What to Do?

Posted by Debbie McGoldrick at 4/8/2009 3:16 PM EDT

Question:
I'M from Northern Ireland. I'm looking to move to America and start a new life. I have been looking for visa information all over the Internet and I can't find anything that will help me. I would love to work for any Irish business or community.
“The main reason that I would also like to move to America is because my girlfriend was a student here in Ireland and we've been going out for the past year and a half. Just recently her student visa expired and she had to move home.
“We've been trying to find options for the past few months for me to move to America with her, but we always knew it would be difficult. She is living with her parents at the moment in California.
“How will it be possible for me to be with her? I have been looking at types of visas online and the only one that would probably be suitable for me would be the temporary work visa. I haven't got any degrees so it's proving very difficult to find an employer who will sponsor me as they are looking for professional bodies. What should we do?”

Answer:
YOU are correct – it will be difficult. Not necessarily impossible, but difficult.
As you have no immediate family ties in the U.S., you’ll have to look at the possibility of a temporary employment-based visa, or if you’re a student yourself, perhaps you might consider transferring your studies here.
If you are a student, or you’re thinking of becoming one, you could possibly qualify for an F or M visa, or a J visa exchange program. F visas are for those undertaking academic studies, while M visas are for students learning a vocation. J visas allow those with post-secondary degrees, or five years of work experience in a particular field, to participate in an internship program for up to 18 months.
Pre-approval for each of these visas is a necessity – in other words, you would have to apply to a college, vocational school or approved exchange program, and be accepted, in order to proceed with the visa application.
An excellent U.S. government website to use for more information is http://educationusa.state.gov. You’ll get all the particular requirements for each visa category, and what you’ll have to do to secure a visa. But you should also bear in mind the expense of a U.S. post-secondary education compared to Ireland and the U.K.
The temporary employment visa probably best suited to your qualifications would be the H-2B, which is set aside for seasonal workers or those needed on an intermittent basis by U.S. employers. They are not easy to obtain, though, and the employer must prove that there are no qualified American workers available for the job on offer – an increasingly difficult requirement in these recessionary days.
If you’re serious about wanting to live in the U.S., you should plan on a visit here so you could explore your options in person. You likely know that you can enter the U.S. on the visa waiver program for up to 90 days, which will give you a good amount of time to gather information for your move.
Other options you might avail of? There’s the annual DV-1 green card lottery in the fall that allocates 50,000 visas, but millions from around the world apply for them so it’s not something to bank on.
Then, of course, permanent legal status can be obtained through marriage to a U.S. citizen. That’s a big step for any number of reasons, obviously, but should the process be navigated successfully the foreign spouse is granted conditional legal status for two years. After that time, if the couple can continue to prove the validity of the marriage, the status is made permanent.

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