The United States is among the biggest and most influential countries worldwide. Thousands of people from all over the globe head to the U.S. annually, eager to fulfill their “American dream.” Among these are overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs), as well.
If you are interested in working in the U.S., keep on reading because in this article, we will talk all about the requirements, qualifications, and procedures involved. We will also discuss the most in-demand jobs there, so you can have a better idea about which career opportunities to pursue in the U.S.
Types of U.S. Work Visas
There are different “pathways” available to those who would like to work in the United States. In other words, there are different types of working visas, depending on your skills, educational background, training, and job experience.
U.S. working visas include “temporary” as well as “permanent” visa options. We will take a look at both options in this article. Either way, you will need to look for a job in the U.S., and once you get a job offer, your employer will file a petition to sponsor your visa with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
A. Temporary (Non-Immigrant) Working Visas
If you are planning to work temporarily in the U.S., you can opt for a temporary, or “non-immigrant” working visa. Here is a list of temporary working visa categories issued by the USCIS:
- H-1B: Person in Specialty Occupation. This refers to people working in specialty occupations, such as government-to-government research and other similar tasks. This usually requires a higher education degree or its equivalent.
- H-1B1: Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Professional – Chile, Singapore. As the name says, this is a visa that can be issued to nationals of Chile and Singapore who work in specialty occupations. A post-secondary degree involving a specialization is required.
- H-2A: Temporary Agricultural Worker. This visa is issued for the purposes of temporary or seasonal agricultural work. It is limited to citizens or nationals of select countries.
- H-2B: Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker. A visa issued for temporary or seasonal non-agricultural work. It is also limited to citizens of select countries only.
- H-3: Trainee or Special Education Visitor. A visa issued to persons who have been invited to participate in a training program in the U.S.
- L: Intracompany Transferee. A visa issued to a person who will work in a managerial or executive position at a branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of his/her current employer abroad.
- O: Individual with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement. A visa issued to persons with extraordinary ability or achievement in the arts, sciences, business, education, athletics, and other fields.
- P-1: Individual or Team Athlete, or Member of an Entertainment Group. A visa issued to persons who will be participating in an athletic competition or as part of an entertainment group.
- P-2: Artist or Entertainer (Individual or Group). A visa issued to persons who will be performing under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the U.S. and an organization in another country.
- P-3: Artist or Entertainer (Individual or Group). A visa issued to artists or entertainers who will perform in a culturally unique program in the U.S.
- Q-1: Participant in an International Cultural Exchange Program. A visa issued for practical training and employment as well as for sharing the history, culture, and traditions between the U.S. and another country.
NOTE: For more information about temporary or non-immigrant working visas, please visit the official website of the USCIS.
B. Employment-Based Immigrant Visas (Permanent)
For each fiscal year, around 140,000 immigrant visas are made available for those who would like to immigrate to the U.S. As long as you have the necessary education, skills, and experience — you may qualify for this visa and eventually be able to live and work in the U.S. permanently.
The USCIS issues five types of employment-based immigrant visas. Below is a description of each visa category:
- First Preference EB-1. This is a type of visa issued to persons with extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, business, education, and athletics. These may include outstanding educators, researchers, artists, athletes, etc.
- Second Preference EB-2. A visa issued to persons who are members of professions that hold advanced degrees, as well as those with exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business fields.
- Third Preference EB-3. A visa issued to professionals, skilled workers, and other workers.
- Fourth Preference EB-4. A visa issued to “special immigrants,” including certain religious workers, employees of U.S. foreign service posts, retired employees of international organizations, non-citizen minors who are wards of courts in the U.S., and other classes of non-citizens.
- Fifth Preference EB-5. A visa issued to business investors who invest USD 1.8 million or USD 900,000 (if the investment is made in a targeted employment area) in a new commercial enterprise that employs at least 10 full-time U.S. workers.
NOTE: For more information about employment-based working visas, head to the USCIS official website.
As presented earlier, there are different types of visas for those who want to work in the United States. Each type of visa has its own set of requirements and procedures.
