Finding work in the US

Who I am
Martí Micolau

Author and references


  • What not to do
  • Sponsorship
  • Intracompany
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Studies

The world is changing and new economic powers have emerged over the past few years, but the United States remains a point of reference, as a place where develop their professionalism and being able to have a career in which one's skills are effectively exploited.

The entry key remains the work visa, which allows you to work legally on US soil, and to obtain the same rights as a US citizen, from having health insurance to a regular employment contract.

What not to do

Spain is one of those nations that join the Visa Waiver Program, which therefore offer their citizens the opportunity to stay in the USA for up to 90 consecutive days without a visa. In this period you can be a tourist, or visit potential customers, or if you want, you can have job interviews; but it is not possible to undertake a real work activity.

The American immigration system is very fiscal on this point: if there is even the suspicion that whoever is about to enter is doing it to do unregulated work, or if the presence lasts for more than 90 days, the consequence is to be identified by the US as an unwelcome person.

Consequently, in addition to being sent back to the country of origin, a possible return to the USA becomes very complicated, especially if a work visa is required.

Also for this reason, those who stay for a period close to the maximum allowed of 3 months, are often passed under scrutiny by immigration agents and must have documentation proving the existence of the return flight as well as a good explanation. about why you want to stay so long.


One of the typical ways to start a career in the USA is have a particular specialization, an uncommon knowledge of a certain sector, something that for American companies is not easy to find in students who have graduated from universities.

For example, if you are an expert in a programming language used only in specific applications, or if you have a specialization in an area of ​​chemistry that is highly sought after by pharmaceutical companies.

In this case, without prejudice to at least basic knowledge of the English language, the path is to be sponsored by an American private company to obtain a visa. H1B.

The way is not the easiest, because there is a threshold of “only” 65000 visas for each year, to which another 20000 must be added for all candidates in possession of a Master's.

The "applications" come mainly from Silicon Valley companies, which try to absorb as many programmers as possible from Asian nations, in particular from India.

So, assuming you have found a company available for sponsorship, you have to work on the application starting from January with an immigration lawyer, in order not to risk missing the window of time to send it to USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) at the beginning of April of each year.


In the USA there are about 1200 American branches of Spanish companies. If works for the Spanish branch of one of these for more than 1 year, the possibility of an intra-company transfer opens up. The visa in this case is L1.

It must be borne in mind that it is not enough to apply, but it is necessary to create a "business case" for the transfer: in essence, it is necessary to demonstrate to the American consulate that you have specific qualities and a unique experience within your company or sector of reference, such as to which for the American branch, it would be very expensive or even impossible to find an American citizen who can do the same job with the same skills as you.

To this must be added abundant documentation proving the commercial exchanges between the Spanish and US offices, and a letter from the owner or board of director of the parent company presenting your transfer as something essential to continue these exchanges profitably.


If you have capital to invest, the entrepreneurial way can prove to be a valid alternative. In this case we are talking about an E2 visa, per “traders”.

Even more than in the previous case, it is necessary to create a credible "story" to convince immigration officers that your presence in the US will create added value: translated, you will bring jobs and / or money to the United States.

Those who have already started a business in Spain have an advantage, because they can present a business model that already works and only needs to be transposed to the American market. Much more difficult is the case of startups, where the business plan is based on hypotheses and not on projections of real data.

In both cases it is however necessary to submit a list of investments for the USA: these must have already been made at the time of application and the amount must not be less than 120-140 thousand dollars.

The amount is not certain because there is no written criterion according to which one passes or does not pass: those who evaluate the application try to understand if it is a credible business and if the plan foresees the hiring of American personnel in a short time.


For those who have acquired a degree in Spain, there is the possibility of attending American universities and acquiring a Masters in the USA, through the "cultural and educational exchange visa". For this type of entry it is necessary to obtain a J1 or F1 visa.

Without going into much detail on the differences between the 2, what is important to know is that the F1 visa is the most commonly used for university cultural exchanges and those who benefit from it must be able to pay most of the maintenance costs in the USA with their own funds. while the J1 applies in particular cases, for example for students holding scholarships.

Those who have managed to obtain a Masters in the USA can benefit from the OPT, the Optional Practice Training, which is essentially a 3-year "grace period" in which the graduate can legally work in the United States, as long as they do so. in a role and sector relevant to his studies. In these 3 years, the race to get sponsored by a US company to obtain the H1B visa that we described above has started.

Article written in collaboration with Export America Group.

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