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Visa Hurdles during Corporate Relocation

Visa Hurdles during Corporate Relocation

Pavithra Ramanarayanan drove 350 miles from upstate New York to New Jersey every weekend for seven months. “The drive was long, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wanted to be with my husband when I could.” 

Corporate relocation separated the couple from June 2015 to January 2016. Months of looking for a job and overcoming visa issues was trying for Pavithra. Finally reunited with her husband, she reflects, “I can’t believe I made that drive all those times!”

Pavithra moved to the United States in 2009 to complete a master’s degree in chemical engineering. She accepted a role in quality engineering at a large building materials manufacturer on an H-1B visa. This visa is typically offered to high potential STEM experts. It requires company sponsorship, which costs the organization thousands of dollars each year. The number of companies that are willing to sponsor are few, adding a layer of complication to Pavithra’s job search. 

When Pavithra’s husband, Kannan, was offered a new position, the relocation came out of the blue – and not at an ideal time for her. “I didn’t have a chance to pick the time of year I searched for sponsorship. Looking for a job in the fall is definitely a disadvantage for H-1B holders.”

The H-1B Process
A lottery is held in April for H-1B visas in the United States. In 2016, 85,000 will be awarded with over 230,000 people applying each year*. This means applicants have to wait a whole year before they can apply for sponsorship again if they are not selected. 

“Since I already had my visa, I could keep it as long as I found another company to sponsor me,” says Pavithra. “I started my job search in September. A lot of companies stop authorizing extra spending at the end of the year, especially for things like visa sponsorship. The timing wasn’t great.” 

As part of her husband’s relocation package, Pavithra received job search assistance to help her land a new role in New Jersey. She worked one-on-one with Angela Patterson, Integration and Job Search Coach at IMPACT Group, to improve her résumé, prepare for interviews, and – ultimately – secure sponsorship. “I can’t tell you enough about Angela! From being a sounding board to providing ideas, it was reassuring to know someone was there looking out for me.” 

Months of Searching for Sponsorship with No Luck
Pavithra’s confidence dropped the longer her search went on. “I thought it was me – that I wasn’t qualified or I didn’t have what companies needed. But Angela boosted my confidence.” Together, they discussed Pavithra’s strengths and career achievements. “Angela didn’t let me feel like I was falling short. She always reassured me the right role would come along.” 

Since Pavithra and Kannan worked at the same company when he accepted the relocation, her employer knew she was looking for a new opportunity. “They were very understanding about my situation. Once my role with them ended, I would only have 15 days to find sponsorship or I would lose my visa,” says Pavithra. “Even though I had already started training my replacement, my employer was not in a hurry to push me out the door.” 

Angela, along with IMPACT Group’s visa expert Julia Thornburg, were prepared to provide resources. Pavithra received research reports on companies that sponsor visas, websites that list open positions for visa holders, and information on visa attorneys. 

Light at the End of the Tunnel
A new version of her résumé grabbed hiring managers’ attention. “I received more calls after I posted the new résumé IMPACT Group created. The number of views my résumé received online increased dramatically.” 

As Pavithra’s job search activity increased, Angela was right there to cheer her on. “I always called Angela before my interviews. She built me up and really helped me to feel prepared. She was my lucky charm!” Pavithra comments. “I don’t know how many clients Angela helps, but I always felt like I was her only one.”

Pavithra’s hard efforts paid off big – she secured a new position as a quality processing engineer at a manufacturing facility in January. The company had never sponsored a visa before. “Job descriptions often say at the bottom the company will not hire someone requiring sponsorship,” says Pavithra. “I applied for the jobs I was qualified for anyway. I knew if I was too choosey, I wouldn’t stand a chance at finding a new opportunity.”

Tips for Other Visa Holders
She was able to show the company her value and sell herself in the interview. When the company realized Pavithra was the right fit for the job, they knew she was worth the investment. “I would tell other visa holders that there is nothing like patience! Timing is key. Don’t be over selective about what you apply for. You’re competing against too many people to take yourself out of the running if your skills don’t match the job description 100%.” 

Now that Pavithra and her husband have settled into their new positions, Kannan is ready to buy a house. “We will be first-time home buyers! It’s a little scary for me, but he is excited about it.” It took time to adjust to the busyness of New Jersey after the quietness of upstate New York, but the couple is ready to embrace new opportunities and set down roots.


Contribution by Ashlee Ayers.

Ashlee is an IMPACT Group Marketing Content Manager who oversees content planning, develops marketing collateral, and shares IMPACT Group’s story each day. Connect with Ashlee on LinkedIn today.

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