Want to work and live in the US

Everything you need to know if you want to work and live in the US

The United States is a great place to work, with many pioneering technology companies and companies in other fields leading the way in innovation and industry internationally. But while millions of people would love to work in the United States, not everyone can, so here’s some advice if you want to work and live in the US.

For those yearning for a piece of the American dream, the US government creates legal means in which a person can live or work in the country, either temporarily or permanently. Often, it can be confusing to understand what credentials they need in order to legally qualify to reside in the country. It’s not uncommon for people to even equate having a green card with having a work visa, but there are key distinctions between them.


Here is what you need to know about being a foreign national — that is, “an individual who is a citizen of a country other than the United States,” according to the US Department of Homeland Security — who’s seeking to stay in the United States either on a short-term or long-term basis.

Green cards

If you’re from another country, getting a green card is essential for residing in the United States, for either business or personal reasons. You can look at a green card as a residency-based document. It gives the holder the right to live in the United States, not just temporarily, but permanently. In fact, it’s more than just a right. With a green card — of which there are many types, such as EB1, first preference employment-based immigration, and FB2, for permanent residents’ spouses — it’s assumed that the person will indeed make the United States home and avail themselves of all that it means, which includes working freely in the country without fear of deportation or having to succumb to any restrictions or limitations.

Many companies may require that an employee obtain a green card in order to work for them, generally in a large or particularly significant capacity, for the indefinite future and will, therefore, sponsor them. In most instances, the employee will have to be “cleared” by the US Department of Labour first. In other instances, the department may not need to clear them because the person is considered to hold a special classification, such as being one of the “priority workers” who are allowed to bypass the step.

Work visas

While green cards are residency-based and meant for holders to reside permanently in the United States, work visas have a temporary focus. That is the greatest distinction between the two: one is permanent, and the other is temporary. Work visas are primarily for people who intend to work — the key word being “work” rather than “live” — in the country for a brief period of time, maybe a few months or so. Some companies will even provide a visa sponsorship in exchange for adding their critical skill set to their organisation. When a person decides they want to be in the country for longer, then they have to pursue other legal options that give them that right, which include trying to get a green card.

Before Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States, he talked about changes he wanted to make to the H-1B visa program. As a result, visas became a hot topic around the nation. Many Americans who had never even heard of them before suddenly took notice. H-1Bs in particular are designed to indicate that the holder is responsible for performing ‘speciality’ work in the country and is, therefore, considered a real asset.

H-1B visas are just one kind of many. To avoid messing up when applying for a visa, it’s a good idea to see a lawyer who specialises in making sure the paperwork is filled out correctly, so you don’t get rejected.

Getting it straight

As discussed, there are real differences between green cards and work visas. A visa gives you the right to work in the United States for a brief period of time, but not the right to live in the country permanently. On the other hand, a green card gives you the right to live in the United States permanently, and also the right to work in the country permanently.

Do you want to work and live in the US? What advice can you add? Tweet it to @CareerCamel.

Photo: Mike Mozart / Flickr

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