How easy is it to get a job in Silicon Valley as a foreign Software Graduate?
So myself like most tech graduates dream of the Mecca of Technology, Silicon Valley. Home to many start-up and global technology companies. Apple, Facebook and Google are among the most prominent. Half the worlds’ tech billionaires live there but the lure of Silicon Valley for many is a pipe dream as opposed to a reality. But as I am quickly entering the final year of my University degree, I wanted to see how difficult it is to get a job and work in Silicon Valley as a student from the UK.
Well finding a job should be the easy bit. Currently, the US software job market faces a 472K tech talent shortage with 9 in 10 business owners struggling to find and hire IT professionals according to research done by Indeed.
A great blog on an Italian student working in Silicon Valley is available here but I will outline some of his points briefly.
Become a student
Many of the problems with working in Silicon Valley for a foreign national is obtaining a Visa to work there. Some of the best ways are getting a student visa which allows you to work up to two years in the US after graduation. If you are already within a degree program, applying for a master’s degree in the US would allow for this.
Get a company to sponsor you
Another way is getting your visa sponsored by a company. However Visa sponsorship (e.g. H1B) can be time-consuming and expensive for both the employer and potential employee, immediately creating a barrier. It can be difficult to get a company to sponsor a visa as they are more likely to hire someone locally.
Get an internship
Some recommend getting an internship and obtaining a J1 visa type. The J1 internship visa remains popular among Irish students and graduates alike. This year alone, 8,000 students applied for the visa, which allows students to live and work in the US for a period of up to five months.
However landing an internship at a promising Silicon Valley startup is not easy — and it’s even harder if you’re not from the US. They don’t know your school, they have to get you a visa (meaning fees and paperwork), and they have to invest in training someone who’s likely to go back home after the job.
But here is a good resource if you are looking to get an internship.
The final option which I recommend is getting a company transfer. This options requires you to work for a tech company or a start up with clients in the US market, the chances are that they have an office there. If you convince your employer to transfer you, they will sponsor you for an L1 visa. This visa binds you to the company, so if you get fired or quit, your visa will expire.
To summarise there are ways of getting around the difficulties of tricky visa barriers but it can provide you with a world of opportunities. As one British entrepreneur described the valley as “More happens here and so quickly, satisfying anybody’s craving for newness. In six months, you might get a job, be laid off, start a company, sell it, become a consultant, and then, who knows?” You can take that once in a lifetime risk to go across, try it out and if it doesn’t go well, at least you have the credible experience of working in the valley.
Perhaps a follow up blog post to this could be is it worth moving to the Valley?