Software engineers are in high demand and well-paid in the US, and many companies are looking to hire international talent. International students can work in the U.S. as software engineers after graduation on an H-1B visa with employer sponsorship.
International students studying to become software engineers qualify for OPT for up to 12 months of work authorization during or after graduation. Because software engineering is a STEM major, these students also qualify for the STEM OPT extension which adds up to 24 more months of work authorization. Therefore, software engineering international students can work up to three years after graduation before applying for another visa. This also means more time in the US and multiple chances to apply for the H-1B visa lottery each year if you are not selected the year you graduate.
What does a software engineer go?
Software engineers use engineering principles to design, build, test, and maintain computer systems and applications. They do some coding and work with other types of computer scientists such as programmers. Software engineers focus on the big picture when creating and maintaining technology solutions. They are often confused with software developers who design specific apps and software using tools and systems that software engineers have already created. Generally, software engineers often do more back-end development while developers do more front-end development. However, sometimes the two job titles are used interchangeably.
Education requirements for software engineer
While some software engineers in the US are self-taught, to qualify for H-1B sponsorship as a foreign national, you must have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The degree must be related to the job such as a bachelor’s in computer science or engineering. Without a degree, you may be able to gain sponsorship H-1B with at least 12 years of relevant work experience.
Software engineer salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for software engineers and developers in the US in 2021 was $120,990. Salaries for software engineers are often supplemented with bonuses and stocks.
The top-paying states for software engineers based on the average annual salary are:
- California – $146,770
- Washington – $145,150
- Maryland – $131,240
- New York – $129,950
- Rhode Island – $128,790
Where do software engineers work?
The majority of software engineers work for technology companies. Microsoft and Google employ the most software engineers in the US. Other common industries for software engineers include retail, healthcare, banking/finance, and defense. Businesses that do a lot of online sales such as Walmart and Amazon also hire many software engineers. Across industries, software engineers often work in companies’ research and development departments.
What is H-1B sponsorship?
The H-1B visa is a temporary US work visa. There is a limited number of H-1B visas available each year with a high demand. H-1B visas are distributed through a lottery system, and your employer must enter into the lottery to get a chance to sponsor you. If you are on OPT or a STEM OPT extension, ask your employer to apply for the lottery as soon as possible. The H-1B application period occurs in March of each year. That way, if you are not selected for the lottery, you can continue to take advantage of your STEM OPT extension and apply again the next year.
Once selected for the lottery, your chances of H-1B visa application approval are very high. According to the immigration law firm Herman Legal Group, the approval rate for H-1B petitions for software engineers has been over 99% every year since 2016.
Top 10 H-1B sponsoring companies for software engineers
|Rank||H1B Visa Sponsor||Number of H-1B Applications||Average Salary for H-1B Employees|
|6||J P Morgan Chase||310||$128,552|
- Microsoft – Microsoft is a very well-known multinational technology company based in Redmond, Washington near Seattle with multiple additional offices across the country. Microsoft created a lot of popular software including Windows operating systems, Microsoft Office, and Internet Explorer.
- Facebook – Facebook is a part of Meta, a company that owns and operates several popular social media and messaging apps including Instagram and WhatsApp. Software engineers help to design, build, test, and maintain Meta’s numerous products.
- Mphasis – Mphasis is a multinational IT consulting firm with headquarters in Bangalore, India. Their US subsidiaries often sponsor international talent on H-1B visas, and software engineering is their primary service.
- Intel – Another multinational technology company, Intel, is the largest manufacturer of computer chips. They employ a lot of hardware and software engineers.
- US Bank – US Bank is a popular bank and financial services institution in the U.S. They have locations nationwide. Software engineers are responsible for full-stack development at U.S. Bank.
- JP Morgan Chase – JP Morgan Chase is one of the biggest and oldest banks in the US It offers financial services to individuals, businesses, and governments around the world.
- Natsoft – Since 2004, Natsoft has been providing IT consulting and BPO services across the US The company also has offices in India, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and Singapore.
- Cisco Systems – Cisco is a multinational communications and technology company based in San Jose, California. They are most well-known for networking technology such as Internet routers and cybersecurity systems.
- Intuit – Intuit owns several popular financial software products in the US including Quickbooks, Turbo Tax, and Credit Karma. Secure, trustworthy software is key to the company’s success.
- DoorDash – Founded in 2013, DoorDash is the largest food delivery company in the country with headquarters in San Francisco. It is technology-based, so software engineers play a central role.
A new way to find employers hiring international students
Some employers may be hesitant to sponsor international students for an H-1B visa due to a lack of understanding or misinformation about how the application process works. You can use the US Visa Insights on the Interstride portal to search for employers who are actively hiring and sponsoring international talent and see each company’s historical record of sponsorship. The search filter tool allows you to explore companies based on visa type (e.g. H-1B, OPT), industry, job classification, location, and more.