As globalization drives students, workers, and entrepreneurs to havens of opportunity and prosperity, the old saying about the United States being a “melting pot”, or “salad bowl”, or even “mosaic of diversity”, still stands true, despite the current economic slump.
When American short track speed skater Allison Baver made the following comment, she touched on the commonality of cultural diversity that is omnipresent in just about any place of business in the USA.
“I noticed it traveling with our team. We’re the only team that has coaches from three other countries and athletes that are all different in terms of our diversity. Look at our team as a whole. It is the United States. . . . It’s a melting pot.”
Truth be told – if the U.S. is a melting pot, then the regulations and laws that govern the hiring of foreign workers are a veritable casserole of certification requirements, application procedures, and tax implications.
Hiring Foreign Workers – Get Your Arms around the Law
As a British expat who immigrated to the U.S. more than ten years ago, I’ve had my fair share of encounters with the federal laws that govern the temporary and permanent employment of non-resident and resident aliens in the U.S.
What struck me during my transition from alien to resident alien to permanent resident was how little knowledge of foreign worker employment laws my employer had, despite being a large global enterprise.
So if the large corporations struggle with the law, where does the small business owner start to build an understanding of the process of hiring foreign workers?
The good news is that there are many guides and online resources that can help employers understand and comply with foreign worker laws.
Below is a summary of the key aspects of foreign worker employment law and links to information and tools to support your small business’ efforts to comply with these laws.
- Certifying a Foreign Worker – The Department of Labor (DOL) should be your first stop for gaining permission for foreign workers to work in the U.S. To achieve certification for a potential employee, businesses must demonstrate that there are insufficient qualified U.S. workers available and able to perform the work at wages that meet or exceed the prevailing wage paid for that occupation.
This page describes the DOL’s certifications issued for permanent and temporary employment under the following programs: Permanent Labor Certification, H-1C Nurses in Disadvantaged Areas, H-2A Temporary Labor Certification (Seasonal Agricultural), H-2B Temporary Labor Certification (Non-agricultural), and D-1 Crewmembers Certification.
- Petition for a Visa – Once you receive certification or approval by the DOL, the next step is to petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a visa on behalf of the foreign worker. The worker will also need to establish that they are admissible to the U.S. under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
There are a range of guides covering the application process, compliance, record-keeping and contact information for all types of foreign worker employment status (H-2A, H-2B, H-1B, H-1B1, D-1 and so on) on the DOL site here.