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I am an international student and trying to get a work visa in the US when I graduate. Can you give me advice?
I have to start this with a disclaimer…
I was actually hesitant to post this, mainly because I am neither a lawyer nor an expert on US immigration. This topic is a heavy legal stuff. Also regulation changes every year and therefore, my visa application experiences in 2003 is not exactly relevant to what you are experiencing now.
The only reason I have decided to post is because I do get asked this so often and I don’t have time to write each one of them back. I know it is a huge concern for international students, It definitely was a huge concern for me when I was in school.
Please use this answer only as a reference, and do the fact and legal check yourself. I won’t be able to answer any more than what I write here, or be responsible for the information. Thank you very much in advance for understanding.
As an illustrator you most probably try out for Either O-1 visa (freelance artist visa) or H-1 visa (employment visa). I linked to a site I found on internet for your reference to see what the criteria is. So, think of which one would be more realistic for you. (Please note: I have not used this organization. I just linked them because they had best explanation of each visa out of what I saw. The link to O-1 visa is from an attorney some of my friends have worked with) Internet is your best friend, do your own research as well.
If you apply for H-1: you should start looking for a possible employer after you graduate and when you have your OPT. Your employer should be the one who hires a lawyer to take care of your visa status. I don’t know much more than this, because I have never had an H-1.
If you apply for O-1: you should talk to alumni of your school or illustrators who recently got this visa if they can recommend you good lawyers. There are a lot of lawyers who specialize in O-1, so those who are experienced would be the best choices. They will let you know if you have potential of qualifying for O-1 or not.
You should make appointments and meet with the lawyers in person to see who is the best match for you.
Usually immigration attorneys give you first meeting for free. Once you sign on with a lawyer, you usually go with the same person as long as you stay in the US, so choose carefully. You know yourself and therefore your match the best.
From my experiences, the lawyers can answer many of the questions you have, in my case, the possibility of my getting O-1 was thoroughly explained.
Most importantly, if you want O-1 work on as many real illustration jobs as possible during your OPT, as you need to prove that you have a special talented and renowned working illustrator.
What I suggest you to do, is to ask your school’s international students office to invite immigration lawyers for Q&A sessions. This is the best possible option during school to get some of your basic questions answered. Nobody knows the immigration law better than them.
And, my two cents here is…when you are still in school, try not to loose sleep over it. The best you can do is that you do your best wok, learn as much as possible, so that you are professionally ready when you graduate. If you worry too much and can’t concentrate on school, that would not help you in any way. First comes your work, then visa should naturally follow.