Relocating to USA from London

I graduated in Product Design with a First Class Hons degree in 2004, and have been working in a small design company in London since. I’m now wishing to move on and find my ideal job in the area (which would be “true” product design; the kind of analytical, developmental design, looking at semantics, user groups, ergonomics and the interaction between product and user, as well as the look of the product), but would like to leave London. I’d love to work in San Francisco, (cue the groans, and the "me too, join the back of the queue"s), and was wondering if people had advice on how to go about it? I’ve read a few comments posted on this forum already, but I have some specific questions.

For example, are there design employment agencies based in SF/Palo Alto, similar to Adrem in London? Are there any that are particularly friendly to foreigners looking for design jobs? How would I go about the Visa issue? Would I be looking to apply for something on the Visa front and get the ball rolling, or is it just purely a question of applying/writing to ID companies, and getting a job where they would address this issue for me?

I noticed that someone got a little shirty when an enquiry was made along these lines in another thread, as he/she felt that US citizens wouldn’t look kindly on an immigrant looking for local jobs. Working with people from six different countries in my employment, I would say that London is all the richer (culturally) for having designers (and residents for that matter) from all over the world, and I hope designers would be as welcome to apply for jobs at home or abroad in a competitive market.

I have already gleaned that it’s a tough market, and that it’s better to have connections, but since nobody has said it’s impossible, I’m still wanting to follow my dream! I’d appreciate any pointers or advice on this, especially from people who’ve succeeded in getting employment and moving to the US from UK. Thanks!

If you’re going to come over here and try to find work, make sure that you do everything legally and get someone to sponsor you beforehand.

The Congress is working on a new law called HR 4437 which seriously criminalizes just about anything that undocumented workers do. Under this law if you come over here on a tourist visa, get a job, and get caught, you can be arrested and have virtually every right stripped away. They are also talking about mandatory minimum prison sentences of up to 10 years.

This isn’t in effect yet but these laws allow for retroactive punishment should it get passed in the near future.

The “vacancy” sign has officially been turned off.

Hi mmjohns…thanks for your advice. Wow, I didn’t realise that it was such a serious offence (let alone one at all, really), to go on a tourist visa to find a job! Thanks for the warning! I can’t picture it being so easy to meet up with clients to show them sketches and concepts during visiting hours at the prison…

What’s the purpose of this? Is the UK so strict on employment laws and immigrants? It hardly seems fair, or indeed encouraging of getting a cross-culture team in a company! Would you be able to tell me anything about the sponsorships? Or, where I could find out more in relation to design jobs?

sketcher I looked into this about a year ago and the oppurtunities now are very limited.

Sponsorship is a major deal, it is expensive and very time consuming (it can take over a year to get a work visa even after gaining sponsership) and hence companies are generally not interested. It will cost a company nearly double to employ you for the 1st year opposed to somebody who already has a US work visa.

You’ll need to offer something very unique to stand any chance of getting a job over any US applicants.

I don’t want to sound too negative, I’m just trying to put it into context based on my recent experience.

Thanks for the feedback. Ok, it sounds hard! It seems like they really don’t want foreign designers - does this mean most of the designers in US companies are native? I find this surprising! I think the company I work for in London isn’t out of the ordinary being so multi-cultural - I assumed it’d be much the same in US.

Where would one find out about sponsorship? I understand it’s a long shot, and from what you say, PD_GB, it seems a long process, but I’d have a look anyway if there’s a website or something? Cheers!

for entry level people, my understanding is that if you want to live somewhere in particular, you move to the city and hustle freelance untill someone brings you on full time. Companies get to check you out and never pay for relocation.
Corporations may be willing to go through immigration issues if you bring something exceptional to the party, but probably not consultancies.


(perhaps if you find other online resources providing advice for moving to the US please post them.)

Thanks! Can I clarify a couple of things? What do you mean by “hustle”? Do you mean go to USA on tourist visa (up to 90 days I think) and work (illegally), freelancing and hope that the company takes you on in the end, and sorts out your permanent visa? If so, it’s kind of risky, given the info already posted on here regarding new laws and prosecution…

This has reminded me - how would the law be about going on a tourist visa, then doing up to three months of UNPAID work experience (funding yourself), in the hope of getting a job? In the same vein, I saw the Bay Area Internships on the IDEO website - would this be applicable?

