On Mar 03 2006

Employment of Students in the United States

An important source of international expertise and professional skill is found at United States universities and colleges.

Many have extensive international programs bringing the best young minds from foreign countries here to receive the best higher education in the world. As a result, in the course of interviewing candidates for many professional positions, employers are likely to come across excellent candidates who are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States. These foreign nationals may have long-term authorization to work in the United States (such as refugees or temporary residents), while others may have temporary status in the United States that has allowed them to study and work here. In making hiring decisions regarding foreign nationals without long-term authorizations to work, employers may not realize that provisions of United States immigration law are specifically designed so that employers are able to obtain the specialized talents of foreign nationals.

Many employers, however, are reluctant to hire foreign nationals because of a perception that the procedures for obtaining work authorization for foreign nationals are complicated, time-consuming and expensive. This perception is not always accurate. In fact, most foreign nationals at U.S. universities and colleges are eligible for a full year of authorization to work for any employer in the U.S., at no expense to or effort from the employer. Further, foreign students have already successfully negotiated the temporary visa issuing process and so are familiar with many of the law’s requirements and opportunities, as well as with resources for successfully obtaining immigration goals.

If an employer wishes to hire a foreign national to take a position that requires at least a bachelor’s degree, that employer may sponsor the employee for an H-1B Temporary Worker visa. To get such a visa for the employee, the employer does not need to advertise the position or recruit U.S. workers. This visa category allows employers to obtain the services of a foreign national for a three-year period, with a three-year extension available at the employer’s option. The employer documents that foreign nationals are not being used to harm the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers; with careful attention to detail and assistance from an attorney familiar with immigration law, this documentation requirement is not overly burdensome.

While there are many additional options that allow employers to obtain the services of foreign nationals on a permanent basis, these options do not need to be pursued until the employer is sure it wishes to retain the foreign national on a long-term basis. It is particularly important for employers to realize that they are the ones in control of the visa process and to realize that, complicated as the immigration rules seem to be, they exist so that employers can obtain the services of needed foreign nationals.