How to Hire a Non-U.S. Employee

An immigration attorney can help secure visas for your business

By Tarik Sultan

With our demographic changes, waves of retirements from baby boomers and tight labor market, immigrant workers are a great way to supplement your existing workforce. When considering a foreign national for employment, seeking the proper visa classification depends upon the type of position being filled, as well as the education and skill level of the potential employee.

There are two types of employment-based visas: immigrant and nonimmigrant. Nonimmigrant visas are temporary, and, with some exceptions, function on the foreign national working for the U.S. employer for a finite period of time. Immigrant visas are sought for permanent placement of the worker, and confer permanent resident (“green card”) status upon the employee. In many cases, the employee will work temporarily via a nonimmigrant status while the company pursues permanent resident status for the worker.

Federal law lists some 80-plus nonimmigrant categories, with the majority of those for temporary employees and their family members. The most common professional work visas include:

  • J-1 (exchange visitors)
  • H-1B (specialty occupations that minimally require a bachelor’s degree for entry)
  • L-1 (intracompany transferee of international organizations)
  • O-1 (extraordinary ability workers)
  • P-1 (professional athletes)
  • Q (cultural exchange visas)
  • A or G (diplomatic visas) 
  • E-3, H-1B1 and TN (free trade professional visas, for Australians; Chileans or Singaporeans; and Canadians or Mexicans, respectively)

You should consult with a seasoned immigration attorney to determine which employment-based visa best fits your company’s particular situation. With the proper guidance, the process is less formidable than it appears, and can be a great resource for finding untapped talent.

Tarik H. Sultan is an attorney with Wolf & Sultan in Tucson

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