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2023년 10월 4일
Guide to the United States

Guide to Sponsoring Software Engineers for U.S. Work Visas

A guide for tech companies on sponsoring software engineers and IT professionals for U.S. work visas, emphasizing legal and strategic planning.

Guide to Sponsoring Software Engineers for U.S. Work Visas

In the fast-paced world of technology, companies are perpetually in pursuit of the most exceptional talents. These individuals not only safeguard their IT systems but also drive innovation. The search for excellence knows no bounds, as highly skilled IT professionals are scattered across the globe.

This article explores the myriad immigration options available to tech companies seeking to sponsor software engineers and IT professionals for U.S. work visas. We will provide a thorough understanding, from the initial to the final steps, ensuring you are well-prepared with the necessary knowledge.

Employment-Based Nonimmigrant (Temporary) Visa Categories:

H-1B – Specialty Occupation

The H-1B visa stands as a cornerstone in the array of options for foreign IT professionals seeking employment in the U.S. Tailored for specialized roles requiring specific expertise and at least a bachelor's degree in a related field, it is the go-to choice for software engineers and database developers. However, the H-1B visa category has its complexities. Serving as the premier professional visa for foreign workers in the U.S., it necessitates a deep understanding of its nuances, including the annual quota and evolving regulations.

TN – Canadian and Mexican Professionals

The TN visa opens doors for professionals from Canada and Mexico aspiring to work in specific roles in the U.S. It parallels the H-1B visa but is confined to certain professions, including Computer Systems Analysts, Engineers, Statisticians, and Mathematicians. Distinguishing itself from the H-1B, TN visas offer greater flexibility, providing three-year work approvals and no fixed limit on the duration of employment in the U.S., as long as a job offer is in place. This option is particularly convenient for Canadian and Mexican candidates, with a streamlined application process enabling Canadians to apply directly at the border or airport, and Mexicans at their nearest U.S. Consulate.

L-1 Visa – Intracompany Transfer

The L-1 visa category is applicable to IT professionals employed at multinational corporations, possessing specialized knowledge or occupying senior managerial or executive roles within the company abroad for at least 12 months within the past three years. It permits them to relocate to a related U.S. company, bringing along their specialized expertise or management skills. This visa option is versatile and ideally suited for IT professionals with unique skill sets or those transitioning into managerial roles. Additionally, it can expedite the process of obtaining a green card for certain individuals holding multinational managerial positions.

E-3 – Australian Professional

Australian citizens meeting H-1B visa criteria, including Software Engineers and similar IT roles, can consider E-3 status, albeit its infrequent utilization. The E-3 provides Australians with an exemption from the H-1B lottery process, as the cap for E-3 visas has never been reached. Employers should consider this category when evaluating Australian candidates, particularly as eligible individuals can apply directly for the E-3 Visa at the U.S. consulate.

H-1B1 – Chile and Singapore Professionals

Analogous to the E-3 visa, exclusive to Australian citizens, Chilean and Singaporean citizens who meet H-1B standards outlined earlier can access H-1B1 status. Chilean and Singaporean citizens receiving job offers from U.S. companies can apply directly at the U.S. consulate, bypassing the extended USCIS processing times.

O-1 – Extraordinary Ability

The O-1 visa is reserved for individuals demonstrating "Exceptional Ability or Achievement." Applicants must present evidence of remarkable accomplishments or recognition in their field. While unconventional for most IT professionals, it remains an option for those with significant international recognition in the IT sector. Furthermore, it provides an excellent avenue for IT professionals within start-up companies possessing unique offerings.

F-1 Students

Foreign students in the U.S. under F-1 visas encounter certain limitations regarding work. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) students can seek additional work authorization through Optional Practical Training (OPT). This can extend up to 24 months in specific cases. To obtain this STEM extension, employers must be enrolled in E-Verify and formulate a comprehensive training plan. For recent graduates, this represents an excellent opportunity to showcase their skills to prospective employers and transition into other visa categories.

Navigating the Path to Permanent Residency (Green Card)

While numerous visa options are temporary, designed for limited stays in the U.S., the pursuit of permanent residency, often referred to as the "green card" process, becomes imperative for those seeking a long-term commitment. This journey necessitates meticulous planning, especially for employees hailing from countries like India or China, where extended wait times prevail.

Employers sponsoring workers for green cards can break down the process into three main steps:

Step 1: PERM Labor Certification

Initiating the process is the PERM labor certification, which compels employers to actively search for potential U.S. candidates to fill the role. They must also substantiate offering a fair wage commensurate with the position and its geographical location. This phase adheres to stringent regulations and may entail a considerable duration.

Step 2: I-140 Immigrant Visa Petition

Upon successful completion of the PERM labor certification, employers proceed with filing an I-140 immigrant visa petition. This step assesses whether the foreign national satisfies all job requirements and verifies the employer's ability to furnish the requisite salary.

Step 3: I-485 Adjustment of Status Application

Following approval of the I-140 petition, the wait for a green card quota number commences. The length of this wait varies according to the foreign national's country of birth, spanning from several months to numerous years. Once the quota number becomes available, based on the "priority date" or position in the queue, the foreign national and their immediate family can submit I-485 adjustment of status applications. Upon approval, permanent resident status is conferred, and the coveted green cards are issued.

It is important to remember that while this path may appear intricate, navigating it successfully to secure permanent residency for valued IT professionals is entirely attainable with proper guidance.

Exploring Exceptional Green Card Categories

Most green cards necessitate employers to complete the PERM process. Nevertheless, specific candidates can circumvent this requirement or self-sponsor for their green card, independently of a U.S. employer. For Software Engineers and Developers possessing specialized skills or experience, these categories offer an opportunity to expedite lengthy green card wait times. These classifications encompass:

Multi-National Executive/Manager:

Mirroring the L-1 category for senior managers and executives, IT professionals with executive or managerial experience abroad over the past three years may qualify for this category. It particularly suits high-level IT managers and those currently occupying L-1A status in the U.S.

Outstanding Professor or Researcher:

Applicants must demonstrate international recognition for exceptional achievements in a specific academic field. This category may prove viable for individuals with extensive teaching or research backgrounds entering tenured or tenure-track positions.

Extraordinary Ability:

IT professionals garnering substantial international recognition in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics may contemplate the EB-1A Extraordinary Ability category. This route necessitates comprehensive documentation of accomplishments within designated areas and does not require sponsorship by a U.S. employer, permitting self-sponsorship.

To Summarize

Navigating the complexities associated with securing approval to employ foreign IT professionals in the U.S. poses an increasingly formidable challenge. However, armed with a profound comprehension of available visa categories and a strategic approach to immigration, organizations can tap into the vast global talent pool while preserving their competitiveness in the ever-evolving technology sector.

Staying abreast of immigration regulations, seeking legal counsel, and meticulously planning for permanent residency constitute pivotal steps in successfully traversing the intricate immigration process. In this dynamic landscape, adaptation to evolving regulations and unwavering compliance are indispensable for companies striving to prosper in the digital era.

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Robert Wees
U.S. Immigration CounselRobert Wees
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