Hiring from the International Workforce


When U.S. employers struggle to find enough skilled domestic workers, they can hire skilled workers from a global employment market through tools provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, such as the H-1B visa and others. This process can be complex but provide valuable employees that can help fill the staffing quotas many employers are struggling to meet.

Legal Classifications

The most popular option for employers to recruit foreign nationals is through employer-sponsored H-1Bs, and this can be used for “specialty occupations” that require a baccalaureate or higher degrees, such as for healthcare professionals, engineers, or I.T. workers. These are highly limited and in-demand, though, as they are capped at a limit of 85,000 per year for the entire United States.

Fortunately, in some cases, there are other options, such as the O-1A classification for those with particular talent in fields such as the sciences, athletics, or business. There are also O-1B classifications for skilled artists as well as individuals with amazing achievements in television or film. Yet another option is the E-2 Treaty Investor classification which allows certain individuals to invest in an American company and then provide services as an independent contractor.

There are more types of work visas available, and employers would be well advised to consider what types their positions may allow. It may simply be an H-1B visa, but it is wise to consider if any other options may work for any positions you wish to fill.

The Pandemic

The pandemic has added considerable challenges to hiring foreign workers. With expansive restrictions presented in hiring from most of the world, hiring from outside of the United States was essentially limited to only those who could acquire a National Interest Exemption.

This was possible in some cases, but due to the low capacities and high demand from government services such as U.S. Consulates which for part of last year were completely closed, this was highly difficult. Further, this is only an option for those employing workers that can be shown to supply support to a critical component of U.S. infrastructure.

Compliance With Form I-9

When hiring foreign workers, or anyone for that matter, employers must keep I-9 compliance in mind. Form I-9 is used to verify the identities of all new hires and ensure that they are authorized to work in the U.S. Unfortunately, this document can be a minefield for employers.

Without caution, employers can ask inappropriate questions or violate documentation requirements that may leave them open to civil liabilities and hefty penalties. This is true from large employers to even the smallest, which still receive visits from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officials, better known as ICE. The I-9 must be completed within the first three days of employment and maintained correctly for all new hires regardless of immigration or citizenship status.

Key Takeaways

As employers struggle with shortages of skilled workers nationwide, many are looking overseas to solve their hiring challenges. This can be a difficult but potentially rewarding process with several possible options for classification. Employers should keep in mind that whether foreign or domestic, they must always comply with I-9 requirements. The best way to do this is with an I-9 management tool that can help guide employers through every step and ensure a correctly completed and maintained form every time.