The following article is a summary of the CFGI 2017 Symposium session titled “Emerging Challenges and Strategies for Recruitment, Hiring, and Retention of Foreign Nationals in 2017.” Scott Fitzgerald of Fragomen Worldwide, Justin Storch of CFGI, and Allyson Gonzalez of AT&T addressed the challenges of hiring qualified applicants in today’s turbulent political environment. They also offered long-term strategies for talent recruitment as fewer foreign nationals are applying to US universities. This article highlights best practices for recruitment and retention of foreign talent.
Many fast-growing industries face a challenge in maintaining a large enough pipeline of talent. When companies need to fill a position, their goal is to hire the best trained and highest qualified candidate. A significant amount of that talent – especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) positions – comes from foreign nationals.
What should companies keep in mind when they are going through the process of hiring a foreign national? One important recommendation for companies is to maintain a written sponsorship policy on the recruitment and retention of foreign nationals.
When a candidate needs sponsorship, it means that they need immigration support for employment in the United States. There are two types of work authorization categories that a company could employ. One is non-immigrant work visas that provide work authorization for a limited period. The other is a permanent work visa such as a green card. The early identification of candidates who will require sponsorship – as well as what type of sponsorship they will require – can facilitate hiring decisions.
When determining a sponsorship strategy companies should consider the risk, time, cost and the pipeline of available candidates. If a company maintains a clear policy and there is a strong partnership between the Legal, HR, and Talent Acquisition departments, they can effectively determine which candidates are optimal for sponsorship.
As part of their sponsorship policy, employers should test the market to understand the availability of skills and determine whether sponsorship is necessary given the strength of the candidate pool.
Testing the labor market is particularly important with regards to the pool of American applicants with advanced STEM degrees. The below data indicates that STEM applicant pools are bolstered by foreign nationals.
Foreign national students who graduate with a STEM degree are eligible to remain in the U.S. for 12 months through the Optional Practical Training (OPT) and for an additional 24 months. However, the 24 month STEM extensions are facing legal challenges and there is some speculation that the current administration may do away with these extensions altogether.
The other talent pipeline is the H-1B visa in which demand continues to outpace the supply of 85,000 visas provided, making the chances of obtaining a visa via the random lottery fairly unpredictable.
When an employee does obtain an H-1B visa, the employer is faced with another dilemma – how soon to sponsor them for a green card. Approximately half of employers are willing to sponsor green cards within the first two years of employment, per the Council for Global Immigration’s Employer Immigration Metrics Survey.
When it comes to determining whether to wait to sponsor or sponsor immediately employers must weigh the investment with the need to retain talent. The pros include avoiding challenges of H-1B extensions in times of political uncertainty, lower expenses in the long term, as well as potentially retaining employees in a long term. However, employees have to consider the significant upfront costs for a newly on-boarded employee and the risk of losing the employee after significant expense as the employee will have the ability to move to another employer sooner.