This is a question we get a lot! There is almost not a month that goes by without a South African emailing us to ask how to immigrate to the USA. So don’t feel alone if you’re wondering about it!
In a nutshell, unfortunately, it is not easy to immigrate to the USA. The difficulty lies in getting the proper visa.
The problem-free way to get into the US is to win in the green card lottery… if you’re lucky enough to win! If you win, you enter the US and can work for whoever you want, and can change jobs whenever you like. You can do everything a US citizen can do, except to vote. This option also allows you to become a US citizen after certain residency requirements have been met (usually 5 years).
The next option is to try to find a job in the US, and that requires that you get a H1-B work visa. Many South Africans used to come to the US on a work visa, and many still do. However, it has become much more difficult to get a H1-B visa. You basically need to find a job at a company who is willing to sponsor the H1-B visa. Fewer and fewer companies are willing to do that these days due to a good supply of US workers. If you have rare skills, your chances are much better. Nurses are apparently in short supply. As I said, for this option, your first step is to find a job with a US company who is willing to sponsor the H1-B visa. To do that, start off at a jobs website like Monster.com to search for jobs and create a résumé (CV) in the format that US companies like. Another popular jobs site is Indeed.com. Also read these tips about writing a résumé. After you have the job and are in the US, your next step is to pursue a Green Card.
Some people marry US citizens, but that only works if the marriage is genuine. If there is any doubt, the US government will scrutinize the marriage carefully to determine if it is genuine. (Remember the movie, Green Card?) After the marriage, you can apply for a Green Card.
If you have a business in South Africa, the L1 visa may be an option for you. Read our article about using an L1 visa to enter the US.
These are the major legal ways to immigrate to the US. There are other ways too. See the US State Dept website for more information.
Given the difficulty of entering the US these days, if you are serious about leaving South Africa, you may want to look at other countries like Australia, New Zealand, England, Canada, etc. as well. It is often much easier to get into those countries, especially if you are younger and have good skills.