logistics of J-1 to H1-B / academia to industry
March 23, 2019 12:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm a linguist in the US on a J-1 visa and am looking to get an industry job that would qualify me for an H1-B. Complicated question within about how the time frame would work, how to address this in my job search, whether this is even doable etc.

I'm currently teaching at university level in the US on a J-1 visa. This visa currently expires in August, but could be extended for two more years if my employer was willing to do so; however, they've told me they won't be needing my services after this academic year. Since the academic job market is sparse, I'm looking to find a job in industry that would qualify me for an H1-B visa. I have a PhD in linguistics from a prestigious university and know several fellow linguists who have made the transition into working in tech, so finding such a job seems quite possible, especially since I'm in SF Bay where there are zillions of tech jobs. But I'm trying to figure out whether this is doable given the visa issue and the time frame that involves.

As far as I can determine, and I may well be wrong about some or all of this, here's how the visa process would work. I'd get a job offer and my employer would then apply for an H1-B on my behalf. But they would need to do this before April 1 of a given year because there's only a short window in which applications are considered (unless they were a cap-exempt employer, which most aren't). Realistically that's not going to be this year, so it would be 2020. Then there's a lottery, and if I was selected (the chances would be good since I have an advanced degree), I'd be able to start working in August of that year.

If this is right, it means the earliest I could start working would be August 2020. Questions this raises include, but are not limited to, the following:

How do I approach this in my job search? Why would anyone hire me when I can't start work for a year and half?

Is there any workaround (temporary visa, etc.) which would allow me to start work earlier?

If my J-1 expires and I don't yet have another visa, could I stay in the US without working while an H1-B or other visa application was in process?

Does it even make sense to be thinking about this, or should I forget it and make another plan?

Who can I consult about this? Are there recruiters who specialize in the visa process, and/or who specialize in matching humanities-type candidates like me to jobs in industry? Specific recommendations here would be great.
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you already checked whether you are subject to the Two-year Home-country Physical Presence Requirement?
posted by needled at 1:24 PM on March 23, 2019

Response by poster: Not subject to the two-year requirement.
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark at 1:28 PM on March 23, 2019

I am not a visa expert, but you could also look into whether a future employer would be willing to hire you and convert you to L-1 status. Unfortunately, it's usually up to the employers to handle the visa requirements. Have you ever thought of applying for a green card?

My experience was with people who were already hired with an international company, so I worked with a lot of L-1 and B-1 people, but the H1-B has limited access so it runs out very quickly. Hence, a lot of people jumped ship from our company and migrated to Canada, where their skills were needed and appreciated (software engineering, so take that with a grain of salt as regards your situation).

I guess it depends on whether your goal is to stay in the US for a couple of years or to live here long term. If long term, why not apply for a green card?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:58 PM on March 23, 2019

Best answer: I am a hiring manager in a tech company in the US who is hiring a lot of people with your exact background. To be completely honest with you, a delayed start of 1.5 years is a hard sell to any company, even if you have a PhD - I can fill this role in about 2-4 months with other candidates (who don't need visa sponsorship). Plus the H1-B lottery is... well, still a lottery; we had only about 50% luck with it for our PhDs who already were working for us on their OPT. In your position, I would be looking into positions in your home area of the world (or EU) - a lot of big tech companies (like mine) are hiring for these same roles across the world.
posted by Ender's Friend at 5:05 PM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Is there an international student services office (or something similar) at your university? Even if you're not a student, the folks there might be wiling to consult or at least direct you to a local immigration lawyer who can help. From my ISS, I was able to connect with a local lawyer who did free open sessions on J-1/F-1/H1-B questions from international scholars.
posted by Paper rabies at 5:24 PM on March 23, 2019

Best answer: If you're not from one of the countries that has a long queue for Green Cards (due to a large volume of Green Cards from those countries each year) - India, China, the Philippines, Mexico I think? Could be wrong - then I'd strongly recommend that you self-sponsor for a green card in the EB-2 category. The way you describe yourself (PhD from a prestigious university) makes me think you'd be able to do it. PM me for the name of a lawyer who specializes in this type of green card. She will assess your CV and if she thinks you'll get it, she has a money-back guarantee for her services. I think going this route was easily the best decision we made in the past 5 years. It doesn't take as long as you'd think and it completely sidesteps the whole H1-B issue which is extremely precarious at the moment. I know lots of people who've suddenly been asked to leave the country in a week after being here years and years.
posted by peacheater at 10:09 AM on March 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

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