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7 Things Employers Should Know About Workplace Immigration

HR Managers Recruit International Talent by Navigating Visa Caps, Fees, and Complex Paperwork

When human resource managers look for the best and brightest to fill their staffs, they don’t just examine U.S.-based candidates. They also assess promising talent from all over the world. Recruitment of international workers is an enormous and involved undertaking, but can be incredibly rewarding for both organizations and employees.

If your organization is interested in recruiting international talent, there are seven things your employer and HR manager should know about workplace immigration and the employment-based visa process.

7 Things Employers Should Know About Workplace Immigration

1. In times of a good economy, there are more U.S. job openings than there are unemployed people looking for work.

Data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows that in December 2018, there were 7 million job openings while only 6.3 million people were unemployed and looking for work. Foreign labor can help bridge these employment gaps, making U.S. businesses and organizations more productive.1

2. The H-1B is the most commonly used employment-based immigration visa.

The U.S. government bestows H-1B visas to foreign nationals in specialty occupations and requires a postsecondary degree or its equivalency.2 According to a 2019 SHRM survey of 20,000 respondents in human resource careers, H-1B visas composed 87% of sponsored employment-based visas.1 Other common worker visa categories include:

  • H-2B, for nonimmigrant seasonal workers
  • H-2A, for nonimmigrant agricultural workers
  • J-1, for exchange visitors
  • E-1, for treaty traders and investors
  • O-1, for aliens of extraordinary ability
  • F-1/OPT, for students in academia
  • L-1, for those with intracompany specialized knowledge

Uncommon, but worth mentioning, the P-1 visa, for artists, entertainers, and athletes, encompassed 1% of visas in the survey.1

3. Five different cabinet-level departments oversee employment-based immigration.

Applying for employment-based visas is a long and intricate process. It relies on the efforts, organization, and paperwork of several parts of the U.S. government. The five cabinet departments directing the U.S. employment-based immigration system are:

  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Labor
  • Department of State
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Justice

Each oversees different aspects of the immigration process, such as issuing visas through embassies, ensuring no adverse impacts on the U.S. labor force, conducting administrative hearings, and enforcing immigration laws.3

4. Applying for visas is an expensive undertaking.

According to a recent Council for Global Immigration report, filing an H-1B visa carries an initial cost of between $3,460 and almost $11,675. Filing an H-1B visa extension can run between $2,960 and $11,675. For employers, these costs include a $460 application fee, up to $3,000 in attorney fees, and other potential costs including:3

  • Education and training fees
  • Anti-fraud fees
  • Premium processing
  • Additional fee levied on employers with more than 50% of their workers using H-1B or L-1 visas
  • Visa application processing and issuance fees

5. The government caps H-1B visas at 65,000 per year.

The Immigration Act of 1990 created today’s annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas.4 An additional 20,000 are earmarked for foreign nationals with graduate degrees from U.S. higher education institutions. In 2008, 2009, and 2014–2018, the U.S. government received more H-1B applications than supply could support. In those years, H1-B visas were distributed by lottery.5

6. Some workplaces are exempted from visa caps.

Thanks to passage of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act of 2000, certain workplaces are exempt from caps for employment-based immigration visas. These employment settings include:5

  • Colleges and universities
  • Government research institutions
  • Nonprofit organizations

7. Employers find the workplace immigration process time-consuming and frustrating, but worth the effort.

More than 85% of the respondents to SHRM’s 2019 Employment-Based Immigration survey strongly believe in the importance of recruiting top talent to meet organizational needs, irrespective of national origin. Respondents identified the top three administrative challenges of hiring foreign talent were:

  • Lengthy processing times
  • Unpredictability of the visa process
  • Complexity of visa application paperwork

Despite these hurdles, 52% of organizations surveyed reported sponsoring at least one employment-based visa in the past five years.1

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1Source: Employment-based Immigration 2019.pdf

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,