There’s nothing more in demand than the start up world right now, thanks in large part to the flurry of billion dollar buy outs over the last few years. The small business world… well, it’s getting by. Either way, if you’re an international student applying to a new tech start up or just an old fashioned mom-and-pop business, you’ll probably want to know if they can sponsor you for the H1B.
There are many challenges for a smaller company when sponsoring for an H1B Visa. The first, and often the most significant, is the $2,000+ in fees (application, legal, etc.). The second is the USCIS process of investigating to make sure the company is legitimate, I.e., has a business plan, cash flow, office space, etc.
Finally, as with all companies, the applicant must fulfill all the typical H1B requirements, and fall within the H1B Visa Cap.
Whether the small business or start up you are applying to can sponsor you depends entirely on the success and organization of that business. If it’s doing well, has multiple employees, good documentation and a nice office (not in someone’s home), then it’s probably “legitimate.” Still, before applying, we would recommend doing the following: 1) go to http://www.myvisajobs.com/, 2) type the name of the small business or start up in the top right corner “employer” search box, 3) see in the results if that company has sponsored for the H1B in the past.
We generally advise our clients to search for jobs at larger US companies, often internationally located organizations, that are going to be comfortable paying large application fees for international students. That’s why any job search engine you use should be mostly filled with H1B employers with a history of sponsoring. That being said, if you know someone well at a company, or that company just really wants to hire you and pay the application fees, then the start up and small business route to an H1B is certainly possible.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that finding an H1B sponsoring company is only half the battle. You also have to apply for an H1B eligible job that qualifies as a specialty occupation, and that pays the prevailing wage. This means the job has to require a bachelor’s degree (or the equivalent), and pay the same as what other comparable positions pay. Therefore, always start with the job type, and then narrow by company.