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Can I change employers with a work visa?

Getting a work visa in the U.S. and becoming employed can be a complicated process. Once it's finished, there is a sense of relief and security knowing you won't have to go through it again. But what if the job isn't what you hoped it would be and you want to move on?

You won't be alone if you feel this way. A recent survey conducted by the nonprofit group Mental Health America and the Faas Foundation found that 71 percent of American workers are currently looking to change employers. Common reasons cited are a lack of recognition and the stresses of the job.

Leaving an employer is a bit more daunting for visa workers than it is for the general working population, but that doesn't mean you are trapped at your job. Depending on what type of visa you have will determine how the process works.

Transfers differ for visa holders

H1B visa holders can transfer their visa to a new employer any time of the year, as soon as an H1B transfer petition is submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by the new employer. The applicant does not have to wait until the transfer is issued. As long as you are upfront with your new employer about your status and the new paperwork for a transfer petition to be submitted, you can move employers with no worries.

If you are not an H1B visa holder, you can self-petition for a green card if you have an EB-1 visa, which is generally for foreign nationals of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives and managers.

For other forms of work visas, an employer can sponsor you for a green card, which is a common avenue for permanent residence. Unfortunately, pursuing a green card independently from an employer can be difficult and unlikely.

No matter what visa you have, changing employers will likely take some work - but it is possible to do. Consider talking to an immigration attorney who may be more equipped to handle the logistics and can guide you on the right path based on your employment status, goals and work visa.

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