Key Considerations for Attracting International Workers

attracting international workers

Some U.S. companies are having trouble finding workers. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for certain industries, there are simply more unfilled job openings than unemployed workers with the right experience. If these employers can’t find the workers they need in the U.S., they may be interested in attracting international workers. However, before taking this approach, there are some serious considerations that require attention.

How Many International Workers Are in the U.S.?

According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, there were 27 million foreign-born workers in the U.S. in 2020, representing 17% of the total workforce. These numbers include any worker who was not a U.S. citizen at birth, such as legally admitted immigrants, refugees, international students, undocumented immigrants and temporary workers.

The number of workers in the county on work visas is smaller, and despite the recent labor shortage issues, it has decreased since the start of the pandemic. According to the Cato Institute, only around 1 million work-eligible visas were issued during the 2020-2021 pandemic period, compared to 2.2 million work-eligible visas that were issued during the 2018-2019 period.

Some industries have higher numbers of foreign-born workers, including many science and tech fields. According to the American Immigration Council, immigrants accounted for 23.1% of all STEM workers in the U.S. in 2019.

Employer Responsibilities

Not all foreign-born workers are legally authorized to work in the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. citizens, whether they were born U.S. citizens or naturalized, are always authorized to work in the U.S. Foreign citizens may be authorized to work depending on their immigration status.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) says that U.S. employers must always check whether employees are authorized to work, and this is true regardless of citizenship or national origin. Employers can use the Employment Authorization Document to do this.

Employers are not allowed to hire noncitizens who are not authorized to work, and they may face penalties for violations. At the same time, USCIS says that employers are not allowed to discriminate against individuals based on their national origin, citizenship or immigration status.

Employment Eligibility Status

If an individual is not currently authorized to work in the U.S., the worker may be able to secure a visa that allows this, and a prospective employer may be able to facilitate the process. According to USCIS, there are multiple options for both temporary and permanent workers:

  • Employers who want to hire nonimmigrant workers to work temporarily should file a nonimmigrant petition with USCIS. There are multiple types of temporary worker classifications, including H-1B visas for specialty workers, H-1C visas for registered nurses and H-2A visas for seasonal agricultural workers.
  • People who want to live and work in the U.S. permanently can apply for an employment-based immigrant visa. Approximately 140,000 immigrant visas are available each year for noncitizens who want to immigrate based on their job skills. Preference is given to certain groups based on their skills, education and experience.

Recruiting International Workers

For employers who are interested in hiring international workers, the legal requirements aren’t the only potential hurdles.

  • Before the process can even begin, employers need to find individuals who have the right skills and experience and who are willing to relocate to the U.S. Employers may try to do this themselves, for example, by placing job advertisements in foreign countries. However, many employers may find that they lack the resources needed to handle this internally, and they can use international recruitment agencies.
  • When onboarding international workers, you’re not just helping them acclimate to the company. You’re also helping them acclimate to the country. They may need guidance on cultural issues. Workers who come to the country with children may also need assistance on school enrollments. Other issues to consider include transportation and healthcare.
  • International workers will also need a place to live. A strong relocation package can support recruitment efforts, especially if it covers all of the costs that international workers will face when moving to the U.S., including moving, housing and transportation expenses. Because international moves and temporary housing involve significant risks, insurance should also be part of the package.

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