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How US Manufacturing Firms Can Hire Foreign Workers

5.75 minute read
"The United State’s manufacturing companies require huge numbers of foreign workers, both skilled and unskilled. Often, they prefer hiring foreign workers temporarily, later considering permanent options if the candidate’s relevancy to the operations is important."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Aug 9, 2021
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The United State’s manufacturing companies require huge numbers of foreign workers, both skilled and unskilled. Often, they prefer hiring foreign workers temporarily, later considering permanent options if the candidate’s relevancy to the operations is important. 

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offer various nonimmigrant and immigrant visa programs that facilitate the hiring of foreign workers by US manufacturing firms. 

What Are the Nonimmigrant Visas Options for Manufacturing Companies?

H-1B - Speciality Occupations

This is one of the most common visa programs used by US companies to hire foreign professionals. The H-1B Visa allows foreign nationals in specialty occupations to work in the US temporarily. The foreign national must have at least a bachelor’s degree in a specific field and a job offering the prevailing wage rate for their occupation. 

Manufacturing companies usually hire engineers, researchers, accountants, finance experts, and various Information Technology (IT) professionals through this visa classification. The main challenge of hiring through the H-1B Visa program is that there are only a limited number of spots available annually. Currently, the annual cap for the new H-1B Visas is 65,000, plus an additional 20,000 for applicants with a master’s degree or above from a US university. 

The USCIS also conducts a lottery to nominate applicants to file an H-1B Visa petition. The US employer is responsible for registering their employee for the lottery. The usual cap limit for the H-1B Visa lottery is 85,000. In March 2021, the USCIS received an estimated 300,000 H-1B lottery registrations for 85,000 spots. 

The H-1B Visa is usually issued for a period of 3 years, which can be later extended to 6 years. If you plan to stay in the US beyond 6 years, then you have to apply for US permanent residence. 

L1 Visas - Intracompany Transferees and Employees with Specialized Knowledge

This L1 Visa category is for foreign nationals who have been employed with a company that is an affiliate, subsidiary, or branch of a US parent company. This visa will allow the companies to transfer their senior-level managers or executives and their employees with specialized knowledge to the US branch. There are two types of visas available under this category:

  • L-1A Visa: for senior managers and executives
  • L-1B Visa: for employees with specialized knowledge of some aspect of the company’s operations

The L-1 Visas are usually issued for an initial period of 3 years. The L-1A Visa can be extended for 4 more years while the L-1B Visa can be extended for only 2 more years. 

TN Visa - Canadian and Mexican Professionals

The TN Visa is available for Canadian and Mexican citizens employed in one of the designated professions for the visa, for example, engineers, accountants, computer system analysts, scientists, researchers, etc. The TN Visa is issued for an initial 3 year period. 

It can be renewed again and again, given that employment in the US is always temporary. It is a relatively quick way for Canadian and Mexican workers to work in the US. 

E-2- Treaty Investor Visa

International businesses and entrepreneurs looking to establish a US entity can consider applying for the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. The E-2 Visa is available to citizens of countries that have treaties of commerce and navigation with the US. Investors can apply for the E-2 Visa to their nearest US Embassy or Consulate. 

If their application is approved, they will be authorized to send their key staff members to the US to establish their business. The key staff members must be employees in a supervisory, executive, or highly skilled position or essential to the operations of the business.

F-1 - Students

Most international students in the US have an F-1 Student Visa. F-1 Visa holders are allowed to work only under special circumstances. International students can generally work for up to one year after their graduation in Optional Practical Training (OPT). During this period, they may work in an occupation that is closely related to their field of study.

Students in STEM fields may even obtain an additional 24 months of their OPT work authorization if their employer uses the E-Verify Employment Verification System.

J-1 Exchange Visitor

The J-1 Exchange Student Visa is for young foreign workers who want to come to the US to learn about the American culture and expand their work experience. Exchange visitors work in many professional fields including researchers, teachers, students, interns, and trainers.

Manufacturing companies usually hire J-1 Exchange Visitors as interns and trainees for an employment period lasting from 12 to 18 months.

What Are the Immigrant Visa Options for Manufacturing Companies?

The above-mentioned visa categories are for temporary employment in the US. If an employer wants to hire a foreign worker permanently, they can sponsor the foreign workers for permanent residence, also commonly referred to as a Green Card, the official name is the Permanent Resident Card.

The Green Card will allow foreign nationals to work and live in the US permanently.

Since the process to sponsor your employee for permanent residence is quite long, it is best to start the process early within the first few years of their temporary residence in the US.

Certain nonimmigrant visas do not allow the holder to change their status to permanent residence in the US, such as the TN Visa. However, certain nonimmigrant visas like the H-1B Visa allow dual intent, meaning the ability to adjust status in the US.

Sponsoring your employee for permanent residence is a 3-step process:

Step 1- PERM Labor Certification

This process requires the employer to advertise the position being offered to the foreign worker. This is essentially done to conduct a good faith recruitment effort to see if a US worker is available domestically to fill the position.

The employer must ensure that the wage being offered is relevant to the occupation and the location of the job. Only when no US worker is available to fill the position will the immigration process for the foreign worker starts. Certain professionals under the L-1A Visa category can entirely skip this stage and start from Step 2.

Step 2- Filing Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker

Once the PERM Labor Certification is approved, the next step is to file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. This petition will evaluate the applicant’s eligibility to work in the position and ensure that the employer is offering the required salary to the foreign worker.

Step 3- Filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

It will take a few months for your I-140 petition to be approved. Based on your employee’s nationality, there might be a waiting period for the Green Card quota number to be available. This might take a few months or several years.

Once a quota number is available, the foreign national can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. They may include their immediate family members in their application. Once this application is approved, the foreign national will be granted status as a US permanent resident.

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