You may be like many employers in California and across the U.S. who are struggling to find specially skilled workers who qualify to fill open positions in your company or institution. As the number of students choosing to go to college after high school continues to drop, you are likely looking elsewhere for workers who have advantages to offer to your business.

If you are considering extending a job offer to a foreign national, it is important that you understand the steps you must take through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The government offers a limited number of visas for foreign nationals who desire to come to the U.S. to work on a temporary basis. If you have job openings requiring special skills, you may be able to take advantage of this program.

An overview of the process

The H-1B visa allows workers to immigrate to the U.S. for temporary work assignments that require qualifications you may not be able to find among U.S. workers. You may receive job applications from individuals or through databases connecting skilled workers with potential employers, and this may have presented you with a promising candidate. Such an applicant will have the following qualifications:

  • The candidate must have an educational background that includes at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution or a specific degree required by the industry.
  • In lieu of a U.S. degree, the applicant may have a degree from an overseas institution as long as it is equivalent to a degree one may obtain in the U.S.
  • He or she may possess a California license or certification allowing the candidate to work in the position for which you are hiring.
  • In lieu of a degree or certification, the applicant may possess enough training, experience and education that others in the field recognize the candidate as an expert.

Unless your job opening is in the U.S. Department of Defense, your first step is to file a Labor Condition Application to obtain certification from the DOD. Your LCA certificate and Form I-129 go to the USCIS for review. Upon approval, your candidate applies for an H-1B visa at the U.S. consulate or embassy in his or her home country. Your applicant must also request admission to the U.S. from Customs and Border Protection.

If successful, your new employee may remain in the U.S. for up to six years but may apply for an extension. You may be responsible for some expenses related to your new employee’s travel, and these are details with which you should be familiar. In fact, the process is quite complex, and you would certainly benefit from the guidance of an attorney experienced in the ever-changing H-1B immigration laws.