Q: I am a Canadian with an MLIS degree. I don’t have any professional experience working in a library although I have some volunteer experience. I would like to re-locate to the United States to work in a library. What is the process by which I could attain a job and the necessary work visa/permit/documentation etc.? How likely or unlikely is it that someone in my position could attain a job in the US (an accredited librarian who is new to the field/little experience)? I have heard of H1B visas, but it is my understanding that these cost the issuing employer a sizable fee ($1,500-$5,000). If this is the case, I have a hard time seeing it happening. Any advice surrounding these issues would be appreciated, thank you!
SM: Dear Canadian Librarian:
You will be happy to learn that you do not need an H1B visa, and an employer does not need to pay for your visa. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has created a TN nonimmigrant classification that allows qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry in the United States as professional workers. As a Canadian (with a job offer in hand), you can apply for a TN visa at a port of entry (border crossing). Librarianship is one of the professions covered under this type of visa that will allow you to live and work in the U.S. for up to three years, at which point you would need to renew your visa.
Employers should know about the TN nonimmigrant status and it should not hinder your job search or the application/interview process. If someone, or an application form, asks you if you are qualified to work in the United States, you can answer “yes.” All you need to get the visa is a letter of employment. Read up on it so if a potential employer asks you about it, you will know the requirements. Once you have the job offer, a letter of employment and your visa, you will need to get an SSN (social security number — different from a social insurance number), in order to get paid.
So, to answer your question, it IS likely that you can get a job in the United States. Your lack of experience may make you less desirable than other candidates, but if you are willing to move anywhere in the U.S., and you are open to many different types of positions, you will have an advantage over others who are less mobile or flexible. Best of luck!