What about the US-only remote jobs?
4 min read

What about the US-only remote jobs?

When I landed my first remote job with a US company, I was very excited for the high salary I got. But it also made me wake up to the Visa requirements and other admin headaches that come with some remote jobs.


I'm Sergio Pereira, and this is the Remote Work newsletter 👋

Back in 2016, when I landed my first remote job with a US company, I was very excited for the high salary I got. But it also made me wake up to the Visa requirements and other admin headaches that come with some remote jobs. The company founders weren't clear about the requirements, and frankly I was clueless myself.

Turns out, I learned a lot about Visa-related requirements. I went through an H1-B Visa application once (didn't get lucky in the random selection draw). But ultimately learned my lesson:

• Most remote jobs, do NOT require any Visa! But many times, company founders/managers have little understanding about it.

Before proceeding I must stress that this is not legal advice. If you need counselling about Visa issues, you should seek professional advice from a lawyer and/or accountant.

With that disclaimer out of the way, this is what I know about Visa requirements for remote jobs and the daunting “US-only applicants”:

1) Legal requirements

Some jobs must be done by people who are physically located in a certain country. Hard requirements include data protection (as in: sensitive data can't be seen outside the country), or other local certifications (as in: people doing the job need to go through local authorities).

These are the actual US-only remote jobs (or EU-only, or other country specifics). Those actual require people to be in that country, and will dismiss any applicants from other countries.

2) Preference for local candidates

Most US companies would define the stereotypical perfect candidate as someone who is US-based. That's how they start a recruiting process, and many times they'd put “US-only” in the job description. However, it's not a hard requirement, just a common preference.

As the hiring process continues, they lack candidates with the desired profile, or candidates that accept their salary conditions. In such cases, they start interviewing foreign candidates, and ultimately hire someone abroad.

See: Job description says “US-only”, but they end up hiring someone abroad. This exact thing happened to me in my first remote job. I was the only candidate interviewed outside the US and got the job. My lesson was: "When in doubt, go for it!"

3) Job board limitations

Some job boards have been around for many years, and have grown on a city-by-city basis, since most companies used to hire close to an office, before remote work. (Looking at you Linkedin, Indeed, etc).

As such, some jobs will show up as available in eg: NY, or SF, or other specific city. Still, in many cases, the hiring managers don't have such constraints, and they might not even be aware that such constraints are being displayed in the job description.

This is one of the reasons I stopped using Linkedin and Indeed when I'm hiring. Because my remote jobs will always show indexed to a certain city (it's a mandatory field when I create it!).

4) The actual global remote jobs

Only a fringe of remote job listings actually show up as remote and accepting global applicants. Those are the ones that bypass the above listed limitations, although you should not limit your applications only to these.

Tip: Always look into the job description. Some remote companies are very proactive to outline their remote culture (even in city-indexed job boards). Other companies are transparent about their geographic constraints (even in global remote job boards).

As such, you should apply to remote jobs, even when such constraints are mentioned, because you never really know if it's just a nice to have or a hard requirements.

In any case, in general you'll only need a Visa if you need to move to the country of your employer, which is rare as a remote worker (might happen only in the first case). As a remote worker based in a country different from your employer, you'll usually have one of these 3 contract types, and none of them requires a Visa per se.

This topic came to mind on this newsletter issue, because last week a fellow remote worker from Egypt sent me this question:

My advice was:

• GDPR means the company's data can't leave the EU. So, you can't download on your local machine (in Egypt), or you can work through a EU-based workstation.

• Company should seek legal advice on this. As rightfully pointed out, hundreds of EU companies hire people around the world and find solutions for this regulatory constraint.

• I told this person to also seek a lawyer's advice, both to propose best practises to work from Egypt to EU, and also to review the data protection clauses in the contract that the company will send.

This reminded me of the stress I went through when I got my first remote job, back in 2016. Everything was new, exciting for the opportunity, but also daunting for all this admin overhead I had never thought of. Still, after that first impact, my life was many times better than before, I've never gone back to a local job.

I recently built this list of 1000+ remote companies actively hiring, have a look in case you're looking for a remote job. Some of them list hard geographic constraints, but many others accept global applicants.

Uff, this was a long one. Thank you for reading this newsletter issue until the end!

See you next Friday,

Sergio Pereira,
Startup CTO & Remote Work Lover

Get the free ebook on your email with advice to land a remote job.