you can see whether the company you apply to will sponsor your H1B visa for you.

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This will cost a company somewhere in the region of $25,000 in legal costs, but if you are in demand it will be worth their while. Some tips for applying for a specialty job as an expat, from the expats who’ve been there and done it already:

  • Some expats suggest that a company sponsor them retrospectively if all is going well after six months’ employment
  • Do not open your application covering letter with an outright request for visa sponsorship. The overseas contact details on your CV - called a resume here - alone will imply that you seek sponsorship
  • Offer them an interview via Skype
  • Be aware that the application process, if successful, will take at least three months. So plan ahead!

Specialty Occupations

Experts predict that during the next decade America will see a vast shortage in nurses, other medical professionals and engineers. Accountants are almost always in high demand in the USA, as are managers with solid experience in all kinds of sectors.

Here are some of the professions deemed ‘speciality’ by the US Government, along with average salary expectations. And here’s a full list of the professions that currently qualify – are you on it?

OCCUPATION AVERAGE SALARY
Civil and Mechanical Engineers $85,000
Astronomer $105,000
IT Systems Analyst $80,000
Clinical Psychologist $63,000
Surgeon $347,000
Veterinarian $85,000
Registered Nurse $70,000
Dentist $165,000
Secondary School Teacher $60,000
Accountant $65,000

Location, location, location

Whether to choose a location first or be guided by the jobs market is entirely down to your own preferences and motivations. Are you planning to move to the USA for career progression above all, or for quality of life and a lifestyle change too?

Most of our expats who weren’t taking up a job transfer from their local office to a specific US office tended to go for location first, so as to narrow down the potentially epic search. Here are three of our top expat destinations in the USA:

New York

If you can make it here, as Frank Sinatra says, you can make it anywhere. A global hub of finance, tech and media, it’s no wonder the Big Apple is chock-full of expats seeking their fortune – or just a very different way of life.

The list of reasons to live in New York is infinite, from the view of the Brooklyn Bridge to its profusion of culinary offerings and big dating scene for singles.

San Francisco

The City by the Bay enchants so many who visit – it’s financially stable with a vibrant, eclectic social scene and a strong education system. The air is clean and the city is, by and large, a safe place. Unemployment is low in San Francisco, and the average household income is decent at around $90,000.

Put simply, San Fran is a pretty happy and prosperous place with great job opportunities thanks to its privileged position on the East Coast. And word on the street is, Silicon Valley is migrating north, with the rumblings of the next big innovation cycle taking place right here.

Houston

Texas state charges its inhabitants no income tax, and people living here will pay around half of what New Yorkers would pay in other taxes. Houston also houses more Fortune 500 companies than you can shake a stick at.

Oil and gas, technology and business services and aerospace engineering make up a large portion of its booming job market. The latter’s not surprising, given that NASA is based here.

Search and Apply

There are a few ways you can get ahead of the game here in terms of finding that dream job in the USA, but first of all you should be making regular dates with these sites. Sign up and register for job alerts by email a good six months before you intend to move to the USA, is our expats’ advice.

But if you really want to stay ahead of the pack in the hunt for employment in America, you should be keeping tabs on your favourite companies with bases in the USA, as most will advertise positions on their websites.

Even better, sending out your CV with a covering letter as a prospective application is never a bad idea. Check out our downloadable template here for tips on how to put together a USA-friendly CV.

Interviews

A few hard and fast tips from our expats on interview etiquette in the USA:

  • Dress smart – shirt and tie for guys and a suit for women
  • A psychological test might be part of the interview process, so don’t be alarmed if you’re asked to sit one. Give honest answers and try not to overthink your responses – the test will be designed to deem whether you’re right for the job and whether the job is right for you
  • Send a polite thank you note three or four days post-interview. By post is appropriate for all companies but high tech ones. For these business email will do

Have you made it in the land of opportunity? How did you get your dream job in the USA? Drop us a comment below and let us know your top tips for success!