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Global Talent: How to Hire International Employees

As of December 2018, there were 7 million open jobs and only 6.3 million Americans actively seeking work.[1] There are simply more jobs than there are qualified candidates. And if you’re like the 83% of recruiters who had difficulty hiring qualified candidates last year,[2] filling vacant roles is probably at the top of your priority list.

Record low unemployment rates, lack of skills in technical areas and the need for highly specialized workers have created a widening talent gap that employers are struggling to close.

To address the growing need for qualified employees, some companies are looking internally to up-skill their existing workforce while other companies are partnering with universities. However, these approaches don’t always make sense for every role. For example, roles that require specialized technical skills or years of experience can still be difficult to hire for.

Fortunately, the global workforce has never been stronger. Every year, hundreds of thousands of highly experienced, highly trained professionals pursue work opportunities in the US. A willingness to consider international candidates and a basic understanding of common work visas gives recruiters access to a massive global talent pool.

3 Tips to Hire International Candidates

A common perception is that the US immigration process is too complex and expensive to navigate. Although it can feel overwhelming to wade through the myriad visa categories, definitions and specific requirements, a basic understanding goes a long way! Below we’ll go through three steps you can take now to leverage work visas and start building a global team.

Get a Jump-start on a Hiring Plan

It’s never too early to plan for international hires. A great first step is to map out which roles you want to fill with international employees. Generally, these are positions that are difficult to fill from the available pool of US candidates. You’ll want to put together a hiring plan that includes a timeline, retention plan and compliance plan. The I-9, which we all know and love for its convoluted set of instructions, will be a part of the compliance plan. Bottom line: employers are legally obligated to verify that their employees are authorized to work in the US, and this often requires sponsoring employee visas.

Choose a Visa Program

The work visa options span the entire alphabet, but there are a few key considerations that’ll point you in the right direction. Every situation is different so be sure to consult an immigration professional to help you select the best visa program. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you plan to hire temporary employees or pursue permanent residency?
    • Common temporary work visas: H-1B, L-1, TN, E-3
    • Permanent residency (green card) paths: EB-1, EB-2, EB-3
  • What job function are you hiring?
  • Which country is the candidate from?
    • Is the candidate from Australia and getting hired for a specialty occupation? Look into the E-3.
    • Are they from Mexico or Canada? Look into the TN.
  • Has an existing employee worked at your foreign office for at least one year? Look into the L-1.
  • Are they a student? You may not need to pay for sponsorship until their existing student work permit expires!

Mark Your Calendar for Key Deadlines

Some visa categories can be applied for year-round, but there are other visa categories, like new H-1Bs, that have strict deadlines. You’ll want to incorporate any key dates in your hiring plan, and may also want to include a budget for premium processing. Depending on your hiring timeline, you may need to elect for premium processing to guarantee a government response within a certain timeframe.


If you want to learn more about whether work visas are right for your company, check out this blog post about the value of hiring immigrant talent, especially for startups. Expanding your options globally may even be the solution to recruiting for those difficult-to-find soft skills. With the rise of the global workforce, international talent is an excellent option to grow and diversify your candidate pool.

Explore your options

[1] US Department of Labor, December 2018

[2] The Global Skills Shortage, 2019

About the author:

Allison Davy

Vice President Marketing, Legalpad

Allison helps startup founders from around the world navigate the complex U.S. immigration system so they can pursue their goals and purpose.