Groups » Hiring a New Immigrant: Advantages and Risks for Small Business

Finding the employees you need to build your business can be a challenge. Not only is there a shortage of qualified candidates (dependent on where you live) but many candidates that have the skills and expertise you are looking for may be well outside of budget for a start-up company or independently owned small business.

Finding talent and balancing the affordability of key skills you need to grow your business are challenges that business owners face every day. Despite the proliferation of news about hiring of illegal immigrants, there are a number of legitimate methods to acquire affordable talent for your business by connecting with workers who are in the process of becoming landed residents.

Few businesses deliberately look to hire candidates who are new immigrants specifically, yet there are a number of incentives and cost saving benefits and programs that make it worthwhile, assuming it is a good fit for your company. We will discuss the pros and cons and legal requirements that protect both the worker and your business from liability.

When Can You Hire a New Immigrant?

When individuals enter the United States of America they are issued a number of permits and visa’s depending on the terms of their immigration status. A foreigner marrying an American citizen will enter the United States on a K1 or K2 (if they are children under the age of 21) visa. After becoming married, the individual will apply for both a work permit and for a green card or issuance of naturalization as a new landed resident. The work permit can take up to six months from the time of application and is required before the immigrant can be hired by an American employer.

New immigrants to the United States who are in process and in possession of their work authorization can be hired in the same manner as any other American citizen. Often they have been waiting without income and employment for up to nine months before becoming eligible to work. The financial strain on new immigrants is substantial, and given the requirements to seek gainful employment as part of the green card process, they are motivated to be hired by American employers.

A copy of the work authorization card (it is a small card that looks like a drivers licence and provides a photo of the resident) is required before hiring. The immigrant is also required to apply for a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) which is used for processing income tax in the United States (citizens are issued a social security number instead). The TIN number can take up to nine months to process after the application date and is not required for hiring or remuneration of the employee, but is required when the individual files their own personal income tax with the IRS.

Employers should retain a copy of the work authorization card (front and back) and check the photo identification to make sure that the individual is using a correct authorization card. Pay close attention to the card as in some cases, it may be a reproduced copy and fraudulent.

The Risks of Hiring New Immigrants in Process

Not every green card or landed resident application is processed and approved. The procedure for receiving approval to reside as a landed immigrant is an arduous one and in some cases, depending on the circumstances of the application, the green card may be denied. In that event the individual is provided with thirty days deportation notice and will be required to return home and be repatriated to their own country.

Once an immigrant has been repatriated, it is illegal for them to work for an American employer until they have secured the appropriate work visa to authorize it. In these cases employers can opt to apply with sufficient grounds to demonstrate that the deported employee provides skills or talents which are irreplaceable.

If the absence of the employee will cause significant hardship for your company, you can opt to assist in the visa process. However application processing can take more than six months and even past a year, depending on the case. For the deported immigrant it is extremely difficult to apply for a work visa after they have been denied status as a landed immigrant.

The risk is that you may train and ingratiate a talented employee into your business before they have acquired their landed resident status, only to lose them when they are repatriated if their green card application is denied. This is always a possibility and should be evaluated as a possible outcome in every case when hiring someone who is not yet a landed resident. An immigration lawyer Chicago can answer questions regarding your risk as an employer and assist with issues pertaining to work authorization for your employee.

The Benefits to Hiring a New Immigrant

Immigrating to a new country is a costly, administratively exhausting process. When new immigrants arrive to the United States, they do so without employment prospects in most cases and without established financial credit. New residents have no credit history in the United States and the TIN number is required before they may begin to slowly build their personal credit.

As soon as a new immigrant receives their work permit they will be eagerly looking to become employed to resume earning income. During the application process new immigrants (who often arrive with exceptional talents and skills) are willing to in some cases, take entry level work to begin to establish themselves in the United States.

The scenario presents a mutual benefit for both the small business and the prospective employee; they get to begin earning valuable American work experience and the business accesses expertise at a competitive rate. In other words, it is a chance to get key talented personnel for your business at a discount in most cases. And while retention of the talented employee is not a given (they may seek new employment after receiving their green card) it does present a great opportunity to gain affordable expertise, even for a shortened period of time.

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