Doing an internship would be one way round it, as you’ll be able to go on a student work visa.

Yes. Or I should say, yes for non-EU and (to a lesser extent) Commonwealth citizens. I am betting your foreign co-workers all fit in this category.

It hardly seems fair, or indeed encouraging of getting a cross-culture team in a company!

Immigration laws aren’t designed to encourage cross-cultural understanding. To get a work visa (and this is true in almost any country), your prospective employer has to prove that they tried to hire a local citizen for the position, and were unable to find someone suitable. As you can imagine, this is expensive and difficult, and is getting almost impossible as unemployment rises. If you are executive level, or someone with exceptional and unique skills, the case is easier to make, and more likely to be worth it to an employer. I would dare say as a recent gradutate, the chance of your finding someone to sponsor you for a work visa in the US is exactly zero.

If you really want to work in the US, your best bet is to marry an American (I am serious), and even then you will have to go through a lot of immigrations hassle. You will not find many companies willing to take you on as an unpaid employee either, and they still wouldn’t hire you at the end of the three months. You can’t just get a student visa either, you need to prove you are enrolled at an accredited US institution, and there may be restrictions against taking internships as well.

If you just want a change of scenery, try Europe. As a UK citizen, you have a legal right to work in any EU country.

[quote=“sketcher”]
Is the UK so strict on employment laws and immigrants?
[/quote]

Yes. Or I should say, yes for non-EU and (to a lesser extent) Commonwealth citizens. I am betting your foreign co-workers all fit in this category.

Yes, you’re right - NZ and Europe.

You will not find many companies willing to take you on as an unpaid employee either, and they still wouldn’t hire you at the end of the three months. You can’t just get a student visa either, you need to prove you are enrolled at an accredited US institution, and there may be restrictions against taking internships as well.

If you just want a change of scenery, try Europe. As a UK citizen, you have a legal right to work in any EU country.

Sorry to sound obtuse, but why would they not hire after three months? And wouldn’t it be a good deal for them to have someone working unpaid for them?

Does anyone know anything about visas and internships?

Thanks for your response Scott - it helps to have a point of view and advice from people “in the know”, as the whole visa application thing on the US embassy website is enormous and not very user-friendly (probably intentional!) I have thought about Europe and have worked abroad before; it’s definitely a consideration for me.

So, would you say all foreign designers working in US consultancies are either married to Americans, a high-flyer in their field, or illegal? I guess being a British citizen one gets accustomed to having broad rights and opportunities, and I had always assumed it wouldn’t be this difficult to work in the USA!

Any more comments/advice welcomed!

Sorry to sound obtuse, but why would they not hire after three months? And wouldn’t it be a good deal for them to have someone working unpaid for them?

Because the company is still going to have to prove that they can’t find someone local to fill the position. That fact that you have been there working for free doesn’t change that. As for being reluctant to hire someone free, I can see a lot of larger companies not wanting to do this for legal reasons. For instance, what happens if you are injured on the job? You’re not a paid employee, so you’re not covered by insurance. It’s just not worth the trouble from the point of view of an HR person.

So, would you say all foreign designers working in US consultancies are either married to Americans, a high-flyer in their field, or illegal?

Or they received a work visa when conditions were easier, or they are resident aliens.

I know what you’re going through- I got my degree in the UK, and had zero luck getting any interest at all from employers. They will not consider someone (at our level anyway) who doesn’t already have the right to work there.

There is some clearly written info on the immigration site:

All people who want to become immigrants based on employment must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the following preferences:

  • First Preference: Priority Workers including aliens with extraordinary abilities, outstanding professors and researchers, and certain multinational executives and managers.
  • Second Preference: Members of Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability.
  • Third Preference: Skilled Workers, professionals and other qualified workers.
  • Fourth: Certain special immigrants including those in religious vocations.
  • Fifth: Employment Creation Immigrants.

http://uscis.gov/graphics/howdoi/immvisa.htm

Thanks Scott - that was a great reply…I understand your points and I guess it’s obvious now you say, regarding insurance and liability etc., especially in the States! I had seen the bit you quoted from the embassy/visa website, but it wasn’t entirely clear…for example:

Second Preference: Members of Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability.

