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Hiring Foreign National Employees

Overview

Hiring a foreign national employee differs significantly from hiring a U.S. citizen, and requires the hiring unit to obtain an employment-based visa before the individual can work in the U.S. The information in this section applies to hiring foreign nationals for non-student regular and temporary positions only, and applies to the following employment-based visa categories used at the University of Michigan:

  • H-1B Temporary Worker in a Specialty Occupation
  • J-1 Exchange Visitor
  • Permanent Residency (“green card”)
  • O-1 Alien of Extraordinary Ability
  • TN Trade NAFTA

The process of obtaining an employment-based visa can take up to 5 months to complete and may involve the following organizations:

  • U-M hiring unit
  • U-M International Center
  • U-M Human Resources and Affirmative Action
  • State of Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth
  • U.S. Department of Labor
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • U.S. Department of State

IMPORTANT:

  • To ensure compliance with U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Labor regulations, follow the hiring process and related information outlined in this section.
  • If you have any questions about hiring a foreign national employee, please contact the U-M International Center at 734.763.4081 or icfacultystaff@umich.edu.
  • For information on hiring unit and U-M International Center roles and responsibilities in the hiring process, refer to the U-M Standard Practice Guide: Employment of Non-U.S. Citizens external link
  • Hiring units are responsible for paying employment visa filing fees for the foreign national employee. Filing fees must not be passed on to the foreign national employee.

Hiring Process

The following information provides an overview of the hiring process, specifically as it relates to U.S. immigration and labor regulations. It indicates important U.S. federal rules and regulations that are unique to hiring foreign national candidates who are not permanent residents (“green card” holders). Hiring units may have additional steps in the hiring process that must be incorporated into this process. This section includes processes for:

Faculty Hiring

  1. Identify the need to hire, determine job responsibilities, determine candidate selection criteria, and create the job description.
  2. Determine the method(s) for advertising the position and recruiting candidates. Some positions will require a print ad in a national journal in addition to electronic ads if the possibility exists that your hiring unit may later sponsor the individual for permanent residency. Contact the U-M International Center to determine if the position will require a national print ad.
  3. Advertise the position.
  4. Review applications received.
  5. Select candidates to interview (i.e., the “short list”).
  6. Schedule interviews. Keep in mind that if you are considering foreign national candidates, the interview process may take longer if you require an in-person interview and the individual is not in the U.S. The foreign national candidate may be required to obtain a visitor visa to enter the U.S., even if only for the specific interview visit. A U.S. visitor visa may take time to obtain, depending on the location of the U.S. embassy or consulate and appointment schedules. Refer to Visa Wait Times external link
  7. Interview candidates.
  8. Select final candidate.
  9. Check references.
  10. Negotiate terms of employment (i.e., salary, start date).
  11. Contact the U-M International Center to determine an appropriate visa category for the position and to determine if there are any obstacles that may interfere with successful filing of an employment-based visa. For example, if your selected candidate is currently on a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa, he/she may need to obtain a waiver of the Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirement (212e) or return to his/her home country for two years before he/she can begin employment at U-M. Contact the U-M International Center for more information.

    NOTE: The U-M International Center will help you ensure that the correct visa type is selected for the position to comply with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services regulations. Review Determining an Appropriate Employment Visa Category below to understand your role and responsibilities in determining an appropriate employment visa category.
  12. After working with the U-M International Center to determine the appropriate visa category for the position, your hiring unit has the option of not extending a job offer to a foreign national candidate if (1) your department chooses not to pay immigration fees or (2) the immigration process will not be completed in time for the required start date.
  13. Draft and extend the offer letter, which must include required U-M wording to specify employment eligibility and immigration status. Refer to Requirements for Job Offer Letters below for the required U-M wording and other detailed information.
  14. Receive the signed offer letter from foreign national to confirm acceptance.
  15. Submit the appropriate paperwork to the U-M International Center to begin the employment visa application process. Refer to Visa Categories for U-M Faculty and Staff for detailed information and procedures for the appropriate visa category recommended by the U-M International Center.

    IMPORTANT: The selected candidate is not eligible to perform any services for the University, including volunteering, until the employment visa has been approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  16. On the employee's start date, ensure that the correct visa status and expiration date are recorded accurately on the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form. (Refer to Recording Visa Status and Expiration Dates on the I-9 Form below for detailed information.) The completed I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form must be completed and dated no later than the close of business the 3rd business day after the employee starts working.

