Coming to America: Ask the Expert

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Get thee to a good immigration lawyer, says David Schwartz, President and CEO of D.N. Schwartz & Co., an executive search firm in New York. The degree of difficulty in obtaining a green card in the U.S. changes from year to year. A lawyer working in that field should be able to give you an accurate read of how hard it is right now, Schwartz says.

As a general rule, if a firm is looking for someone just like you, your chances are better.

"It helps considerably if you have unique professional qualifications or experience to bring to the role," Schwartz says. "U.S. immigration officials will be looking at whether there is U.S.-based talent that can fill the role effectively."

You might want to stick with the major multinational firms that have a strong U.S. presence. They will have a good sense of which jobs are most suitable - and most likely to be successful - for foreign nationals applying for a working visa. Jobs that require extensive experience in international business environments, for instance, will be easier to fill with foreign nationals than those that have a purely domestic U.S. focus.

"These firms have already gone through the process of sponsoring foreign nationals and will know how to get an application through successfully," Schwartz says.

One route in - although it may be a lateral move and not a promotion - would indeed be through your current company, says Kenneth W. Taber, partner with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, a law firm based in New York. You may be eligible for an L-1 intra-company transferee visa, but only if Ernst & Young offers you a position in one of their U.S. offices.

"The position would need to be an executive position, a managerial position, or a position which relies upon your specialized skills and knowledge," Taber says.

If there is no such position available within Ernst & Young, you may want to file for H-1B visa classification in April 2006. That would give your new employer 180 days before the U.S. fiscal year begins again on October 1, 2006, a date on which 65,000 new H-1B visas will become available.

"The visas apply to people who have job offers in the U.S. that rely upon a Bachelor's degree or higher education in a related field," Taber says.

He adds that if you have a BA in accounting, for instance, perhaps a CPA firm in the U.S. would want to hire you and file an H-1B visa petition on your behalf in April, with a start date of October 1, 2006.

While it may be complicated, it's certainly worth a try, particularly given the renewed emphasis being placed on diversity in the context of globalization, says Rod Williams, a job market consultant with New York-based outplacement firm Lee Hecht Harrison.

"Marketing oneself on the basis of an international background - especially if it involves

working with international clients, understanding trade and economic policy differences, or even being multi-lingual - is a very saleable commodity in the U.S.," Williams says.

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