Coming to America


By Martin Yate November 15, 2016
Coming to America

How can workers coming from other countries connect their experience with U.S. standards and needs? Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.

Hello Martin,

I have undertaken most of my studies in the United Kingdom and find it difficult equating my studies to U.S. skills and explaining them when being interviewed for jobs here in the U.S.

How can I find out the U.S.-equivalent qualifications? What is the most effective way to explain how my studies differ or are similar?

I look forward to your reply.

Thank you,


I work with lots of people around the world, and many of them have the goal of living and working in America. Unfortunately, it isn't as easy as it used to be. I think U.S. immigration authorities tightened up the entrance requirements after they realized their mistake when they let me into this heaven on earth.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Understanding and Obtaining U.S. Employment Visas]

Your question relates to degree equivalency, but the answer I'll offer is also applicable to determining equivalency of other professional credentials. You have a frustrating problem that has a simple solution.

Because so many people around the world pursue their American dream, a lot of people face your challenge. A small industry has popped up to serve your exact needs. Here are some good places to start. They all offer services that help with education and/or certification equivalency issues; some are free, and some charge a fee:

A good resource for employment-related legal matters in the U.S., including advice on immigration, is Workplace Fairness. I've known the people there for many years, and the organization is my go-to resource for employment issues and legal questions. It's a network of employment lawyers; yes, they want your business, but there's a mountain of free information.

To answer this question comprehensively, I searched Google using various related terms and phrases. For example, one query I used was "What helps my U.S. immigration application?"

Dreams to Reality

Immigration to America is a dream many people have at some time in their lives. It isn't as easy as it used to be, so you have greater likelihood for success when you can commit to immigration as a long-term career goal. I often tell my clients that, yes, it can be a one-shot process if you are in a high-demand profession. This search for "High-demand jobs for U.S. immigration" got great results.

Research like this can be especially helpful in career choice, whether you are younger and thinking about education and direction or older and thinking about redirection.

Immigration and Heritage

The immigrants who achieve greatest success don't leave their heritage behind, but they do assimilate as completely as possible. So even if English is your first language, you still must become part of the culture and not whine about the terrible tea we suffer (American restaurants still think it is made with cold saltwater).

Most would-be immigrants who face the same educational equivalency challenge have another issue to deal with: language. If English is not your native tongue, you should be listening to well-spoken idiomatic English as much as possible, because while you might be a genius, if no one can understand you, then no one will know and your career here will stall.

Public Radio International will give you informed news about America, delivered by the most well-spoken American voices you're likely to hear.

Voice of America is also worth listening to, although more politically biased.

And of course there's always the BBC.

I tell U.S.-bound professionals to prepare for a lengthy process. Immigration to the U.S. is not a sprint, it's a marathon—and marathons are all about endurance, tactics and pacing. I came to America over 30 years ago and have built a life I could never have achieved in my birth country. Good luck with the achievement of your worthy dreams.

Have a question for Martin? E-mail your queries to We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. We look forward to hearing from you!

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