Ask DN: Move from Europe to North America, how hard is it?

over 2 years ago from , UX designer

Hello everyone, My name is Davide, I turned 25 few weeks ago, I'm a UI / UX Designer and I'm working with a digital agency that I love and where I'm improving myself as a designer and as a man.

I live in Italy and like everyone in this industry I dream to move to North America one day so my questions are: How hard is to find a job in the US or Canada from Europe? Is there anyone who convinced an agency to sponsorize him/her for a working visa? Could you please make a step forward and write your story? :)

One day I would like to do this big step... but I actually don't know how to start so it could be useful to read some stories from you!


  • Marcello MansoMarcello Manso, over 2 years ago

    I was 29 years old, living in Brazil, when I decided to finally give it a try. I had all kinds of thoughts that pushed me back, like "I'm not good enough yet", or "it's gonna be too hard", but I decided to take a step forward and just try.

    After putting up a new portfolio , I started to shoot e-mails to all the job offers I could find online. Got so few replies it made me sad. And even these ones stopped the conversation after I told them I needed them to sponsor my visa.

    You probably know that already, but there are 2 reasons why moving to the U.S is hard:

    1) Are you good enough? This is a very competitive market where we have thousands of very high-level designers. Have you reached that level? If you have, does your portfolio reflect that?

    On the other hand, there are also thousands of startups and companies with 1-20 people desperately looking for designers. So even if you're just good enough you can find a spot and grow together with them.

    2) Visa This is the worst part, because it's kinda of out of your control. Big companies are used to sponsor visas, but you have to be veeery good to grab their attention. Small companies sometimes don't even know how it works, so they don't really consider that option, even though you could be the perfect fit for them.

    But it's not all bad news! There ARE small companies willing to sponsor visas and looking for foreign designers to work with them. It's just hard to find them. (Or it was when I was looking).

    So, moving on with my story, after getting so few replies to my applications, I contacted a designer recruiter who helped me find what I wanted. She interviewed me first to make sure I met all the requirements the companies she had working with her had, and then introduced me to those companies. I interviewed with one of them and got the job.

    This recruiter was so important for me because she knew I needed a visa, so she only connected me to companies that were willing to sponsor. It saved me a lot of time. Also, because she was intermediating the process, she would take her time and preach about the benefits of hiring somebody from abroad and helping those small companies comprehend how the visa works, its costs etc.

    I think the reason I shared my story is to say it's hard, but not impossible. If you're good and if you're determined, you can definitely make it. :)

    12 points
    • Davide Pisauri, over 2 years ago

      Hello Marcello, your is a nice story and I'm really happy that you achieved your dream. I faced both these two points when I spent 7 months in Vancouver between 2013 and 2014 with a Working Holiday Visa. I was a young graphic designer with almost zero work experience that was looking for his way in Canada... unfortunately my way was back to my country. There was all the time a Canadian better than me and I was so sad because I arrived with lots of energy and I was doing my best... but my energy and my best weren't enough! I came back to Italy and I started to study something new, trying to improve much more my skills so I became a UX / UI Designer. For one year and half I spent lots of hours in front of my laptop, listening experts and workers in this field, reading books and sketching wireframes on paper with people around me asking "Is this what you want to do in your life?" and my answer was/is always "yes!". I just started my journey in this wonderful world but I feel that I'm doing good. I am proud of me and looking back I'm glad I failed two years ago: it helped to make me what I am today. So thank you about your message, hope to meet you one day in the US in front of a cup of coffee talking about how we did it :)

      Thanks everyone, really appreciate that you spent your time to answer me. If you would like to chat, you can find me here:

      0 points
  • Dan SherrattDan Sherratt, over 2 years ago

    I wouldn't say it was everyone's dream, there are exciting opportunities all around the world, I'm currently very happy here in London.

    I think perhaps first ask yourself what exactly it is about 'North America' (presumably San Fran or NYC) that would satisfy your hunger to develop, then start a conversation with the sorts of companies that would be able to sponsor you, iirc it's very hard for startups to do visa sponsors as companies have to be of a certain size before it is even an option.

    5 points
  • Simone Simone , over 2 years ago (edited over 2 years ago )

    Eddaje vuoi fare l'immigrante.

