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How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

Old Jun 25th 2016, 2:00 am
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Question How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

How difficult would it be to find an employer willing to sponsor me in San Francisco for a relatively new and fast growing technology such as node.js, mongodb etc? I'm 25, have a degree in mathematics and have been a full-stack C++ developer for 1 year and for the last 2 years I have been a node.js/Angular/full-stack contractor in London. London is seriously lacking in decent web developers, with companies often having to fight over the small supply. What is the story like in San Fran for web development roles?

Any info greatly appreciated.

Last edited by zukias; Jun 25th 2016 at 2:26 am.
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Old Jun 25th 2016, 2:53 am
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Default Re: How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

To answer your question, very hard. There's no shortage of software developers here in southern California, given the huge influx of immigrants from Asia (India, China, etc) that come over to study masters degrees at American universities on student visas, get internships, and then have their employer transfer them onto a skilled visa.

The quickest way to get over here from the UK via an employment-based visa for someone in your position with your skill-set would be to get an H1B visa from an organization that qualifies for uncapped H1B visas, like a university. However, getting a job with a university that wants to spend tens of thousands of dollars in lawyers fees to get you over here is another thing entirely.

Another option would be an internal company transfer (L1A or L1B). However, in order to get of those visas, your sponsoring company has to show that you are either a multi-national manager (pretty-much a no-no for someone with only a few years experience and no direct reports), which is the L1A visa, or have specialist knowledge in your company's systems / intellectual property, which is the L1B visa, and you have to have worked for the company's foreign subsidiary for at least a year.

A further option for you would be to get an O-1 visa. I met someone who came over to the USA on an O-1. His company's lawyers had to prove that he was an alien of extraordinary skill. He did that by publishing papers and becoming a prolific conference speaker at tech conferences all over the world. It took him a few years to accomplish, but he showed that it was achievable.

Last edited by cautiousjon; Jun 25th 2016 at 3:01 am.
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Old Jun 26th 2016, 4:31 am
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Default Re: How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

Your best bet would probably to get a job in the UK with a multi-national company and then try to get a transfer to the US in a year or two.

I work for such a company and the good news is that, if you can land a job in the UK then a transfer after 18 months or so is quite likely to be possible - the cost of hiring good software engineers is so high that the incremental costs associated with transferring someone to a new location are usually not particularly significant and, within 18 months you should easily have acquired enough specialized knowledge related to your job that an L1B visa should be straightforward.
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Old Jun 26th 2016, 4:38 pm
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Default Re: How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

Originally Posted by zukias View Post
... a relatively new and fast growing technology such as node.js, mongodb etc? ... for the last 2 years I have been a node.js/Angular/full-stack contractor ...
Originally Posted by cautiousjon View Post
To answer your question, very hard. ...
Originally Posted by md95065 View Post
....
I'm too much of an old fart to answer this myself, but how much significance is there to the OP's specific skills (node.js, mongdb, etc)? IF (and only if) those are indeed unique / rare skills, could he find something in the Bay Area and would that be enough to warrant the visa? (Note to OP - when you mention 'San Fran', you presumably mean the 'Bay Area'; most jobs in the region are not in SF itself but rather, 50 miles to the south in Silicon Valley).


33 years ago I simply flew in to SF and started calling companies, and found a company in Palo Alto willing to sponsor me within 2 days ... but I guess those days are gone!
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Old Jun 26th 2016, 8:17 pm
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Default Re: How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

The OP has good, relevant, skills that are in demand. The fact that he has them does not, unfortunately, make him unique - lots of other people have the exact same skill set. The question an employer will be looking at is how good he is and how likely it is that he will continue to acquire new skills fast enough to keep up.

I don't think that a direct hire from outside the US is likely. A company transfer in a few years might be possible.
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Old Jun 26th 2016, 8:38 pm
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Default Re: How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

I work for a very very prominent software company in Cambridge (you will have heard of them, especially with you knowing mongodb (we own half of 3T!).

We have a office in LA and a LOT of the dev's ask if we can sponsor them for a visa etc etc and the simple answer a lot of them get is; why should we pay thousands to sponsor you when there are plenty of devs out in the US looking for work?

That being said, some the very exceptional devs have been transferred and so it may be worth finding somewhere within the UK with bases in the United States and trying your luck that way! Best of luck to you
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Old Jun 26th 2016, 10:06 pm
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Default Re: How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

Originally Posted by BenK91 View Post
I work for a very very prominent software company in Cambridge (you will have heard of them, especially with you knowing mongodb (we own half of 3T!).
I work for a very very prominent multi-national company based in Mountain View, CA (you will have heard of them because, well ... you use the internet)

We have a office in LA and a LOT of the dev's ask if we can sponsor them for a visa etc etc and the simple answer a lot of them get is; why should we pay thousands to sponsor you when there are plenty of devs out in the US looking for work?
That's a question, not an answer, and the answer to it may be "because it makes economic sense".

Assume that we are talking about a good employee who has already been with the company for 18 to 24 months and who, all other things being equal, the company wants to keep.

If they come along and ask for a transfer to a US office then the company has to consider the cost of the relocation against the cost of replacing that employee should they decide to leave if the relocation doesn't happen. The replacement cost is going to be at least the company's average "cost per hire" (ie total recruiting budget and associated expenses divided by number of employees actually hired) plus some additional assessment of the cost of getting a new employee up to speed to the point where they are more or less as productive as the person that they are replacing.

While my company's "cost-per-hire" is particularly high I can pretty much guarantee that the costs of getting an L1 visa are going to be significantly less than the cost to replace a good software engineer. Of course there may also be a relocation package and that is a place where employer and employee have some room for negotiation, with the party who is requesting the transfer typically having the weaker hand.
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Old Jun 26th 2016, 10:28 pm
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Default Re: How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

Originally Posted by md95065 View Post
I work for a very very prominent multi-national company based in Mountain View, CA (you will have heard of them because, well ... you use the internet)

Constructive. +1.


