Immigration Options For Businesses Looking To Hire Foreign Talent

This past September, as the immigration reform debates continued on Capitol Hill, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrived to advocate for immigration reforms for foreign high-skilled workers. Zuckerberg met with Congressmen from both parties about many issues, but his key concern was immigration. While he echoed concern for overall immigration reform for the approximately 11 million undocumented aliens currently living in the United States, the issue of skilled labor is of particular interest for such technology-based companies in Silicon Valley and throughout the country. Many leading technology and other corporations are seeking greater access to foreign-born talent to remain competitive — while labor groups look to protect U.S workers from losing jobs.

How U.S companies currently hire foreign high-skilled employees

There are currently several options for a U.S company that wishes to apply for a visa and hire a foreign national to work in the United States. The U.S company can apply for a green card for certain executives, managers and skilled professionals, but this will usually not be easy for a new hire — and a green card allows the employee to leave and test the U.S market. Most companies looking to hire a highly skilled foreign professional will apply for one of the following temporary work visas:

  • H-1B visa: This visa is for a foreign professional employee. The employee must have at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent to qualify for the visa. The H-1B is limited, as it is subject to a cap in the number of visas issued each year. The 2013 cap was exhausted on the first day of filing.
  • L-1 visa: The L1 visa category allows for an inter-company transfer of a qualified employee from a related foreign company, such as a foreign subsidiary. The L-1A visa is for executives and managers and the L-1B visa is for an employee with specialized knowledge of the company’s product, processes or procedures. However, the employee had to have been employed by the related company abroad for at least one out of the previous three years.
  • The E-1 or E-2 visa: The E-1 visa is for a business that has substantial trade between the foreign country where it is located and the United States. The E-2 visa is where there was a substantial investment from the foreign country to the U.S business. Both visas allow for the hiring of foreign executives, managers and other essential employees. However, there must be a U.S treaty in place with the employee’s home country to allow for this visa option. 

The immigration attorneys at Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. advise businesses on the immigration visa options currently available and we follow the developments in this ever-changing area of law to be sure our clients are always informed.

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