Monday, August 31, 2009

Going to US through a consultant on a H1B visa?


Thinking of going to US through a consultant on a H1B visa ? What are some of the things that you need to look for? Here is the list of guidelines/tips that I normally share with my friends. Hope you find this useful.

(Also read: Green Card vs. US Citizenship)

1) Money to sponsor H1B visa - Consultants shouldn't be charging you money to sponsor H1B visa. It is definitely illegal. If you are paying your consultant, then you are taking a risk.

2) Employment Bond/Contract - The consultant may insist you to sign a bond (i.e., He/She may ask you to stay with them for a finite period). An employer cannot legally force you to be in the same company for a specific period. When you violate the terms in the bond, the cost of fighting with you legally is also very high. The consultant has to pay a lawyer to take this to court. The money that he may get back from you will be very very less than what he paid for the lawyer. So, even if you signed a bond, you don't have to worry much. You can move away from the consultant at any time.

3) Salary - The salary structure varies drastically. Some consultants offer a fixed salary and some may offer a % of the pay that they get from the clients. It is always recommended to negotiate a fixed pay. However, you don't have to be hung up on fixed pay. Consultants normally charge their clients hefty amount per hour. So, % of the pay is also a good deal. Normally, folks stay with a consultant for a very short period (3 - 6 months). So, the actual salary doesn't really matter.

4) Medical Insurance - Check who should take care of the medical insurance. Typically, the consultant should take care of this. However, the consultants may insist that you take care of it. You should pay more attention to the medical insurance if you are going there with your family or if you have some existing medical conditions. Medical insurance cost is normally high in US.

5) Who gets you the job? - Consultants who have good contacts in the industry can get you placed fast. People working in the 'hot' technology areas/domains typically find jobs/clients on their own because there are ample opportunities. Consultants need not be relied upon. If the consultant has already placed people in reputed firms, he/she can leverage that relationship. (Note: You will need a confirmed offer letter from a client for visa interview. So, it is better if the consultant can get you a job before your visa interview. U.S embassy verifies the authenticity of the offer letter by contacting the client directly. So, don't try to cheat. You may end up in jail :))

6) Flight tickets - Flight tickets should also be legally paid by the consultant. However, the consultant may ask you to pay for it and get it reimbursed after you reach USA. It is absolutely fine if you have a written commitment.

7) Pay during the bench period - This is a tricky thing. Many consultants don't pay their employees in bench (i.e., when they are looking for a job/client). However, they are legally supposed to take care of ALL your expenses (or pay you) during your stay. Some consultants take care of your accommodation and give you a fixed pay for your expenses. You need to negotiate this in advance.

8) Premium Visa Processing - Check if the consultant would do a 'premium processing' of visa. Premium visa application processing will be over in just 2 weeks. So, if you want to speed-en up things, you can ask for this. (Note: Normally consultants don't do premium visa processing because it costs them more. They'll do it only if their clients insist on it).

9) Consultant's Office Location - Choose a consultant closer to your job location. For ex., silicon valley has lots of job opportunities in 'hot' domains. So, if you are working in such domains, you've to choose a consultant in silicon valley. Normally, consultants prefer you to work in their office during the bench period. (Note: Companies hiring contractors would not pay for flight tickets if you've to travel for interviews. Normally, companies hire local candidates for contracting positions. So, it is recommended if your consultant is closer to your job location)

10) Consultant's Professionalism - Check if the consultant is professional enough with all the dealings. This is very important. There are very few good stories that I've heard about consultants. They typically tend to be greedy (The reason being ... you stay with them only for a very short time & hence, they want to get maximum out of you).

(Treat these as just guidelines. I'm not responsible for the outcome of any decision that you may take based on this ;-))

Related post:

When is the right time to go to US?
Green Card vs. US Citizenship

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