Onboarding a new H-1B hire can be challenging at times and usually requires a lot more attention than for that of a domestic worker. Onboarding new employees is an important part of the hiring process, and getting someone settled in their new position properly can make the working relationship much easier and more enjoyable for both the company and the employee.
If you pay thoughtful attention to a few details, onboarding your new H-1B hire will be a breeze!
Know Your New H-1B Hire’s Previous Work Experience
When onboarding a new H-1B hire, first and foremost, it is important to know their work history in the United States. This is not only important for evaluating their professional experience, but also to know how much experience they have working in the country.
Did they already work on an H-1B for another company, and then transferred to you? While in college, or after graduating, did they work with your company, or another, on a Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practice Training (OPT) Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card? Did they complete an internship? Or maybe your new H-1B hire has never worked in the U.S. and is joining your company with work experience exclusively from another country.
Embrace Your New Hire's Cultural Background
Likely, your H-1B hire will come from a country with a different culture, religion, and language than that of other employees. Even if they have prior work experience in their home country, customs at the workplace might be very different from the ones in your office.
You may need to address what seems to you like a simple thing, such as communication standards in the office, how to properly address a client in an email or on the phone, or even work hours and how long a lunch break lasts, as these might differ significantly from the customs in your H-1B hire's home country. Simple things you might consider self explanatory for a U.S. hire might be completely new to a foreign employee. While you shouldn’t have to address every possible issue before it comes up, make sure to calculate the extra time for additional questions.
Make Your New H-1B Hire Feel Like They’re Part of Your Company
If you employ many foreign workers, it’s important to make an effort to include their traditions in your work culture. Many companies around the U.S. are big on holidays and other celebrations. If your offices have a Christmas party, a Thanksgiving potluck, or a catered Super Bowl luncheon, why not also include foreign traditions in the office life?
If you have multiple foreign employees from one country, consider including their celebrations, whether that's Diwali, Chinese New Year, St. Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest, or anything in between. Making your U.S. employees aware of those holidays and traditions will help to integrate your H-1B, and all other foreign employees, into the workplace and make their transition to the U.S. corporate life a little easier.
Be Prepared to Assist with Matters that Might Seem Inherent
When hiring a new H-1B employee who has little or no work experience in the U.S., make sure you assist them with matters that might be familiar to your U.S. employees. For example, make sure your new hire knows how to apply for a Social Security card if they do not already have one. If necessary, help your new hire open a U.S. bank account. Explain how the health care system works in the U.S. What is a 401k? Or a flexible spending account? When and how are taxes filed in the U.S.?
As mentioned earlier, there probably is no need to spend 8 hours on your new employee’s first day at the office to cover every possible issue that might come up within the next few days, weeks, or months, but make sure your new H-1B hire knows who to approach with those questions, and also make sure your HR team or immigration counsel is prepared to answer those questions. Oftentimes, rules and regulations are different for foreign workers than they are for U.S. workers.
Have a Designated Immigration Contact for Your Employee
As for every foreign employee, your company will have to stay on top of your new hire's H-1B visa requirements, deadlines, expiration dates, and so on. Make sure your new H-1B hire knows exactly who their point of contact is when it comes to immigration matters. This might be your in-house counsel, the immigration firm that your company works with, or a designated immigration official in your office.
In addition, be sure to make the H-1B visa and its requirements a central part of your new hire’s onboarding process. Even if you work with a team of attorneys that handle all immigration matters, it is essential your H-1B employee is aware of their own visa process and requirements, and is on top of any deadlines.
Involve the Team & Supervisor in the Onboarding Process
Your company might also have lots of H-1B employees, or perhaps only have a few. Either way, make sure to involve the team that will be working with your new H-1B hire in their onboarding process and beyond. Prepare them for the possibility that the new hire might need extra help with simple things around the office.
Also, encourage your U.S. employees to ask questions about your new H-1B hire’s home country, their culture, religion, family, heritage. The more involved they are, the easier it will feel for your new hire to feel like a part of the office and the team.