“I am Irish, and I’m currently legally living and working in Florida. My current visa is up in December, and like many Irish people here I do not want to return home at the moment.
“My current employer has expressed interest in keeping me with the company. I have an honors degree that with the correct wording could be tied to my current job.
“Could you please offer me any advice on the process? My boss will sign any paperwork and even help with the financial aspect, but the rest is up to me.
“I have no idea what to do and have got nowhere with visa groups in Ireland. The only suggestion this far has been to stay illegally or to leave and return on a holiday visa.”
From the information you’ve provided you seem to have options that will allow you to obtain a long-term U.S. visa.
Staying here illegally will make it very difficult for you to secure employment on a long-term, secure basis. Given that you’ve already got a job, an agreeable employer and an honors degree, there’s no reason for you to go down that path.
You don’t say what kind of visa you’re currently making use of. Is it renewable? We’re going to work on the premise that it’s not, given that your current employer is looking for ways to keep you with the company.
It seems as if you would be eligible to apply for an H-1B visa, a skilled “specialty occupation” employment visa that requires, at a minimum, a four-year undergraduate degree.
The U.S. annually allocates 65,000 H-1B visas. In years past, when the economy was robust, the H-1B quota for a year would fill fast, but for the upcoming fiscal year 2011, which commences on October 1, there are plenty of H-1Bs available.
The H-1B application process, because it is so involved, must be undertaken in conjunction with an immigration attorney. If it turns out that you’re qualified for the visa after consulting with an attorney, your employer will have to complete paperwork about the job on offer and the financial affairs of the company.
You and your employer should know that the filing and attorney fees for an H-1B visa can run into the thousands of dollars, so if you’ve found an employer willing to help in this regard that will prove particularly useful.
It can take several months for an H-1B visa to be approved, so you should start the process as soon as possible. Once the visa is approved – you’ll have to return to the U.S. Embassy in Dublin for final processing – it will allow you to legally work here for the sponsoring employer for three years. At that time, the visa is renewable for a further three years.
Perhaps the visa you’re here on is renewable, but if it’s a J internship or student visa, chances are that it’s not. An attorney will help you figure that out – the U.S. visa groups in Ireland you refer to are probably versed only in visa basics.
As an aside, the U.S. recently passed a border security bill that places a $2,000 H-1B fee increase on companies if their U.S. citizen workforce is less than 50%.
"There is a part of H-1B that is abused, and it is by companies that are not American companies or even companies that are making something. Rather, they are companies that take foreign folks, bring them here, and then they stay here for a few years, learn their expertise, and go back. We think we should increase the fees when they do that," New York Senator Charles Schumer said.
Originally published in 2013.