Work Visas

Hiring Foreign Workers

According to some folks, hiring a foreign worker is paramount to treason. Others say those who are against foreign workers are xenophobic bigots. Although we probably won't end the debate, we offer a few rational thoughts on hiring workers.

Immigration is a hot topic in the US.

The discussion about who should be allowed to cross our borders and what they should be allowed to do while they're here continues to rage in newsrooms and kitchen tables across the nation.

As a small business owner, you are at the center of the controversy whether you like it or not. The issue is whether or not hiring foreign workers is a legitimate practice for American businesses.

Advocates of foreign hiring argue that securing the most talented workers from around the world is vital if American companies are to remain globally competitive. Critics contend that foreign workers depress wages and take jobs that should be filled by American employees.

The most intense disagreements revolve around H-1B workers. These workers are non-immigrant employees who are allowed to work under a H-1B work visa designation, a category that applies to individuals who perform services in specialty occupations.

  • H-1B workers can make unique contributions. Although the H-1B classification can apply to a broad range of temporary foreign workers, these individuals often bring expertise and global perspectives to US firms. As much as possible, the federal government wants to make sure that foreign workers are not doing something that could be done by an American job seeker–and in many cases, H-1B workers live up to that standard.
  • H-1B workers don't depress wages. Critics of foreign hiring frequently make the claim that H-1B workers cost less and subsequently depress wages for American workers. Recent studies have shown that H-1B workers do not negatively affect wages and may even earn slightly more than their American counterparts.
  • H-1B workers adversely impact developing nations. Perhaps a bigger concern is the fact that the emigration of H-1B workers to the US is detrimental to the economies of their home nations, especially when foreign workers come from developing nations. When the best and the brightest relocate to the US, the resulting "brain drain" handicaps the ability of developing nations to meet the challenges of the global marketplace.
  • Employers have global responsibility. When you are an employer of foreign workers, it's important to balance the needs of your business with the needs of your employees and even the needs of the countries from which you culled talented foreign labor. Whenever possible, try to limit the hiring of foreign workers to individuals who truly bring something unique to your company – and even then, approach it as a temporary hiring scenario.

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