Contractors' Questions: What about California IT contracting?

Contractor’s Question: I will likely move to San Francisco, California next year. Currently, I’m an IT contractor in London working through my own limited company. How might I establish myself as a contractor in the US, assuming I want to set up quickly, tax-efficiently, while being able to find a contract IT role? Or is a residency permit/visa my real issue?

Expert’s Answer: If you have highly-sought-after skill sets which cannot readily be fulfilled by American nationals, it should not be too difficult finding an assignment in California. Dependent on your skill sets, there are many local recruiters in CA who may be able to help your assignment search. 

Unfortunately, and as you suspect, the challenging issues for you are residency and visa-related. Furthermore, state/federal tax legislation can be highly complex for expatriates. 

Your question suggests a long-term, perhaps permanent stay in California. This means you will have immigrant status and be a permanent US citizen. You cannot legally work anywhere in the US without a work visa and social security number. 

A job offer from a California-based employer is required before the immigration process can start. That employer files Petition Form 1-140 with the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) – the government agency which oversees lawful immigration into the country. Prior to filing the petition, your employer has to obtain from the United States Department of Labour a certificate verifying that there are no qualified workers Americans able to do your work. The type of visa you need or qualify for depends on many factors such as having a university degree, a level of past experience and the business sector you will work in.  

The expert was Mike Philips, a director of its international, a consultancy specialising in tax and finance for UK contractors who freelance overseas.

Thursday 15th September 2016