Find a job in the USA


Obviously one of your biggest tasks when you get to the America will be to find a job in the USA. So – how do you go about getting work.

Before you start looking for work

First of all, before you can start work, you need to have your Social Security Number (SSN). As part of your DV process you probably selected the option to have an SSN assigned for you. However, it seems that in the majority of cases, that process does not work. So – a few days after you arrive in the USA, find the local SSA office (you can check that here ) and go in. You can go in and check if they have an application already in the system. However, I suggest just starting an application from scratch. You will need to take some ID (passport, and birth certificate is all you need for a DV winner). They will send the SSN card to any address you give them.


OK – what sort of work will you do?

As a new immigrant, you need to be realistic. Your savings will dwindle very quickly (faster than you would believe possible), so it is good to get a job – any job. You might have to accept that you will take a step backward. You may have been a supervisor in your home country, but higher responsibility jobs require local knowledge. So for example, someone supervising staff in the USA needs to know some HR rules, what is an acceptable way to address subordinates and so on. So – just set your mind to starting at a lower position if needed.

You also need to know whether your skills will be immediately useful. Let’s say you are a bricklayer. Most construction in the US is not brick construction – so your skills may not be as useful. If you have a skill or a trade, you may find that trade is subject to licensing or insurance requirements that will take time to obtain. So – you may need to obtain casual work until you can improve your opportunities later.

Perhaps your skills are transferable – like specific IT skills. In that case you may be able to look for work within your skillset immediately. Just be realistic.


What work is available in the area?

Try and match your job hunt to the area you live in, or be prepared to change the area to find suitable work. So – imagine you are a professional lumberjack – that is a pretty useless skill in New York City. Sounds obvious but honestly – it needs some thought.

Also consider the economy in the area you are moving to. There is no point in moving to an area that just had the largest factory in town close down. Check prospects in the area you plan to live in. I’ll give you some tools to do that in a moment.


OK – job search tools – suited to your job search?

The sort of work you are looking for determines how you search. Let us group this into three types of job.

  • Unskilled labor
  • Semi skilled/skilled labor
  • Professional/Clerical/Managerial


1 – Unskilled labor

These are jobs like warehouse work, retail, fast food, casual labor, security guards and so on. Jobs like this would normally be easy to obtain, but the salary available will be fairly low. You can search for these jobs by getting out around your area and even approaching companies directly – you will often see “help wanted” signs in fast food restaurants and you might find opportunities in industrial areas. You can also use internet job search sites in your local area as well as national sites such as In general these jobs are easy to come by because existing residents don’t want to do the work – primarily because the pay is low. So – easy to get as a starting point. The interview to hire process for these jobs can be fast (next day or within days is not uncommon). Employers will not really expect to see or check references, but once you have the job you are expected to perform well in order to keep your job.


2. Semi skilled & skilled labor

These types of job normally require that you have some sort of skill that has taken training or experience to acquire. Types of work include construction trades (like plumbing, electricians), basic business skills (basic IT, sales, business admin functions) and so on. These jobs will also be advertised locally and on sites like Generally speaking you probably would not contact a company off the street. They will expect a more formal approach, probably fill in an application form, provide references and so on. A new immigrant who expects to find this sort of work would be well advised to carry from the home country some letters of recommendation and history from former employers. You can expect a slightly more rigorous interview process and probably some delay between initial interview and start date. You will often have to submit a well prepared resume for roles of this type should also consider building an online profile on a site like LinkedIn if your work is more white collar than blue collar (white collar = office based, blue collar = trades/labor/physical work).

3.  Professional/Clerical/Managerial

To secure these sorts of jobs as a new immigrant you will obviously need to have good skills and experience, good qualification/education, and an ability to “hit the ground running” (i.e. be useful to the company from day 1). Jobs like this are often found through contacts, so developing a network of contacts is a crucial step. It helps to research what sort of company might require your skills within the area you choose to live, and in fact you may well choose the area based on the availability of work in your industry.  Jobs of this nature demand a good online profile (Monster, LinkedIn  etc) , a professional resume, references/qualifications and so on. If the work you plan to do is licensed in the USA (medical/legal/professional roles licensed by a government or industry body), then you need to research how to get licensed within the area you are moving to. Those licensing bodies are often at National and State level.


Other tips….

I would highly recommend using online tools for researching the companies you are speaking to, you can find out a lot about what they or their competitors pay for similar jobs/skills. One excellent site I have used is Glassdoor – which provides salary ranges, reviews of the companies, information of what to expect in the hiring process and so on.

You will also want to check out the cost of living and “liveability” in an area – this link will help – choosing where to live