Is it time to look to foreign workers to fill the skills gap?
Hiring foreign workers can be a lengthy and expensive process, but the payoff can be significant.
The skills gap and low unemployment rates are putting the squeeze on businesses trying to maintain head count. Workflow has been disrupted and morale is taking a hit. In this challenging market, some enterprises are looking abroad for talent, and for more than just to fill in the gaps. For many, it's becoming critical to have a global view when it comes to hiring. The challenge is more than just sourcing and acquiring talent, however: it’s making sure all compliance and regulatory measures are met, too.
Are foreign nationals the right solution? They can be, if employers are willing to put in the time (and expense) associated with hiring such workers. If you’ve never navigated the visa and permits landscape but believe hiring from abroad could be a viable solution, outsourcing may be a good bet. Still, employers are ultimately responsible for their own compliance, so it's important to have a firm grasp on the basics.
Variety of visas
Employers may be familiar with the H-1B visa process and its lengthy and often difficult procedures. But there are actually a variety of options available, according to Richard Burke, CEO of Envoy Global.
“The first step in sourcing foreign talent is making sure you understand what the process will mean in terms of time, money, and expertise,” Burke said an email to HR Dive. Even before you start to weigh options, your job description should include a host of information, including whether the company is willing to offer immigration benefits, such as green cards, visas or relocation expenses.”
Burke shared Envoy's own overview, "The ABCs of Immigration," which details the types of visas offered and the conditions for which each is likely to be used. Depending on the nature of the work and the specialization of the candidate, related benefits might be necessary to attract talent.
“Hiring a skilled foreign national is a complex and ever changing process.” Burke said. “So partnering with a knowledgeable immigration expert, attorney or company to help you stay on top of deadlines, changing laws and compliance, is key.” If you do keep the process in-house, it may be wise to have a single employee dedicated to managing the paperwork, timelines, reminders and alerts for each employee hired.
“Make sure your security standards are up to par since you’ll be handling and storing personal information, especially in the age of GDPR,” Burke added. Employers also should keeping abreast of the political climate and government updates around immigration and hiring, he said.
Even in-house operations may occasionally need to look to outside resources for assistance. Platforms that guide you through the maze of paperwork and requirements can be invaluable.
“Ensuring the correct procedures are followed, and the right data is captured helps to drive compliance,” Frans Smolders, senior director of HCM solution management at SAP SuccessFactors, said in an email to HR Dive. “This helps prevent people from following incorrect procedures and provides central insight and the ability to audit processes when needed.”
While the Trump administration has yet to take drastic action restricting the hiring of overseas workers, employers are seeing a more stringent adherence to the rules already, attorney Patricia Gannon told HR Dive. Businesses are seeing more applications returned — many disqualified for small errors in the paperwork — within a lottery system that hasn’t been significantly updated. In 2017, requests for evidence rose 45% over the previous year, indicating that extreme vetting is being applied to new and even returning workers, said Gannon, a partner at Greenspoon Marder LLP.
“For many employers, it may be an uphill battle,” Gannon said, “but if you’re looking for someone highly specialized or extraordinary, it can be worthwhile.” Be prepared to defend your application for the worker, including information about why you cannot find or hire a U.S. citizen to do the job. For H-1B visas, the lottery system and its deadlines can make the process difficult for businesses that need to fill openings, but Gannon said that others, like J-1 intern visas, may be easier to acquire.
And remember, you can't hire someone who is in the U.S. on a tourist visa, Gannon said. However, "you may be able to hire a worker who is jumping ship from another employer,” she said, “if so, make sure to verify how much time is left for their stay; you won’t want to hire them and have to replace them in just a few months.”
For most businesses, hiring foreign workers can be a lengthy and expensive process, but, if you need to fill large gaps within your workforce, the payoff can be significant.
- Envoy Global THE ABCs OF IMMIGRATION