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Employing Foreign Talent (and the Visas to Do so) During COVID-19

The Sekou Clarke Law Group

The coronavirus has meant disaster for the current labor climate. It has left hundreds of thousands of Americans without work and removed many of the opportunities that previously flooded job boards. Beyond the limited opportunities, foreign nationals are struck by the extra burden of being ineligible for relief efforts that the American government offers.

Work opportunities are the solution for our international non-immigrants. However, they can’t receive these chances without an employer on their side helping them obtain a visa. A visa allows a foreign professional to legally work as a nonimmigrant. Temporary employment visas include H, L, O, P, and Q visas. However, with the current government limitations, the most common ones still being accepted and processed are H and L.

What Visas Can You Use to Work in the United States?

The United States government welcomes foreign professionals to work and provide value to our economy. With nearly 60 types of visas available, it can be confusing to understand which ones are appropriate for your business needs. Green Cards are another option for employing non-US citizens long-term, but it is typically a lengthier process. To get workers started quickly, the most common and relevant visas at your disposal are:

  • H-1B – a visa for specialty occupation workers
  • L-1A and L-1B – visas for employees of global brands to work for American divisions when needed

H-1B Visas

H-1B is a popular non-immigrant work visa. Because of its popularity, however, it tends to run out quickly, making it perhaps a less reliable option for employers. It is available to foreigners possessing the equivalent degree or work experience to an American bachelor’s degree.

L-1A and L-1B Visas

L visas are ideal for global brands. If your brand is global and you have talent stationed at another branch outside of the U.S., the L-1A will allow you to relocate higher positions such as managers and executives, while L-1B accounts for the rest of your workers with specialized knowledge. To be eligible, the worker must have been employed by your company for at least one consecutive year within the past three years.

Visas Affected by the Coronavirus

On June 24, Donald Trump’s Presidential Proclamation 10052 went into effect. This proclamation affects applications for H-1B, H-2B, L-1 and J-1 visas. Foreign nationals who were already in the United States under these visas by the date it went into effect, as well as those who already possessed a valid visa or travel documents before then but were not yet in the country, will not be affected. Applications for these visas are essentially halted for the moment, with some exceptions based on the benefits the professionals could bring to the country during the pandemic and eventual recovery stage. Some exempt professionals include:

  • Healthcare professionals
  • Healthcare researchers
  • Technical specialists and senior-level managers
  • Au pairs or childcare professionals with special skills necessary to help certain children, such as sign language
  • Diplomats

The pandemic is an unprecedented situation with a complicated effect on visas and thus foreign employment. Unless the role you’re filling is one pertinent to the success of the country right now, foreign hiring efforts may have to be postponed.

How Do Employers Sponsor a Visa?

Sponsoring a foreign employee requires communication between the employer and the Department of Labor to obtain certification that states hiring foreign talent is necessary. To successfully obtain a visa for your candidate, you must provide adequate proof that the role could not be filled by an American citizen, either because none are qualified or willing to take the job at the set wage and description. Once you gain certification, the prospective employee will be able to apply for the visa.

Key Takeaway

The United States has significantly limited the amount of new foreign professionals able to receive visas during the pandemic and subsequent recovery time. Those who have already secured their visa are able to live and work within the United States in accordance with their visa. However, unless fulfilling an immediate need or providing significant and necessary benefit at this point in time, providing new visas for new employees may not be possible.

For more information about visas you can use to employ international workers during the pandemic, contact the Sekou Clark Law Group
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