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Working in Chicago

Find out how to get a job and work in Chicago

If you are looking for big city flair with a small town feel and excellent job opportunities, you may want to consider Chicago. For a better overview of employment opportunities, read our Relocation Guide on working in Chicago with information on the job market, social security, and taxes.

Need to move abroad? Organizing an international relocation is not something you should do on your own. As expats ourselves, we understand what you need, and offer the essential services to help you move and live abroad easily. Contact us to jump start your move abroad!

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Employment in Chicago

  • Chicago has one of the most diversified economies in the country; no single industry employs more than 14% of Chicago’s workforce. Therefore, there is a place for everyone.
  • The business climate is as diverse as Chicago’s population. More than 1,800 foreign-owned companies are based in the city.
  • Before looking for work in Chicago, expats need to apply for one of the different permanent worker visas.
  • Usually, everyone working in the US is taxed as an American citizen. The IRS is the first source of contact regarding tax matters.

Historically speaking, working in Chicago has always meant being part of an economic force. While in the second half of the 1800s, the Chicago stockyards were known to all Americans, the meatpacking industry in Chicago and its agricultural cohorts have since made way for newer and more innovative industries.

An Economic Powerhouse

Chicago ranked eleventh in the Global Financial Centres Index for 2016, which demonstrates that the city continues to be of national and international importance. The approximately 4.6 million people working in Chicago’s metropolitan area produce an annual regional gross product of about 561 billion USD. With 31 Fortune 500 companies located in its metropolitan area, Chicago has grown to become a major financial contributor to the United States and the world.

Chicago’s key industries are business and financial services, manufacturing, biotech, health services, and transportation and distribution, so there should be a niche for everyone in one of the city’s countless businesses.

The Diversity of Chicago’s Job Market

Foreign residents in Chicago should not have too much difficulty finding employment. Like most metropolises around the world, there are jobs in many different business sectors; however, contrary to some major cities, Chicago’s industries are incredibly diverse, with no industry employing more than 14% of the workforce.

The business and financial sector is one of the major employers. Chicago is also a leader in manufacturing with more than 400,000 workers in this sector. The InfoTech branch is thriving, with people employed in communications, computer systems design, technical consulting services, and other such information industries. The health industry in metro Chicago is powered by half a dozen medical schools and more than 20 teaching hospitals. Therefore, expats considering working in Chicago’s health sector could be joining the 535,000 employees already there.

The North American transportation and distribution scene has been dominated by Chicago since the 1850s. Due to its location within the US, Chicago is one of the major crossroads of the nation’s global trade. Therefore, those working in Chicago are at the heart of one of the most competitive and lucrative transportation systems in the Americas.

The Business Climate in Chicago: What to Expect

Thanks to the city’s profound infrastructure and general layout, many people tend to have a relatively laid-back attitude towards work. Lunch breaks can be spent sitting in one of the many parks, enjoying a deli sandwich while discussing the morning’s company affairs.

The city’s reputation as a transportation hub is well-founded, too: with its two major airports, an extensive train system, and an easily accessible road system, expats can get in and out of Chicago as they please.

Furthermore, Chicago is one of the busiest trading points worldwide. Many call it the east-west juncture between the Asian and European markets as well as the north-south link of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This directly affects the extremely diverse business climate: there is an abundance of different ethnic groups living and working in Chicago, and more than 1,800 foreign-owned firms are based in the Chicago area alone.

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Chicago: Finding a Job and Social Security

Newspapers and Unsolicited Applications: How to Find Work

Once you know which job industry you would like to work in and what type of position you have the skills for, finding a vacancy is the next step. The best way to find a job in Chicago is to look in the classifieds section in the city’s major newspapers: the Chicago Tribune, the Sun Times and the Daily Herald come highly recommended. Additionally, you can scour websites such as Chicago Jobs or Monster.com as well. In the USA, it is very common to send unsolicited job applications with a cover letter explaining what skills and experience you bring to the table.

The “City in a Garden”: Towards a Sustainable Chicago

Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has stated that the city is committed to becoming the greenest in the United States. With the Sustainable Chicago Action Agenda of 2012, the city has launched a range of environmentally friendly initiatives, such as Chicago Green Roofs, the Chicago Brownfields Initiative, the Chicago Climate Action Plan, and the Green Permit Program.

In addition to these initiatives, which are designed to slow down the deterioration of the environment, Chicago also invests significantly in green business. In particular, industries such as wind energy, biomass, construction, water, and transportation are thriving in Chicago. For example, there are currently more than 20 wind energy companies and over 70 R&D facilities situated in Chicago’s metropolitan area.

Which Work Visa Is the One for You?

If you are intent on working in Chicago, you should first and foremost begin your preparation by obtaining a work permit. The United States has very strict policies concerning visas, and the application process tends to take some time.

If you are planning to stay in the USA indefinitely, you need to apply for a Permanent Worker Visa. There are several different categories:

  • EB-1: first-preference visa for people with special skills in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics, as well as professors, researchers, and executives of multinational companies.
  • EB-2: second-preference visa for persons who hold advanced degrees or have exceptional abilities in the arts, sciences, or business.
  • EB-3: third-preference visa reserved for professionals and skilled workers with a minimum of two years of training in their field.
  • EB-4: fourth-preference visa reserved for so-called special immigrants, such as religious workers, international organization employees, and physicians.
  • EB-5: fifth-preference visa for foreign entrepreneurs who invest at least 500,000 USD in a US company or create/sustain at least ten US full-time jobs within two years.

For E-2 and E-3 applicants, your prospective employer must prove that hiring you, a foreign employee, will not negatively affect the wages or working conditions of US workers in similar positions.

What You Need to Know about Social Security and Taxes in Chicago

Everyone in the United States — regardless of residence status — is required to have a social security card, which is necessary for opening bank accounts, renting homes, applying for jobs, and, of course, for social security purposes. To find out how you can apply for a social security card, consult the Social Security Administration’s fact sheet.

Taxes and social security are controlled by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the US Department of the Treasury. Most foreign nationals, regardless of their residence status, will be taxed on equal terms as US Americans. Visit the Internal Revenue Service for more detailed information on when and how to file your tax return as a foreigner in the US. There are also numerous tax attorneys and accountants who can help you out with any questions you may have. Simply consult the Chicago branch of the Yellow Pages or ask your employer for help.

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: January 08, 2019
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