For the purpose of simplicity, however, this article will focus only on two visa types commonly applied for by OFWs: (a) H-2B Visa for Non-Agricultural Workers (temporary); and (b) Employment-Based Immigration: Third Preference EB-3 (permanent).
A. H-2B Visa for Non-Agricultural Worker
As the name says, the H-2B Visa enables U.S. employers to hire foreign nationals for temporary, non-agricultural jobs. The employer must file Form I-129, “Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker,” in behalf of the prospective worker.
To qualify for H-2B classification, the employer must ensure the following conditions first:
- There are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the work;
- Employing H-2B workers will not adversely affect the salaries and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers; and
- The need for H-2B workers’ labor or services is temporary.
The list of possible jobs, including “non-agricultural” ones, are discussed in greater detail below. At this point, suffice it to say that to be eligible for these jobs, an applicant must be of age, physically and mentally healthy, and has the educational background, skills, and experience needed for the job.
B. Employment-Based Immigration: Third Preference EB-3
Better known as the EB-3 Visa, this visa automatically qualifies the holder for a “green card,” which means that he/she has lawful permanent residency status. The green card must be renewed after 10 years… or if it gets lost, stolen, or damaged. Green card holders may live and work anywhere in the U.S.; plus, they can travel in and out of the country without having to apply for a visa again.
Who are eligible for the EB-3 Visa? You may qualify for this type of visa if you belong to any of these categories:
- Skilled Workers. Persons with a minimum of 2 years training or experience. They must meet the educational, training, or experience requirements of the job.
- Professionals. Persons with at least a U.S. baccalaureate or foreign equivalent degree; members of professions.
- Other Workers. Persons performing unskilled labor that require less than 2 years training or experience.
As mentioned earlier, different visas require different sets of requirements. Below are the documents needed for the H-2B and EB-3 visas, respectively.
A. H-2B Visa for Non-Agricultural Worker
- Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond period of stay in the U.S.;
- Non-immigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page;
- Photo (to be uploaded while completing Form DS-160 online); and
- Receipt Number for approved petition as it appears on Petition for Non-immigrant Worker, Form I-129, from the USCIS.
B. Employment-Based Immigration: Third Preference EB-3
- Passport valid for at least 6 months;
- 2 Passport-sized photos matching U.S. visa requirements;
- Completed Form I-140 and Form I-907, if applicable;
- Form I-140 and Form I-907 payment receipt, if applicable;
- Birth Certificate;
- Government-issued ID, e.g. driver’s license
- Labor certification from the US Department of Labor;
- Job offer from employer;
- Academic qualification documents; and
- Tax payment documents.
NOTE: The forms mentioned above will be discussed further below. In any case, both the employer and prospective worker must ensure that the above documents are complete before the visa interview.
Most Popular Jobs in the United States for Overseas Filipino Workers
In the U.S., there are many job opportunities for OFWS in various industries. Here’s a quick rundown of the most in-demand jobs in the country, grouped according to industry/sector.
- Healthcare – doctors, nurses, physical therapists, medical technologists, dietitians, optometrists, dentists, psychologists, midwives, speech-language pathologists, pharmacists, medical assistants, caregivers, etc.
- Information Technology (IT) – systems analysts, software developers, IT specialists, web developers, data analysts, AI specialists, software engineers, full stack developers, etc.
- Hospitality Industry – hotel staff, restaurant servers, concierge, event planners, executive chefs, hotel general managers, housekeepers, porters, etc.
- Education – teachers, professors, educational administrators, etc.
- Engineering – civil engineers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, industrial engineers, environmental engineers, petroleum engineers, aeronautical engineers, biomedical engineers, marine engineers, etc.
- Finance – accountants, financial analysts, auditors, etc.
- Aviation – pilots, flight attendants, ground crew, etc.
- Entertainment and Arts – artists, performers, production crew, etc.
- Construction – carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, drywall installers, glaziers, tile contractors, mason and concrete finishers, crane operators, bricks man, etc.
- General Work – custodians, farm laborers, forklift operators, gardeners, landscape technicians, package handlers, packers, pool technicians, production workers, warehouse workers, etc.
