Working as an international employee in the United States can be stressful even under the best of circumstances. The U.S.’s immigration and work authorization system is among the most complex in the world.
On top of their regular responsibilities, these employees often might feel like they have the equivalent of a part-time job while managing their visa application and work eligibility status.
In today’s competitive labor market, employers rely heavily on international employees — especially in STEM fields like healthcare or tech startups. Creating a positive employee experience is a vital part of the employer’s value proposition. Successfully recruiting and retaining the best international talent helps create long-term, strategic competitive advantages for the sponsoring company.
Conversely, where international employees feel like they aren’t supported, or where questions or case matters fall through the cracks, they can feel frustrated and anxious. Employees want their employers to succeed. But they also want transparency, access to information, and support.
How To Know If Your International Talent is Struggling
If your international employees are having a hard time, or stressed about their visa status, they may not tell you directly. But there are signs that the employee experience needs improvement:
- You lose a valuable employee to another employer. Consider what kind of immigration benefit or lack thereof - you extended to that employee, and whether this could’ve played a role in their departure.
- Your sponsorship, onboarding and visa extension processes feels reinventing the wheel every time, rather than following a pre-defined process.
- Employees express confusion around which documents they need to submit or when they need to submit them
- Employees are constantly asking supervisors and HR for status updates on their pending application
- Employees are forced to use your HR team as a go-between for their own case visibility because they have lack access to the legal team or it is cost-prohibitive.
- Employees are constantly losing information or documents in lengthy email threads and there’s no centralized way to share documents or collaborate on a case.
- Your company is caught flat-footed by immigration-related deadlines that should have been foreseeable.
Problems like these are typical at organizations with legacy immigration management and controls. They’re also routine at many start-ups and seed-stage companies with nascent HR functions that have yet to be built out.
Where international employees are left flailing in the dark, trying to do their own research about work authorization status with no direct or timely contact with legal professionals, the cost in administration, compliance exposure, lost productivity, and lost talent can be tremendous. In some cases, employees left to their own devices can accidentally use erroneous or outdated information that can delay or even endanger their work authorizations.
Fortunately, HR technology has evolved by leaps and bounds. Today’s more modern tools make it much easier for People Teams to tame the immigration management process.
How to help your international employees
Of course, building a true ‘best-in-class’ immigration and sponsorship management program, complete with FAQs and resource guides, takes time and investment. But there are things your organization can start doing today to get ahead of the curve and take control of the problem:
- Anonymously survey your international employees. Ask them what issues they are having that they may not even have mentioned to their supervisors
- Identify any problems your international employees had at any point in the application process – even if the problem has since been resolved. What was a problem for them may still be a problem for your next applicant.
- Provide international employees with access to relevant immigration-related newsletters to help them stay up to date. Ask your provider for recommendations on government sites or blogs to follow that has relevant information.
By starting to invest more in the employee experience you can transform the onboarding experience from candidate to tenured employee by programmatically supporting each step of the international employee’s lifecycle. This transformation from a reactive process into a predictable immigration program helps not only differentiate your offering but also could improve employee engagement over time.
Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.