Staff Hiring

  1. Identify the need to hire, determine job responsibilities, determine candidate selection criteria, and create the job description.
  2. Determine the method(s) for advertising the position and recruiting candidates.
  3. Advertise the position.
  4. Review applications received.
  5. Select candidates to interview (i.e., the “short list”).
  6. Schedule interviews. Keep in mind that if you are considering foreign national candidates, the interview process may take longer if you require an in-person interview and the individual is not in the U.S. The foreign national candidate may be required to obtain a visitor visa to enter the U.S., even if only for the specific interview visit. A U.S. visitor visa may take time to obtain, depending on the location of the U.S. embassy or consulate and appointment schedules.
  7. Interview candidates.
  8. Select final candidate.
  9. Check references.
  10. Negotiate terms of employment (i.e., salary, start date).
  11. Review the candidate's responses to the two work eligibility and immigration status questions completed when the candidate initially applied for the position in the eMploy system. To help you understand what the candidate's responses may mean to your hiring unit, refer to Work Eligibility Questions During the Application Process.
  12. Contact the U-M International Center to determine an appropriate visa category for the position and to determine if there are any obstacles that may interfere with successful filing of an employment-based visa. For example, if your selected candidate is currently on a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa, he/she may need to obtain a waiver of the Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirement (212e) or return to his/her home country for two years before he/she can begin employment at U-M. Contact the U-M International Center for more information.

    NOTE: The U-M International Center will help you ensure that the correct visa type is selected for the position to comply with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services regulations. Review information regarding Determining an Appropriate Employment Visa Category below to understand your role and responsibilities in determining an appropriate employment visa category.
  13. After working with the U-M International Center to determine the appropriate visa category for the position, your hiring unit has the option of not extending a job offer to a foreign national candidate if (1) your department chooses not to pay immigration fees or (2) the immigration process will not be completed in time for the required start date.
  14. Draft and extend the offer letter, which must include required U-M wording to specify employment eligibility and immigration status. Refer to Requirements for Job Offer Letters below for the required U-M wording and other detailed information.
  15. Receive the signed offer letter from foreign national to confirm acceptance.
  16. Submit the appropriate paperwork to the U-M International Center to begin the employment visa application process. Refer to Visa Categories for U-M Faculty and Staff for detailed information and procedures for the appropriate visa category recommended by the U-M International Center.

    IMPORTANT: The selected candidate is not eligible to perform any services for the University, including volunteering, until the employment visa has been approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  17. On the employee's start date, ensure that the correct visa status and expiration date are recorded accurately on the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form. (Refer to Recording Visa Status and Expiration Dates on the I-9 Form below for detailed information.) The completed I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form must be completed and dated no later than the close of business the 3rd business day after the employee starts working.

Important Information When Hiring for Research Positions (Export Controls)

Foreign national employees who come from countries that the U.S. government has determined to be state sponsors of international terrorism or who are being hired for work that is considered sensitive may experience greater U.S. government scrutiny when petitioning for employment-based visas, special licenses, or security clearances to determine that he/she does not pose a threat to the safety or national security of the United States. There are two challenges that these individuals may face:

Getting into the U.S.

Individuals who come from countries that the U.S. government has determined to be state sponsors of international terrorism may have a longer interview process at a U.S. consulate or embassy. The U.S. consulate or embassy may require the individual to further clarify their job responsibilities to determine if he or she is eligible to receive a visa to enter the U.S. Refer to Important Considerations for more information.

Being Allowed to Participate in Desired Research Projects

In some cases, depending on the nature of the research work, individuals may be restricted from participating in the research activity altogether, even once they have arrived in the U.S.

  • They might need a license from the export organizations in the U.S. Department of State or the Department of Commerce (or possibly, some other government agency) in order to participate in the desired research. Usually, this only is needed if there is research support under a contract that requires approval from the sponsor to publish the research results.
  • If the project involves classified information or items, the individuals may need a security clearance.
  • There could also be a problem if, in order to participate in the intended manner, the person would need access to information or computer software (e.g., from the sponsor or other research organizations) that is subject to certain controls under the export regulations.
  • Controlled information might be obtainable by access to certain equipment, devices or materials; therefore needed access to such items might be controlled under the regulations. If such access is needed, licenses might be required from the government.
  • Depending upon the country of the foreign nationals, the government may have a policy of denying licenses with regard to certain types of technology or in general.

