Employing Migrant Workers For Your Business: What You Need To Know Before Your First Foreign Hire

Immigrants account for 13 percent of the U.S. population but are 16 percent of its workforce, according to estimates by the Urban Insitute. In the past, when businesses needed to fill a new position in their organization, it was a simple recruitment process of applications, interviews and inductions. However, as the population and labor market becomes more diversified, more companies can enjoy the benefits of employing workers from beyond the borders. Migrant workers can add a lot of value to your business. Regardless of the reason behind your choice to hire a migrant worker, providing the right support for them and getting the recruitment process right is essential to you unlocking the benefits of having such a diverse workforce. From adhering to federal employment laws to providing appropriate workday training, here’s a quick getting started guide to hiring your first migrant employee.
The Benefits Of Employing A Migrant Worker In Your Business

For a business, employing a migrant worker can help you fill an existing skills gap. The migration of highly skilled workers has helped many businesses launch their goals and improve diversity in their organizations. From a financial standpoint, this not only benefits their brand image, but also boosts their bottom line significantly. Being able to access global talent often means your business gains uniquely skilled workers, with a hard-working and productive mindset, this is a great tool for your business.
Confirming And Proving Authorization To Work In The U.S.
Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, is used to verify that each new employee (whether migrant or U.S. citizen) is authorized to work in the country. The form became a requirement for all employers after November 6, 1986, and can be found on the USCIS website. In the USCIS Employer’s Handbook, there is also a useful guide to help employers understand how to fill out the form and the acceptable documents any prospective employees need to provide to prove their eligibility. Employers are also required to retain a copy of the completed I-9 form for three years after the date of hire, or one year after termination of employment.
Verifying Worker Authorization 
Certain states require employers to use E-Verify to confirm a worker’s eligibility to work in the U.S. E-Verify is the federal government’s database that allows employers to check the worker’s claim about being authorized to work. While 24 states have passed laws regulating compliance with E-Verify, employers can also choose to voluntarily supplement their recruitment process with its use. So, if you plan on employing a migrant worker, it is worthwhile checking whether your state is one of the 24 that mandates the use of the E-Verify database. Failure to carry out the relevant verifications means your business risks being prosecuted for employing an undocumented worker.
Sponsoring A Migrant Employee
If a migrant work does not have the right authorization to work or find their visa is expiring, employers may be able to help them secure work authorization by sponsoring the employee for lawful permanent residence. However, each employee sponsorship case is not straightforward. According to advice from attorney and legal educator Kyle Farmer, there are multiple employment-based visa options in the employer sponsorship visa category. Each one of them has its own qualification criteria. The EB-3 Professional or Skilled Workers category requires workers to have a baccalaureate degree and be capable of performing skilled labor (this requires at least two years of training or experience).
Penalties For Employing Undocumented Migrant Workers
If you employ an undocumented migrant worker, you can be penalized for non-compliance. However, if you can show that you have followed all hiring practices and unknowingly did so, there is a chance that authorities may not issue a fine. For businesses that breach I-9 compliance regulations, fines of $375 to $3200 per illegal worker can be issued if the business is a first-time offender. Businesses that are second-time offenders can be fined $3,200 to $6,500, while third-time offenders are fined $4,300 and $16,000 per worker. Businesses may also be liable for criminal charges for employing undocumented workers.
The best way to avoid these consequences is to perform adequate pre-employment checks when employing a migrant worker. You should also remember to keep appropriate records to show your business’ compliance with the I-9 laws.