Because compliance is key in hiring noncitizen employees, knowing how to hire a foreign worker in the U.S. means carefully following all applicable rules and regulations.
Businesses sometimes want to hire talent from outside the United States. With technology growing ever more complex and STEM skills science, technology, engineering and math becoming increasingly in demand, highly skilled domestic employees have proven scarce, according to The Hill. So it's no wonder that American employers are looking elsewhere to fill their staffing needs. But what do businesses need to know about how to hire a foreign worker in the U.S.?
Before anything else, employers must contact the Department of Labor and seek certification to hire foreigners. Only after certification is granted can employers petition United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a visa for a noncitizen worker.
What Does a Noncitizen Need to Work in the U.S.?
According to USCIS, noncitizens looking to work in the U.S. need one of the following:
- A Permanent Resident Card (aka Green Card), which "allows you to live and work permanently in the United States."
- An Employment Authorization Document or work permit, which "allows you to work in the United States for a specific period of time."
- An employment-related visa, which "allows you to work for a particular employer."
Each program has its own requirements and parameters, as set forth by USCIS.
For attracting highly skilled workers to the U.S., there are several guest worker visa options. In 2016, the U.S. issued more than 530,000 visas for the most popular employment visa programs, according to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
So what are these visa programs and how do they differ from one another? The CFR provides a comparison of the four largest foreign worker visa programs:
- H1B: These visas are primarily for employees in fields requiring specialized knowledge, such as software development. Individuals who qualify can work in the U.S. for three years with one renewal. The U.S. issues 85,000 H1B visas per year, with 20,000 of those earmarked for advanced degree holders. Some industries are exempt from the H1B cap, including institutions of higher learning, nonprofits related to institutions of higher learning and research organizations.
- H2A: These visas are reserved for temporary or seasonal agricultural workers, who may work in the U.S. for one year with a renewal of up to three consecutive years. No annual cap is associated with the H2A visa.
- H2B: These visas are primarily for temporary or seasonal workers in fields other than agriculture, and as with the H2A visa, H2B visa holders may work in the U.S. for one year with a renewal of up to three consecutive years. The U.S. issues 66,000 H2B visas annually, with an exemption for certain returning workers.
- H4: These visas are primarily for spouses or unmarried children of H-visa holders. No annual cap is associated with the issuance of these visas.
Employers should be familiar not only with which visas are required for the workers they need, but also with the time frames that apply. Visa applications, renewals and expirations must be figured into staffing plans.
And because compliance is key in hiring noncitizen employees, knowing how to hire a foreign worker in the U.S. means carefully following all applicable rules and regulations. The last thing you want is to spend resources untangling a regulatory web while staffing needs go unfulfilled.
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