- Administrative Work – secretaries, receptionists, executive assistants, program coordinators, mail clerks, office managers, risk managers, client relations managers, administrative assistants, administrative coordinators, etc.
- Architecture – landscape architects, urban planners, restoration architects, research architects, lighting architects, graphic designers, etc.
How to Become an OFW in the United States
At this point, we will be discussing the procedures involved in becoming an OFW in the U.S. Once again, we will be featuring the H-2B and EB-3 visas as examples for temporary and permanent visa application processes, respectively.
A. H-2B Visa for Non-Agricultural Worker
The step-by-step process for H-2B visa application is outlined as follows:
- The petitioner (or employer) submits a temporary labor certification application to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
- After receiving a temporary labor certification for H-2B employment, the petitioner submits Form I-129 to USCIS.
- Form I-129, “Petition for Non-immigrant Worker,” is a form used by U.S. employers who would like to bring foreign workers to the country.
- After USCIS approves Form I-129, the prospective worker must apply for an H-2B visa with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad (in this case, the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines).
Once the prospective worker gets an H-2B visa, he/she can then depart and seek admission to the United States.
NOTE: The maximum period of stay for H-2B visa classification is 3 years. After this period, the H-2B visa holder must depart and remain outside the U.S. for at least 3 months, before seeking readmission as an H-2B non-immigrant.
B. Employment-Based Immigration: Third Preference EB-3
For this type of visa, the employer (or petitioner) needs to be file Form I-140, “Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers” in behalf of the prospective worker. This form requires information about the employer: names/company names, SSN or IRS tax numbers, mailing addresses, and other details. It also requires information about the employee, such as: name, home country, date of birth, and other details.
Another form that may be filled up as part of the EB-3 visa application is Form I-907, “Request for Premium Processing.” As the name says, this is an optional service that enables employers to receive a decision on their petitions faster, within 15 days.
You see, the EB-3 visa application takes quite a long time to process. Depending on your country of origin, the process could take 1 to 2 years. With Form I-907, the process can be expedited, although it will require additional fees and qualifications on the part of the employer or petitioner.
C. Medical Examination
As part of your application, you will likely have to undergo a medical examination, especially if you are applying to be an immigrant. The purposes of this examination is to prove that you are physically fit enough to live and work in the U.S.
The medical exam will be done by an authorized doctor. For each country where there’s a U.S Embassy or Consulate, there’s a list of doctors who are authorized to conduct exams and issue medical certificates.
As for vaccines, you may need to get certain vaccinations. You can also provide proof of prior vaccinations (e.g. vaccinations for measles, polio, influenza, hepatitis A & B, etc.) from a licensed doctor.
D. Interview at the U.S. Embassy
Regardless of the type of visa you are applying for, the interview is one of the most important parts of the application process. Among other things, the main purpose of the visa interview is to verify that the information and documents you have submitted are true and correct.
Once your visa application is processed, you will receive an appointment letter, usually by email. This letter includes your interview date and time. Be sure to bring all the necessary documents when you go to your interview. In the Philippines, visa interviews are conducted in the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
At the U.S. Embassy, you may need to have your biometrics (e.g. fingerprints) captured before the interview. During the interview itself, an immigration officer will ask several questions about you and the information that you have provided in your documents. If everything goes well, the officer will approve your visa application at the end of the interview.
Once your visa is approved and you get the necessary stamp on your passport, you can now prepare for your departure to the U.S.
NOTE: You may have heard about cases where the visa application is denied. This could be due to various reasons, including: fraud, misrepresentation of facts, fake documents, criminal records, and so on. The point is… You should only submit genuine documents and provide true/correct information. Otherwise, your chances of getting a U.S. visa could be ruined!
Licensed Recruitment Agencies to United States
Just like applying for work in any other country, you need to get in touch with a licensed recruitment agency, particularly one that is licensed by the Philippine Department of Migrant Workers (DMW). Below is a list of accredited agencies with a track record of recruiting Filipinos for employment in the United States:
- 1st Dynamic Personnel Resources Inc.;
- 1st Northern International Placement Inc.;
- 21st Century Manpower Resources Inc.
- 99 (Ninety Nine) Manpower Services Corp.;
- ABBA Personnel Services Inc.;
- ABD Overseas Manpower Corp.;
- Aguinaldo Recruitment Agency Inc.;
- Al-Khaleej International Services Inc.
- All Seasons Manpower International Services, Incorporated;
- Bayani Consulting Network, Inc.;
- Crystalline International Manpower Services Inc.;
- EDI Staffbuilders International Inc.;
- IKON Solutions Asia Inc.;
- Industrial Personnel and Management Services Inc. (IPAMS);
- International Skill Development Inc.;
- Omanfil International Manpower Development Corporation;
- Prime Manpower Resources Development, Inc.;
- Ruru Global Recruitment Services Inc.;
- Staffhouse International Resources Corporation; and
- Uniplan Overseas Employment Inc.
NOTE: These are just some of the manpower agencies that are licensed to recruit workers to the United States. Meanwhile, if you would like to see the complete list of ALL manpower agencies that are accredited to recruit land-based and sea-based OFWs, please visit the DMW official website.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
In a nutshell, here are some frequently asked questions — and answers — about how to work in the U.S. as an OFW:
1. Who are qualified to work in the U.S.?
There are different “pathways” available to those who are planning to work in the U.S. They could opt for a temporary or non-immigrant working visa, or an employment-based visa with permanent residency. The qualifications depend on the type of visa involved, and of course, the job offer that awaits the applicant.
2. What are the requirements?
Just as there are different types of U.S. working visas, there are different sets of requirements, as well. Generally speaking, however, the most common requirements are: a valid passport, passport-sized photos, and a government-issued ID, along with USCIS forms that correspond to the type of visa that is being applied for.
3. What are the most in-demand jobs for OFWs?
In the U.S. the most in-demand jobs that Filipinos may apply for are those in the healthcare, IT, hospitality, education, engineering, finance, aviation, construction, general work, administrative work, and architecture industries.
4. How can I become an OFW in the U.S.?
The process for becoming an OFW in the U.S. would depend on the specific type of visa that you are applying for, be it a temporary (non-immigrant) visa or an employment-based (permanent) one. Of course, it all starts with having an employer (or petitioner) who will apply for the working visa on your behalf. The process also involves medical examinations, and of course, a visa interview.
5. How can I learn more about working in the U.S?
To know more about how you can apply for work in the United States, you can get in touch with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. In the Philippines, there’s the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
Contact Information: United States Embassy in Manila
For questions about applying for work in the United States, you can contact the U.S. Embassy in Manila through the following details:
Address: 1201 Roxas Blvd, Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila
Telephone: +63 2 301 2000
Video: How to Find a Job in the USA
Check out the following video to learn more about finding a job in the U.S. It is featured on the “Adventures in America” YouTube channel, which is handled by Jocelyn, a Filipina who has been living in the U.S. for more than 10 years.
In this video, the vlogger shares some tips on how to land your dream job in the U.S.:
Before you submit any documents or applications, please take note of the following reminders:
- Do your research. Is the manpower agency you are dealing with legit? Be sure to check with the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and verify if the agency is indeed, licensed to facilitate employment in the U.S.
- Beware of red flags. If you are being asked for extremely high fees upfront, or if you are promised a “sure” job right away… be careful! Overseas job applications take time, and unless your visa has been granted and you have been accepted at the country’s port of entry — you are not yet 100% sure of entering and working in the U.S.!
- Follow the rules. After a temporary period of stay, you must leave the U.S. on or before the date indicated on your admission stamp. Otherwise, you will be considered as “out of status,” which could result in you being ineligible for future visa applications.
Without a doubt, the United States, with its robust economy and numerous job opportunities, remains a top destination for foreign workers, including OFWs. If you intend to live and work in the U.S. anytime soon, we hope that this article has been helpful!
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is another popular destination for Filipino jobseekers. Check out this article to know more about how to work in the Kingdom as an OFW!