Finding a job in the United States can be challenging, especially for newcomers. If you’re ready to put in the effort, however, working in the United States can lead to a rewarding career and fulfilling lifestyle.
This article goes over all the things you need to know about U.S. work permits as well as tips and strategies for finding jobs that best match your skills and qualifications.
U.S. Job and Foreign Worker Demand
With the U.S. unemployment rate down to 3.6% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,1 the country has more jobs than it’s able to fill. A combination of economic growth and mass exits from the labor force means that many businesses across various industries are seeking foreign workers to fill job openings.
There’s a surplus of job openings for both entry-level and highly skilled workers, and the BLS projects many occupations to experience job growth over the next 10 years. Industries currently experiencing labor shortages include:
- Personal services
- Science and technology
Research Job Demographics and Locations
Employment opportunities across the United States aren’t always equal. Each state comes with a unique job market, labor regulations and lifestyle. Before committing to a state, consider its minimum wage, housing and living costs, overtime regulations and health insurance.
As of 2022, Nebraska and Utah had the lowest unemployment rate of 2%,2 while states such as California, New Mexico and Nevada ranked near the high end with rates between 4.9% and 5.3%.
Most people look to California for tech jobs, but states such as New York and Florida also host tech employment opportunities. Texas boasts the highest employment rate in the oil and gas industry,3 while California, Florida and Illinois4 are all in need of hospitality workers.
Job Search Sites
Job boards and search engines are valuable tools for job seekers. Employers post open job opportunities on job boards and search engines, such as Indeed,5 Monster6 and LinkedIn,7 making it easier for candidates to find and apply for jobs. You can upload your CV, qualifications and other personal details when you create an account on these sites, streamlining the application process. You can also find employment opportunities on a business’s website within the career section.
LinkedIn functions as both a professional social media network and a job board. Employers, recruiters and employment agencies often use LinkedIn to find qualified candidates that meet their job criteria. Create a profile and keep it updated to help attract job opportunities within your industry and skill set.
Networking and Social Media
While job boards are a helpful resource, CNBC estimates that 70% of jobs8 are never published publicly and instead are created for job candidates met through networking. According to a LinkedIn survey, the majority of professionals9 in 2016 were hired through networking
Building a network as a newcomer can be challenging, but workshops, job fairs or other networking events can be great opportunities to build professional connections and potentially meet a future employer.
Regardless of where you are, social media is also a strong networking tool. Message professionals and leaders within your industry on LinkedIn, Instagram or other social media platforms. Make sure to follow up with connections you meet at networking events or elsewhere.
Mentorship and Support
Consider reaching out to nonprofit organizations that support newcomers looking for work. These organizations can help you polish your resume, provide language training and assist your job search. Other organizations connect newcomers with mentors that can provide industry-specific advice and coaching. Many of these services are offered online, so you can access support before you arrive in the United States.
Some popular organizations that assist U.S. newcomers include:
- Upwardly Global10
- USA Hello11
- Immigrant Welcome Center12
Refresh Your CV and Cover Letter
It’s crucial to keep your CV and cover letter current, especially when you’re actively seeking work. Update your CV to ensure that it conforms to U.S. format standards and includes information such as professional history, achievements, competencies and personal details.
Use your CV as a basic template, and customize it for each job you apply to, aligning it with applicable skills or other qualifications. Recruiters and hiring managers want to see that you’re interested in the specific company and role, but many organizations also use applicant tracking software to match key terms and phrases from your CV to the posted job description. Aligning your CV to the job description improves the chance that it’ll make it to the hiring manager.
Professionals, such as teachers, healthcare workers and lawyers, are generally required to possess certain credentials or licenses to work in the United States. Regardless of your education level, work history or certifications, foreign accreditations may not be recognized in the United States.
Hiring employers or state licensing boards are generally responsible for determining the validity of foreign workers’ credentials, and most depend on expert credential evaluation services to do this. Credential evaluation services perform analyses of foreign credentials and recommend comparable qualifications within the U.S. education system or labor market. Plan ahead as getting accredited may take some time and can vary in cost.
Personal references that can attest to your professional history or achievements can help your employers verify your qualifications and learn more about you and how you can fit into the organization. Reach out to previous employers or other peers, and ask them to provide references regarding your skills, experience and other relevant information.
If you’re short on references, volunteering within your industry or community is a great way to gain U.S. workplace experience and relevant professional references.
Interviews and Follow-up
Job interviews in a new country and culture can be daunting, but you can show employers that you’re a valuable candidate with the right interview strategies. To boost your confidence for real interviews, take time to practice common interview questions with your mentors and friends, and focus on discussing your key skills and achievements.
If the interview is over the phone or via virtual meeting, ensure you’re situated in a quiet and professional space. After the interview, email the hiring manager or employer to thank them for their time and reinforce a positive impression.
Temporary Work Visas and Green Cards
Foreign workers usually need a work visa to live and work in the United States. Depending on your unique circumstances and profession, you can come to the United States as either a temporary or permanent foreign worker14 or a temporary visitor for business. A temporary visa requires you to have a job already, and you’ll need to renew the visa regularly. If you already have a job with a temporary visa, you can apply for a green card that allows you to obtain permanent residency and work eligibility through a lottery system.15
Sponsorship16 is a work visa option for those who don’t yet live and work in the United States. Before you can apply for sponsorship, you’ll need a job offer from an employer in the United States. The employer17 must also file a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker with U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services18 and get certification from the Department of Labor.19 Based on your circumstances, sponsorship authorizes you to work in the United States according to set terms.
Not all employers are willing or eligible to sponsor foreign workers. If you’re searching on job boards, include “sponsorship” as a key search term. If you’ve secured a job offer, verify that the employer is willing to sponsor you.
Social Security Number
A Social Security number20 is a nine-digit number that the United States government issues to citizens and residents. An SSN is required by the government if you want to get a job, collect Social Security benefits and access other government services.
Once you’re authorized to work in the United States, complete an SSN application with original documents verifying your identity, age and work-authorized immigration status, and submit it to a Social Security office. Processing your application may take some time, but you can start working while you’re waiting for your SSN.
Unfortunately, some people take advantage of newcomers hoping to find a job in the United States. Job scammers advertise jobs in ads, on social media and job boards to get personal information and money from applicants.
Before accepting a job offer and offering any personal details, verify the legitimacy of the hiring organization. Watch out for fake placement firms that charge a fee for their services as legitimate employers will never ask you to pay a fee to get hired.