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I want to work abroad, specifically in Canada or United States.

I am a software developer and have graduated the computer engineering faculty. My coworkers, and bosses over the years, have always considered me a professional and a good programmer.

I am able to read/write in English reasonably, but my speaking and listening English skills are far from fluent. I do not have a TOEFL or TOEIC certificate. So my question is:

What are the knowledge, skills and abilities that would be expected from a foreigner candidate in the field in these countries?

What are the documents and other process I should be looking up to?

I am planning to start working abroad in about 2 years, so I have plenty of time to prepare myself.

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closed as not constructive by jcmeloni, gnat, pdr, jmort253 Jan 26 '13 at 3:37

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People will not be able to advise you properly on the issues regarding the law and immigration. This is a complex issue and some advice might even be bad advice which can ruin chances of being able to get a permit to live/work in any of those countries. This Q&A is not intended to solve legal issues. –  René Wolferink Jan 25 '13 at 16:03

3 Answers 3

Perspective from someone who did this (H1B, another H1B, green card, US passport):

First some legal stuff. I can't talk to Canada but here are the rules in the US that I went through (over the last 15 years or so). DISCLAIMER: I'm not a legal expert. There is an army of US immigration lawyers willing to help but they tend to be expensive ($300/hour is not unusual).

  1. In order to work legally in the US, you need a qualifying Visa. In your case this will probably be an H1B (and an H4 for any family members that want to tag along). This needs a sponsor. You need to have a job first and your US employer needs to apply or the Visa. Only then can you enter and work in the US. Take care about potential travel restrictions while your Visa application is on progress.
  2. Once you have the Visa you can start working but ONLY for your sponsor. If you resign or get fired, you will need to leave the country. An H1B is good for 3 years and can be extended for another three for a total of 6 years. The extension can be a major problem as you may have to leave the country to get the new Visa put in your passport (long and complicated story).
  3. Your best shot is to get a Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) as early as possible. Again, this needs to be sponsored by your employer. It's a lengthy and expensive process: there are 5 different categories of Green Cards and depending on which category you go for there are different hoops to jump through and different quotas per native country. Your employer needs to file, then UCSIS does their evaluation, somewhere biometrics need to to be taken (which in a bizarre twist can actually expire) and the a decision is rendered. If that is positive, your status is changed to "Advanced Parole" (really!!) while the actual Green Card is being issued. The whole process can easily take three years, so the earlier you start, the better. Again during this period you can ONLY work legally for your sponsor. If anything goes wrong, you are out.
  4. Once you have a Green Card, you are basically home free and can change employers and participate in the job market like any other US citizen or permanent resident. After 5 years of having a Green Card, you can apply for US citizenship (if desired), which is relatively simple and straight forward if you haven't run into any problems with the authorities. It's not cheap either.

I think it's clear from the legal stuff that your first priority will be to find a good sponsor. You will need an employer that's willing to spend money and effort bringing you into the US and that offers a good long term relationship. You will have to work for this employer for 5 years at least (best guess).

In order to prepare yourself you need to learn about the culture of the country. The culture will be different from what you have at home and some things about it will be great and others will be strange or weird. Learn about them and see what you like and what you don't like. Talk to people who live there whenever you have a chance. I have seen a lot of immigrants that have the attitude "I'm only here for the money and I go back home as soon as I have enough". I've never seen it work, and it's bound to create a lot of unhappiness (for a large number of reasons).

In terms of language, there are a few things you can do

  1. Read local publications online. For the US, you can read CNN, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc. If you are interested in a certain area, read the local newspapers.
  2. Find a class, teacher, tutor that is a NATIVE speaker. It's really important that teacher is native. Interact with native speakers whenever you can.
  3. Watch movies or read books that are originals in English (with subtitles, if it helps). It's important that the original art work is English, translations are often very bad. It's not so important that you understand every single word or sentence but that you expose yourself to as much original & native English in picture, sound & word as possible.

So yes, it's a lot of work and risk, but it can also be very exciting and rewarding. Good luck.

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Something relevant that may well be worth your time doing.

If you already know where you are going to be living then have a look at the nearby places and events.

This may seems like a strange answer on a work basis but what if you know where you can go to burn off steam after a long day of work it can really reduce your stress and increase your motivation and productivity.

If you know who you are going to be working with in a team perhaps you could ask if it would be appropriate to have a work contact email address or phone number. An important part of a workplace is knowing your team, now im not suggesting you phone them every day and have 6 hour conversations about lunch. But what you can do is ask relevant questions about the technologies you'll be using, you can ask if there is any documentation or help sheets you could ask for those to get familiar with what you will be working on long before you get to work. But most importantly it breaks down that initial wall between you all allowing you to fit more seamlessly into the team and the environment allowing you to focus more on your work than having to worry about conversing with the team

Please note: The above might not be acceptable behaviour, i don't know the type of environment you are going into so please use your judgement on this.

Something you might want to invest in is perhaps see if your favourite book (in your native language) has been written in english. This means you can have a copy of each and can practice reading it, you will already know roughly what the story is and this can go a long way in helping you to gain more experience in the general structure and useage of the language.

But most importantly, dont panic, and dont worry. Once you are in a country (whatever your age) most people do pick up the language very quickly, no-one will expect you to be fluent, just take your time when structuring your sentences and think over what you want to say before you say it and dont worry too much, youll pick it up im sure :)

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The first thing I'd recommend is work on your English. The US job market right now is highly competitive with our own new college graduates having a hard time finding jobs. Software development is one of the areas that still does fairly well, but good communication skills will make you stand out since even native English speakers in the computer science field have a lower than average ability to communicate clearly, at least when trying to convey technical concepts to non-technical people.

The easiest way to get in is probably to work with an international consulting firm, but that is also going to be the most costly in the long term. They tend to pay poorly and hold the Visa over your head to get you to work for them. If you can find a small to medium size company that is willing to sponsor you, that will probably work out better in the long run, but will also generally take longer to get processed and is more difficult to arrange.

For reference, I am a US born software architect who has worked with foreign and immigrant coworkers for both my previous job and my current. My previous job was working with people from one of the big consulting firms and my current job actually has in-house developers that are in foreign offices and occasionally brings some over to headquarters.

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