Does this mean ANY profession with an advanced degree? Is an advanced degree a BA/BSc, or does it mean MA/MSc?

Skilled Workers, professionals and other qualified workers

Am I right in thinking that we (product designers) aren’t “skilled workers”/“professionals”?

However, you’ve explained it well, and thanks for the straight answer on who’s actually working in ID in USA… I didn’t know if I was missing something that other people were aware of!

You are a skilled professional. I think the “advanced degree” business is targeted at people like university researchers, and doctors, who don’t seem to have a hard time getting in. You would still need to find an employer willing to file the work visa paperwork, and I believe they still need to prove that they were unable to fill the position locally. Then you end up third in the queue behind all the CEOs, doctors and professors.

Not to turn this into a political thread, but the irony is that we have probably over a million illegal immigrants from Mexico occupying pretty much the entire bottom portion of the payscale in our workforce. The bulk of their earnings get sent back to Mexico, generating no economic activity here. The government does little to stop this (because they realize we need the workers), but then they throw up huge roadblocks to highly paid skilled professionals who would generate a lot of local economic activity. We used to let pretty much anyone in who wanted to come. I personally would like to see us get back to that, or at least find a middle ground.

Aha…you’re already in USA! I understood that you were in the same position as me, but you’re in the opposite situation, wanting to work in the UK after getting your degree here? Yes, I agree - it seems strange to put up such high barriers to foreign skilled workers…although I guess it means that native skilled workers will most likely stay in their country, as they are first in queue for jobs, and it’s so hard to get abroad. I’m sure it’s all rooted in complicated economic policy, not to mention international politics! It’s a shame anyhow…

…So, any vacancies for a keen product designer? :wink: :laughing:

A few thoughts:

Get into a multi-national company with design offices in several countries. Be upfront that you are interested in working in other countries.

Work on a master’s degree and get a student visa. While in the US work in internships with the intent of being hired.

Speaking from the perspective of a designer working 7 years, and born and raised American, multi-nationals are encouraged in the field, just not by the government.

This is a good idea, and worth looking into. It sounds like a transfer in this way is plausible, and has the advantage of knowing and working in the company before relocating, and being sure you have a job there!

Work on a master’s degree and get a student visa. While in the US work in internships with the intent of being hired.

This had crossed my mind, but, having studied for 5 years I’m keen to put it to good use, and I’ve heard that an MA can almost over-qualify you for jobs - or it’s not necessary at least; experience on the job is preferred. Plus there’s the expense of this option, if it’s anything like the UK equivalent.

Speaking from the perspective of a designer working 7 years, and born and raised American, multi-nationals are encouraged in the field, just not by the government.

It’s good to have a positive slant on this - I will look into the international companies route - thankyou!

Well, I wish you the best!.

I do disagree with you on the MA ‘overqualifying’ you…however I have experienced many Masters grads think they are qualified to be Senior designers or payed more…That’s just crap. In fact, as a team leader, I prefer to have team members with either a degree in something else rather than ID (ie MBA, or MFA in ID after another degree).

But I understand being tired of studying. A good career is the best degree you can get…After 7 years I’m just beginning to plan my way back to school.

Hope it works out for you.

Yes very good idea.

While I was at dyson I regularly saw people being shipped of aboard to their other offices in Chicago, Tokyo and Malaysia.

I would also like to work in the North America at some point. This thread has been very interesting.

Does anyone know if it’s any easier to get a job in Canada for a UK citizen?

I spoke to a friend from my uni days last night, and she mentioned the possibility of going to work in the USA for 6 months in catering or hotel service, for which you can legally get a work permit. At the same time it would be theoretically legal to look for design jobs…is this true?

She interestingly also mentioned a website that deals with finding jobs in USA for foreigners. I’m not sure what the context was, but I’ll post here if it’s of any use!

Thanks for all the tips - keep 'em coming! :slight_smile:

Oh, and thanks for your best wishes, fastrader - much appreciated! :slight_smile: