How can I move to the United States to get a job in game development?

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In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Samantha, who asks, “My husband is studying to become an Artist and Animator in the game industry. We live in England, but realistically we would like to move to the US in 3 to 5 years to have better and bigger opportunities. Can you suggest any specific company or organisation in the US which could advise us on how to make this dream come true?”

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What it takes to qualify for a US work visa
  • Where to find legal information, and the fastest way to get your application approved
  • How to successfully adapt and adjust to your new country and culture

If you have a question you'd like to get answered on the podcast, leave a comment below or ask me anything here.

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Good day, and welcome to the Game Industry Career Guide Podcast. This is episode number 17. I’m Jason W. Bay from gameindustrycareerguide.com, and this is the podcast where I answer your questions about getting a job and growing your career making video games.

This week’s question is from Samantha, who wants to know about relocating to the USA. Samantha writes, “My husband is studying to become an artist and an animator in the game industry. We live in England, but realistically, we would like to move to the U.S. in three to five years to have better and bigger opportunities. Can you suggest any specific company or organization in the U.S. which can advise us on how to make this dream come true?”

All right. I have received a good number of similar questions lately. People wanting to relocate to take their next game job, especially to the U.S. I’ve never lived out of country myself, but fortunately, I’ve just published an interview with two professional game developers who did relocate to take a game job. My friend Steve moved from Canada to the U.S., and my buddy Brad moved from the USA to Warsaw, Poland. They have a ton of great advice on relocating.

You can find the full article with them on my website. It’s at gameindustrycareerguide.com/relocate. But let’s talk about some of the key points right now.

Now, the idea of leaving your home and moving to a new country and culture can be either exciting or terrifying. It depends on your personal disposition. It might not be for everybody. But for the more adventurous spirits among you, it can be one of the most educational and rewarding experiences you’ll have in your entire career.

So let’s start by addressing Samantha’s question about the legal parts of relocation, and then we will get to some super useful relocation tips from my interview with Brad and Steve.

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First, the legal stuff. In order to work in the U.S. as a non-citizen, you’ll need to start by obtaining a special permit from the U.S. government called a work visa. It is not possible to work in the U.S. on a tourist visa or in a visa waiver program or even on a business visa. Most game developers who relocate here come in on a specialty occupation visa. It’s called an H-1B visa, but not just anyone can get an H-1B visa.

There are strict regulations. Generally, in order to qualify for an H-1B visa, you need to meet at least three major requirements. You need to have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. You have to be working in an occupation that’s considered to be a specialty occupation under the U.S. visa policies, and you need to already have a prospective employer in the USA to arrange to apply for this visa on your behalf. That last point is important, because it essentially requires that you apply for jobs and receive a job offer from a U.S. company before you can get your H-1B visa.

There are two websites where you can learn more about applying for a U.S. visa. One is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website. They are at www.uscis.gov. The other is the U.S. Embassy website for whichever country you live in now. Since Samantha is in the UK, she can go to london.embassy.gov for information from the U.S. embassy in London.

Okay, that’s the legal stuff. Next, let’s talk about some tips and advice from those two adventurous game developers that I mentioned earlier, Steve and Brad. They made the leap to live and work in a foreign country, and I should add they did it successfully. So what advise can they offer?

First of all, Brad mentioned that once you get a job offer in the foreign country, it’s likely that the company’s human resources department will either assist you with the legal and visa paperwork or they may even do it all for you. So while I still think you should use the internet to educate yourself on the legal process, it is likely that you won’t actually have to do much of the application yourself. So yay.

Second, Steve cautioned about a potential pitfall to watch out for if you’re relocating along with your husband, wife or significant other. He mentioned that it can be difficult if they can’t get a work visa of their own. But he also pointed out that there are other types of visas that you could try to get for them such as a student visa or other special work visa that’s other than an H-1B. So be sure to think about your significant other’s prospects of the new country as well, and plan accordingly.

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Lastly, work as hard as you can to learn about your new country’s language and culture before you move there. Take language lessons as often as you can, both before and after you move. Samantha and her husband, they are off the hook, since they already speak English. But even so, UK and U.S. English do use different vocabulary, spelling and slang. So it wouldn’t hurt to do a little research, just so you don’t get puzzled looks when you ask for a petrol station or a nappy.

Steve says it’s a good idea to arrive in the new country several days before your first day on the job, just to relax, explore the neighborhood, and potentially to let the jet lag settle down a little bit before you’re thrust into a brand new job. I think the H-1B visas allow a certain number of days before you come in and after you leave. I think it’s like 10 days. So you can actually get there 10 days before your new job starts.

Lastly, Brad says to keep an open mind and to be patient in social situations until you get accustomed to what is and is not considered rude – either to locals or to you. And if it takes a while before you start to feel like you fit in, don’t let it get to you. Be patient while you learn your new language and culture. It will be worth it.

That’s an overview of the legal requirements of relocating to a new country to work in games and a few pieces of advice from game developers who have done it successfully. To read the full interview with Brad and Steve, go to gameindustrycareerguide.com/relocate.

Thanks to Samantha for the question. Let’s all wish her the best of luck with her new adventure. Good luck, Samantha! And thank you for hanging out with me today. Please be sure to share this podcast with your friends or leave me a review on iTunes if you like the show. For more information and inspiration on getting and growing your job-making video games, visit me at gameindustrycareerguide.com. I’m Jason W. Bay. I’ll see you again next week right here on the Game Industry Career Guide Podcast.

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