Can U.S. Companies Hire Foreign Workers?

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If you’re running a company that’s looking to bring in new employees, you may wonder if U.S. companies can hire foreign workers. Fortunately, businesses in the United States do have that option. However, the processes involved can be complex. To get started in understanding what these processes include, take a look at how U.S. companies can hire foreign workers locally, temporarily and remotely.

How to Hire Foreign Workers

Companies interested in hiring foreign workers first need to secure certification through the U.S. Department of Labor. Applicable regulations vary depending on whether the employee will be permanent or temporary, but both options involve completing various forms to secure approval.

The goal of this step is to provide clear evidence of why a company is hiring a foreign worker to fill a vacancy. Generally, the company has to show that there aren’t U.S.-citizen professionals available with the proper skills. Additionally, the company must show that it’ll pay competitive wages.

If approved, companies can start sourcing potential talent outside of the United States. After finding a suitable candidate, the company can proceed with obtaining a work visa from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency. Again, the process varies depending on whether an employee will be permanent or temporary, but the company is required to file the petition on the worker’s behalf regardless.

After filing the petition, there’s no guarantee of acceptance. Instead, the petition is reviewed for eligibility and may be subject to other processes, such as limitations on the number of workers of a particular category who can enter each year.

How Do Small Businesses Hire Foreign Workers?

Small businesses must follow the same process as larger businesses. By and large, the size of the organization is irrelevant. As long as a small business can show that it can’t find a suitable employee from the local talent pool and is able to navigate the rest of the process, it’s just as eligible and will need to follow the same approach.

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How to Hire Foreign-Based Remote Workers

If you’re looking for remote workers in another country, you may not need to follow the process above. In some cases, you might be able to partner with a global employer of record (EoR), making it easier to navigate overseas labor markets. Setting up a foreign business entity with a local branch in another country could work, but it’s often costly and time-consuming. Alternatively, you could choose to only bring freelancers or independent contractors on board when hiring non-U.S.-based remote workers.

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For independent contractors or freelancers, you’ll need to ensure that a worker won’t be classified as an employee based on existing labor laws. Otherwise, you may be in violation of various rules and regulations regarding the hiring of foreign workers, and that can come with steep penalties and potential litigation.

Along with ensuring the foreign-based remote worker isn’t improperly classified, you’ll need to have them complete a Form W-8 BEN. That establishes the independent contractor as a foreign person with the IRS.

How to Hire Temporary Foreign Workers

When hiring temporary foreign workers, you have two choices. If their employment doesn’t technically make them an employee, you could potentially use the freelancer or independent contractor approach if they’re working remotely.

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Otherwise, you’ll need to follow the various processes for temporary workers coming into the country. Along with getting certification from the Department of Labor, you’ll need to petition for the right visa. For certain professional specialties, you may need to file for an H-1B visa. For temporary agricultural workers, an H-2A is the better fit, while non-agricultural temporary workers who aren’t in the professional category may need an H-2B.

However, there are numerous visa types. It’s essential to research them first to see which option best fits your situation.

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