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How to Increase the Pool of Qualified Candidates? - Consider Hiring Foreign Workers

Whether you are an HR professional for a large corporation or a small employer here in town, the task of finding a qualified loyal employee to assist your company to grow continues to be a challenge. More and more companies are looking to other countries to find the talent they need. The development of an international labor pool means that the most unique and talented workers born in one country, may be educated and trained in another, and might end up being employed with your company.

Smart employers have learned that, for their U.S. business or industry to compete in the international marketplace, they must recruit the best and brightest professionals irrespective of their countries of birth. As rich and varied as our domestic workforce may be, it simply cannot satisfy business needs in every instance -- especially when an increasing percentage of leading graduates in the sciences and technology in top U.S. universities are foreign-born.

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So why hire foreign workers?

There are certain jobs that employers are having a difficult time filling. These are jobs in the following industries: Healthcare, IT, Biotechnology, Science, Engineering, Education, Hospitality and more. Employers might find the pool of foreign candidates is larger than of the U.S. workers, making it easy to fill urgent openings.

The overall costs of hiring a foreign worker are much lower, the employer will not need to retain the services of a search agency and pay a high commission, and there is no need to pay a hiring bonus fee for a new recruit. The employer is required to pay a prevailing fee as determined by the Department of Labor, and that fee is very reasonable most of the time.

Foreign workers tend to be reliable and loyal employees. They don’t switch employers as often as U.S. workers as their visas are employer specific. Foreign workers tend to appreciate the sponsoring US employer and tend to develop a long employment relationship most of the time.

Having foreign employees as part of your staff can create diversity in the workplace, a chance to learn from your employees and open up to new ideas. Employees that speak several languages can make a difference for companies wishing to compete in the global marketplace.

What is the process of hiring a foreign worker?

The process is very similar to hiring US workers. Employers will apply regular recruiting strategies and techniques. The main step involved with hiring a foreign worker is applying for some type of visa. Those employer that often hire foreign workers report that the process is not that complicated and the benefits are far greater that the burdens.

There are many visas to choose from. There are at least six temporary business visas that a company can apply for depending on the circumstances of the hire. I will focus on the three most commonly used, the J1 exchange visitor Visa, the F-1 Optional Practical Training Visa, the H-1B Skilled Worker Visa.

  1. J1 exchange Visitors The Exchange Visitor program, administered by the U.S. Department of State, is a multifaceted program that enables foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to teach, study, conduct research, demonstrate special skills, or receive on the job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years. Exchange visitors enter the U.S. on the "J" visa, their spouses and dependents on the J-2. One of the important limitations of the visa is that holders must have a residence outside the U.S. to which they intend to return after the expiration of their J-visa. On the other hand, the J-visa is very flexible, having application in many different circumstances. Furthermore, spouses and dependents of exchange visitors often can get employment authorization in the U.S., giving the J-1 an advantage over several other nonimmigrant visas. Finally, note that those employed in the U.S. in J-1 status are exempt from Social Security and Medicare tax, although they are subject to personal income tax.
  2. F-1 Optional Practical Training Visas allow an academic student the opportunity to gain practical work experience in the area of their major. A designated school official (DSO) must recommend the training and an I-20 form must be completed and signed by the DSO. The student applying for the visa must also apply to the USCIS for work authorization in the US (USCIS Form I-765). This is an important document, as an F-1 visa holder is not authorized to work in the US until s/he has obtained a valid Employment Authorization Document.
  3. H-1B Skilled Worker Visas are probably the most widely known type of visa. The popularity or necessity of this visa appears to have increased proportionally with the need for high tech talent. This visa has a numerical cap. The cap on visas for this year was 65,000 and that the cap had been met by August 10, 2005.

In order for an employer to hire an individual with an H-1B visa, the position must be one that requires "the application of a specialized body of knowledge and a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent". Additionally, the employer must pay the prevailing wage for the position. Wages can be determined by the Employment Development Department (EDD), employer conducted surveys or through an independent salary survey.

The employee applying for or holding an H-1B Visa may substitute three years of related progressive experience or training to every one year of education that is required for the position. A foreign degree may be accepted, however, it must be verified that the degree meets US equivalency standards.

An H-1B Visa is valid for three years and can be extended for an additional three years. The filing for the Fiscal year 2007 will start on April 1, 2006. Employers that wish to hire workers on this visa should do so as soon as possible.


This need for knowledge, skills, and talents that are not readily available in the domestic labor market has prompted many U.S. employers to consider hiring foreign workers. As rich and varied as our domestic workforce may be, it simply cannot satisfy business needs in every instance.

U.S. immigration law is consciously designed to serve the interests of both employers and workers. On the one hand, there are avenues through which employers can petition for a limited number of foreign-born workers as we discussed above. On the other hand, our immigration laws protect U.S. workers by restricting employment-based immigration to workers whose skills and expertise are otherwise unavailable in the domestic workforce. Smart employers that wish to remain competitive in the marketplace should take advantage of the existing laws for the benefit of their companies. I have helped numerous employers to plan and retain foreign workers, if you have not considered hiring foreign workers before, it is still not too late to start.

Jacob Sapochnick, Esq. is an Immigration Attorney in San Diego, CA and founder of He is working closely with HR departments, start ups and larger companies in retaining, hiring and sponsoring highly qualified foreign workers. He may be reached a 619 819 92 04 ;

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