How does one go about working legally in the USA?
Lets say I have being formally offered a job, in writing, by an employer in California.
Who do I contact?
What forms need to be filled?
What does the employer have to do at their end?
How long does the process take?
Once I have permission to work in the US, is there a time limit on how long you can work or is it indefinite?
I think I'm too old and too long out of college for the J1 system.
You can't self apply for a Visa. The company has to sponsor you. This costs them a lot of money ($10,000+) and they have to demonstrate that you are capable of doing the job over any American person. Unless you have specified that you don't have permission to work in the US , the company will be working under the assumption that you do and any job offer will be based on this.
In short, unless you have a very specific and niche skill set, or can transfer with your existing company, it isn't going to happen.
^^^^ what he said!
I've found one way to get in...but it's a long con.
Apply IEC Canada.
Work for 1 year.
Apply for PR.
1 year- 2 later apply for Canadian Citizen ship.
3 - 4 years from now as a Canadian you just need a job offer in the states no more sponsorship required. But you realize the quality of living was better in Canada all along and you just stay there.
That route depends on NAFTA still being a thing. Also it's to certain job types (mainly in STEM).
Your time line for Canadian citizenship is a bit off too (processing time alone is in the region of 12 months at the moment.
A significantly easier way:
1. Get a job with an international company with a branch (or headquarters) in the USA.
2. Work for a year.
3. Get transferred to a position in the USA.
4. When in the USA, apply for a green card.
That is the easiest way. However realise that you cannot apply for a GC on your own, it has to sponsored by the company you are working for.
You can self apply and petition without an offer of work for a green card under EB1 or NIW category.
From a quick look one would really need to be top of their profession to get one of those visas