That's a question, not an answer, and the answer to it may be "because it makes economic sense".

Assume that we are talking about a good employee who has already been with the company for 18 to 24 months and who, all other things being equal, the company wants to keep.

If they come along and ask for a transfer to a US office then the company has to consider the cost of the relocation against the cost of replacing that employee should they decide to leave if the relocation doesn't happen. The replacement cost is going to be at least the company's average "cost per hire" (ie total recruiting budget and associated expenses divided by number of employees actually hired) plus some additional assessment of the cost of getting a new employee up to speed to the point where they are more or less as productive as the person that they are replacing.

While my company's "cost-per-hire" is particularly high I can pretty much guarantee that the costs of getting an L1 visa are going to be significantly less than the cost to replace a good software engineer. Of course there may also be a relocation package and that is a place where employer and employee have some room for negotiation, with the party who is requesting the transfer typically having the weaker hand.
I would disagree that replacing a good developer (the definition of good is completely open to your interpretation) is such a immensely difficult task as you're making it sound.

Within our UK base we know the average hire costs us around £3000.

Transferring a member of staff the US will cost significantly more than that (flights, visa, relocation package etc etc if we're being pedantic).

I wouldn't also say it's particularly difficult getting a developer "up to speed". They're usually plug and play, hence the the high turnover of developers in most companies (within the UK anyway).

As clearly this is going off on a tangent, best of luck to you Zukias. Hopefully a good opportunity comes up for you!

Last edited by BenK91; Jun 26th 2016 at 10:31 pm.
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Old Jun 27th 2016, 1:13 am
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Default Re: How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

While I realise that costs in the US and the UK differ a lot, your estimate of 3,000 GBP to replace a developer seems really low even if it only covers the direct costs associated with that hire.

While development skills may be "plug and play" knowledge of your company's business and systems is not.

I would be surprised if the real cost of replacing a developer was less than 20% of their annual salary and, potentially much more.

Anyway, the moral for the OP is to look for an employer who understands how much they have invested in their employees and values employee retention if they are ultimately looking to transfer to the U.S.
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Old Jun 27th 2016, 7:52 pm
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Default Re: How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

zukias, the best advice I can give you is to tailor your LinkedIn profile to emphasize your specific skillset, and take an active role in the LinkedIn groups and development forums. By active role, I mean write articles on why adopting the technologies in which you are proficient make clear business sense, participate in conversations, and become seen as a thought leader. If there is no mongodb or node.js developer group, then start one, and be seen to be very active in it.

A headhunter may notice you, and you may have the opportunity to get to talk with companies either using or considering the use of those particular technologies. It is a numbers game, the more people you connect with, the better your chances. Best of luck to you, and call it "The City" and never "San Fran", though as the poster above rightly says, you will be working in the south bay area.
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Old Jun 27th 2016, 8:01 pm
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Default Re: How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

I work for a very very prominent e-commerce company in Seattle/San Francisco. Again, you'll have heard of us :-)

Recruiting developers is one of my biggest challenges - there simply isn't enough really high-caliber developers, with real-world experience of solving complex problems. My ability to recruit from overseas is limited though, as I can only apply for H1Bs once per year in April, and even then there's no guarantees.

We do have a large development team in London, and transfers across are actively encouraged - managers will ask developers for interest in relocating after 12 - 18 months. It's definitely your easiest way across.
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Old Jun 28th 2016, 4:14 pm
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Default Re: How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

Regarding relocation costs, if you are single and simply want to have an adventure, you could make it clear you aren't looking for much in the way of relocation. As I mentioned above, I came out to SF in the 80s and searched for work. I had only 2 years work experience at the time, which was too low to justify a big relocation deal. I told them I was single and had no property to sell, no goods to relocate, no spouse to worry about, and no return flights to worry about. I got 2 weeks in a hotel and 2 weeks with a rental car, and that was it as far as relocation goes! They did, however, sponsor me for a Green Card, which was all I cared about.


Times have changed but you'll see posts on here were everyone is looking to maximize their relocation deal - and that's fine if you have commitments, property, spouse, kids, etc. If you don't need that then you may have a competitive advantage.
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Old Jun 28th 2016, 7:38 pm
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Default Re: How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

Originally Posted by MrChris View Post
I work for a very very prominent e-commerce company in Seattle/San Francisco. Again, you'll have heard of us :-)
If you work in SF, you may well work in the same building as me :-)

Originally Posted by MrChris View Post
We do have a large development team in London, and transfers across are actively encouraged - managers will ask developers for interest in relocating after 12 - 18 months. It's definitely your easiest way across.
Agreed. It was way back when when I made the move, but an intra-company L1 transfer after establishing oneself in a UK development organization is the most plausible way to make it work.
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Old Jun 28th 2016, 8:30 pm
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Default Re: How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

I came over to the Bay Area on the L1 visa (freshly green carded!)

My company policy is as follows

They'll sponsor as long as the cost of sponsorship is <10% of your yearly salary - basically to make sure it's worth their while getting you over. Currently, it's senior developers that are still getting sponsored.
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Old Jun 29th 2016, 4:59 am
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Default Re: How difficult for software dev sponsorship in SF?

Absolutely no shortage of vacancies with your skill set in Silicon Valley *and* San Francisco. However, most of the more 'prominent' companies are outside of San Francisco proper though and if you're young and single you will want to be in San Francisco or San Jose because most other places between the two are devoid of any nightlife that would interest someone of your age.

But as others have said, your only way over is on a company transfer or the h1b visa *if* you are successful in the next lottery (April 2017 for an October 2017 start).
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