Important Considerations

  • During the candidate selection and hiring process, identify any export control regulations or issues that would prevent the individual from obtaining approval for an employment-based visa, special licenses, or security clearances needed to perform the job.
  • If you select a foreign national employee for a research position, use one of the job offer letter templates written specifically for research positions to ensure that the letter is worded appropriately and to avoid misinterpretation of the terms of the position by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Refer to Research Faculty Offer Letters external link for the job offer letter templates.
  • If the foreign national employee is being hired for work that is considered sensitive, be aware that he/she may have a longer interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. To prepare for the interview, we recommend that you:
    • Provide the employee with a letter on U-M departmental letterhead, signed by the department chair, that describes, in detail, the nature of the research work, including if the research work is considered “dual use technology”. (“Dual use technology” means the potential for military application.)
    • Inform the employee that he/she should be prepared to answer detailed questions about his/her research position and work at U-M, and to use clear, direct language when responding to questions.

For More Information

Grounds of Inadmissibility

If the foreign national employee is currently residing outside the U.S. and requires a visa stamp to enter the U.S., he/she may be asked a series of questions by the U.S. embassy or consulate to determine if he/she is eligible to enter the U.S. The questions apply to the foreign national employee and any dependents. Not every person applying for an employment-based visa or other non-immigrant visa is allowed to enter the United States. For more information on common grounds that make an individual inadmissible, refer to Grounds of Inadmissibility.

Requirements for Job Offer Letters

If your final candidate is a foreign national, it is critical that the terms of the job offer and position be written clearly and concisely, and use wording that will not be misinterpreted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in reviewing the employment-based visa petition.

Required Immigration Status Wording for U-M Job Offer Letters

All U-M offer letters are required to use consistent wording to specify employment eligibility and immigration status. The wording approved by the U-M International Center, Office of the Vice-President and General Counsel, and Human Resources and Affirmative Action is as follows:

“This offer is contingent on your securing valid immigration status and work authorization before your expected start date and maintaining your valid immigration status and work authorization throughout your employment.”

If you have any questions about the appropriate use of wording used in your job offer letter, please contact the U-M International Center at 734.763.4081 or icfacultystaff@umich.edu.

Sample Job Offer Letters

For sample offer letters, refer to the following:

Determining an Appropriate Employment Visa Category

The U-M International Center is responsible for ensuring that the University of Michigan is in compliance with all U.S. immigration regulations. Although hiring units may determine and request the employment-based visa category needed for a particular position, the U-M International Center is the final and official authority for determining appropriate visa categories for U-M positions. To determine which visa categories might be appropriate, please follow these steps:

  1. Determine the purpose, scope, and duration of the position. A few key questions to consider include:
    • What is the expected duration of the position?
    • Is the purpose of the position for international exchange or employment?
    • What is the source of funding for the position? Is it funded by U-M or by a foreign country government?
  2. Refer to Comparison of U-M Employment-Based Visas pdf for an overview of employment-based visas available at U-M.
  3. Review specific visa category information on the U-M International Center web site for detailed information on eligibility criteria, documents needed, and the process to follow.
  4. Follow the process for the specific visa category to initiate the employment visa process with the U-M International Center.

Important Words of Caution

To avoid mistakenly requesting a visa type that does not comply with federal regulations:

  • Do not request a particular visa type simply because the processing time is faster, the filing fees are lower, or the visa category has fewer requirements, particularly if the true purpose, scope, and duration of the position align with another visa category. For example, tenure- track and tenured teaching positions always require an H-1B visa, not a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa.
  • Do not select a visa type simply based on the visa category held by the individual who held the position previously.

If the hiring unit requests a visa type that does not align with the purpose, scope, or duration of the position, the U-M International Center will notify the hiring unit of the issue, and advise the unit on the appropriate visa category needed.

If you have questions on determining appropriate visa types, contact the U-M International Center at 734.764.9310 or icenter@umich.edu.

Recording Visa Status and Expiration Dates Accurately on the I-9 Form

The University of Michigan must verify employment eligibility for all employees, including foreign national employees. Whether a foreign national employee is new to the University or has simply changed jobs within the University, visa status and expiration dates must be recorded and maintained for the duration of the foreign national's employment at U-M.

The hiring unit records this information initially on the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form, and U-M Human Resources and Affirmative Action enters the information from the I-9 form into the M-Pathways system.

To ensure that I-9s are completed accurately, refer to U-M Human Resources and Affirmative Action's I-9 Tutorial. If a foreign national’s I-9 is approaching its expiration date, please refer to I-9 Expiration Information for information and instructions based on the foreign national’s current immigration status.


Last reviewed: 02/13