Sourcing Global Talent: Navigating the H-1B Visa Process

Sourcing Global Talent: Navigating the H-1B Visa Process

This article was updated on August 3, 2018.

Sourcing talent globally is never easy, but as U.S. firms face tightening job markets at home and limited local talent pools for some skilled positions, looking globally may be your only viable option to close your existing talent gaps.

Workers from other countries, however, require H-1B visas. According to The New York Times, "Congress set up the H-1B program to help American companies hire foreigners with exceptional skills, to fill open jobs and to help their businesses grow." The process of sponsoring work visas for globally sourced employees can be a complex and costly one that includes plenty of red tape and thousands of dollars in fees to the U.S. government and legal advisers.

So when should you consider the H-1B visa process option? Every case is different, and your HR team should consult with your legal advisers to coordinate your efforts.

That said, here are four steps you'll need to follow to make sure that sponsoring a foreign employee for an H-1B visa is done correctly:

1. Offer the Prevailing Rate of Compensation

Offering below-market compensation to H-1B workers is not allowed. The H-1B application process will require you to prove to the U.S. government that you're paying at least the prevailing market wage for the foreign worker you want to sponsor. As the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines it, "[t]he prevailing wage is determined based on the position in which you will be employed and the geographic location where you will be working (among other factors)." Check with the DOL, which maintains current prevailing wage levels based on occupation and location.

2. The Position Must Require Specialized Knowledge or Training

You need to show that the open position will require at least a bachelor's degree, and the foreign worker you plan to hire has the required bachelor's degree, an equivalent degree or equivalent experience. In 2015, according to InformationWeek, USCIS gives out 85,000 H-1B visas annually, 20,000 of which are reserved for those with advanced degrees. Most of the visas awarded go to computer or finance specialists.

3. Know the Deadlines and Legal Restrictions

Inevitably, there are more applications than there are visas. According to The Wall Street Journal, in 2015 233,000 H-1B visa applications were submitted, so a lottery system is used to allocate these much-coveted visas.

Filing deadlines are established via the USCIS, and the period for accepting applications usually begins after April 1 each year. An H-1B working visa allows a foreign employee to work in a U.S. firm for three years The visa can then be extended for an additional three years.

4. Sponsorship Costs Can Be High

It can cost your midsized firm as much as $5,000 to complete the visa application process. The USCIS requests an array of fees related to the application. You'd be best served to acquire the help of a legal adviser who specializes in immigration and H-1B work visas. It's important to be committed to the process because it will require a lot of document submissions. While large enterprises, especially in the high-tech sector, may have teams to process all their H-1B visas, midsized firms will likely need outside help.

Although the process of sponsoring an H-1B work visa for an international hire is anything but simple and quick, it may still be your organization's best way to bring in the talent you need. By following the four steps above, you'll be in a better position to satisfy the complex legal requirements of the H-1B work visa process and closer to your goal of acquiring the best talent possible for your organization.