Two Visa Options to Hire Foreign Professionals Fast
Nicole S. Schram , Mai Chao Chang | 11.03.22
Widespread labor shortages are causing businesses across the U.S. to struggle with open positions. When traditional recruitment efforts fail, employers can expand the pool of qualified candidates by considering foreign workers. Sponsoring an employee through the typical H‑1B visa lottery takes a minimum of 7 – 10 months, but employers can take advantage of two other visa categories, F‑1 (CPT/OPT) and TN, to hire foreign professionals fast and with little administrative burden.
F‑1 Visa with CPT/OPT
Foreign students attending U.S. universities in F‑1 visa status are often highly motivated employees. Students are eligible for degree-specific internships or apprenticeships through the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) program. The Optional Practical Training (OPT) program is another option for up to 12 months of full-time work in the student’s major field of study, before or after graduation. Foreign graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields may extend their OPT for an additional two years, for up to three years of OPT employment.
F‑1 Students apply for CPT and OPT work authorization with the assistance of their university’s international student services (ISS) office, so the burden and cost of the visa application process does not fall on the employer. By targeting recruitment efforts at university ISS and career services offices 1 – 3 months before the end of a semester, employers can capture the best foreign talent with minimal effort.
If the available job is one of the designated TN professions, a qualified Canadian or Mexican professional can gain a TN visa and employment authorization relatively quickly. The TN visa was authorized by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, now the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA). NAFTA Appendix 1603.D.1 lists the wide range of qualifying TN professions, along with the education and/or experience requirements for each profession. TN work authorization can be granted for up to three years at a time, with no limit on the number of renewals.
The employer’s only duty in the TN application process is providing a detailed employment offer letter, identifying the qualifying profession and providing specific details about the employment. After adding personal documents to complete the TN application package, Canadian nationals may apply for TN status directly with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents at the airport or U.S. border. Mexican nationals outside of the U.S. must first present their application to a U.S. Consular office abroad to obtain a TN visa stamp. Once the Canadian or Mexican employee is admitted by CBP into the U.S., employment can begin immediately!
If a foreign employee has proven they are the perfect fit for the job, but their original work authorization is expiring, employers may in most cases extend the visa status, sponsor the foreign worker in a new visa classification (such as H‑1B), or initiate the employment-based green card process. Even without a national labor shortage, dedicated foreign professionals are worth the effort.
The experienced immigration attorneys at Boardman Clark would be pleased to answer your questions or assist you with hiring or retaining foreign workers.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be legal advice. Rather, it seeks to make recipients aware of certain legal developments that affect human resource issues. Recipients who want legal advice concerning a particular matter should consult with an attorney who is given a full understanding of the relevant facts pertaining to the particular matter.