    I'll give you a 10,000 feet overview of the process:

    • Finding a company to sponsor you is not extremely difficult, provided you are a solid candidate for the position. The tech and design industries are used to hire alien workforce all the time. From the job marked perspective you should be aware that hiring aliens is more costly than hiring US citizens / permanent residents (there's a cost associated to the visa applications - most of if goes to the immigration lawyers), therefore you should be prepared to justify that cost to your perspective employer.

    • Assuming you find a company willing to sponsor you, you'll have to figure out which visa you qualify for. Every petition is different from another since it depends on the candidate (work experience and education mostly) and the Visa you're petitioning for. H1B and O1 visas (the most common work visas in the US) require different qualifications, paperwork and processing times. They also provide you different duration and benefits. Look those up before you even apply for jobs so you know wether you're admissible or not.

    • Apply for jobs. Target companies which have decent size and capital. If you pass the first Skype interview and there's real interest, they'll fly you over. Go to a hub like SF or NY, so during your stay you'll be able to book as many interviews as possible.

    Overall, the immigration process in the US is pretty cumbersome, particularly after 9/11. Canada is definitely more lenient (don't know the details tho) and frankly SF has sold its soul out to tech giants and false economies a long time ago. ;)

    2 points
  • Jared CJared C, over 2 years ago

    My recommendation is if it is something you really, truly want to do you will need to do a lot of work/investment on your end. I've seen a lot of people hired through visa sponsorship. The most successful are those that are already here, meaning they don't need to be flown around the world, put up for several days, etc etc. I'd pick a city you want to work in, contact everyone you would want to work for, and tell them you will be there for XX days to interview further. If you plan it right, you can probably get several interviews that week. Then fly yourself out there. It'll cost and there's a risk that you won't land something, but I think it makes you a much more appealing candidate. Plus you can probably work it into a sort of holiday too at least.

    2 points
  • Nicolas KeyleNicolas Keyle, over 2 years ago

    I've moved from Europe to Australia in 2001.

    The key points I'd make is

    • Tourism is paradise, immigration is hell. That's a very true statement. Even the perfect place will be extremely challenging.

    • If you want to do it, the worst thing you could do, is not do it. So go ahead and figure out a way to do it.

    • It will be bohemian at first. Know that. It won't be a romantic movie. It will be hard work. You will have to start at the bottom again.

    I saved money before leaving by working my ass off. I applied for over 70 jobs. I offered to work for free for 3 months which eventually landed me a (low paying) job. I did that 3 years and then got a job that paid double that. Then the next one paid more. Etc.

    Today I run my own gig in Australia, I'm married and much happier. It's not all candy and roses but I can't imagine having stayed as miserable as I was in Europe (I wanted to get out, bad).

    Just do it™

    0 points
    • Rhys MerrittRhys Merritt, over 2 years ago

      I wish there was some kind of 'swap' system in place for people like you and I.. I am currently in London on a Tier 2 GM Visa (from Australia)... I would love to be able to have full work rights here in London!

      0 points
  • T-A LT-A L, over 2 years ago

    Easiest way (not the best) ways would be through recruiters or getting a job at an international company (in eu branch) who supports intercompany visas to their US offices.

    Every place has its good and bad sides so for sure i'd suggest to actually go and live in some US cities for a few months on a tourist visa, see for yourself how you get along with the people, make some contacts, see how the living conditions are, etc. That makes it far easier to go back for a longer term commitment if everything feels right.

    0 points
  • Kieran RheaumeKieran Rheaume, over 2 years ago

    Hey Davide, a Flow alumni here!

    As a Canadian I can't speak to any of the Visa processes or application difficulties, but I want to wish you the best if you embark on the journey over :-) The wifi will be better, and the coffee much worse.

    0 points
  • Julio Marroquin, over 2 years ago (edited over 2 years ago )

    Lots of stories/help here too:

    0 points
  • James HarrisJames Harris, over 2 years ago

    As a designer/developer who's interested in possibly moving from North America to Europe, what differences in the design world do you see between the continents? What makes you want to leave Europe and come here?

    0 points
  • Thompson GeorgeThompson George, over 2 years ago (edited over 2 years ago )

    An employer will sponsor a visa if you are a good fit. I haven't moved to another country before. But when moving to another city with no job I did the following.

    • Saved about a years worth of living expenses before moving. • Didn't know when I would be paid next so I lived well below my means. • Polished my portfolio, resume & cover letter. • Applied for jobs about 2 months before moving. • Planned to get a temporary job if I didn't find full time design position in 2-3 months.

    0 points