Employers Offering More Perks to Attract Talent from Abroad

Green card sponsorship increasing, survey shows

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer April 12, 2018
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​Employers are addressing the high demand for global talent by investing in competitive perks for foreign national hires, a new study shows.

Chicago-based immigration services provider Envoy surveyed 401 HR professionals and hiring managers in late 2017 about their immigration processes and challenges. The survey found that demand for foreign workers remains high, despite stricter federal immigration policies, as reported by SHRM Online.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said they expect their foreign national head count to increase in 2018, while 70 percent said sourcing foreign talent is important to their hiring strategy, an increase of 7 percentage points from the previous year. A significant majority (88 percent) of employers are addressing the competition for foreign talent by covering immigration-related costs such as relocation and housing and travel, and also offering dependent support.


"I have seen that trend increase in the past five to 10 years," said Ann Cun, founder and managing attorney of Accel Visa Attorneys, an immigration law firm in San Leandro, Calif. "We have an increasingly mobile and global workforce. And if you move individuals around the world, you have to offer incentives in order to entice them to take on life-altering decisions that don't just impact the worker but their entire family."

The competition is especially fierce for those who possess high-level skills in technology.

"There is a continuing imbalance between supply and demand for talent," said Dick Burke, president and CEO of Envoy. "The jobless rate is very low by historic standards, and even lower if focused on college-educated workers. But companies are hiring. Employers are bullish about the economy. And driven by the lack of U.S. universities graduating people with STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] degrees, they look overseas."

Because demand is so high, employers are pulling out all the stops to look attractive to prospective employees, Burke said. Including immigration-related perks in a job offer and referencing those perks during the recruiting process is becoming more critical.

[SHRM members-only online discussion platform: SHRM Connect]

Top Immigration-Related Perks

Employers include the following perks to attract foreign national talent, according to the survey:

  • Dependent support (92 percent), primarily in green card application processing, cultural assimilation and language instruction.
  • Relocation expenses, such as moving costs (41 percent).
  • Housing costs (39 percent). Seventy-one percent said they pay for temporary housing, and 32 percent pay for mortgage-related benefits.
  • Travel expenses (30 percent). Among these, 72 percent include free airfare for their foreign national employees to visit their home countries, and 59 percent offer airfare for the employees' immediate family members to do so.
  • Transportation costs (30 percent). Among the 30 percent of employers that cover transportation perks for foreign nationals, 57 percent pay for rental cars, 52 percent pay for company cars and 45 percent pay for a car for an employee's spouse or family members.
  • Cultural-assimilation services (29 percent).
  • Destination services (29 percent) such as local orientation, and home and school searches.

Twelve percent said they do not offer immigration-related perks, down from 17 percent in 2017.

[Do you need to learn more about employment-related immigration? Looking for some recertification credits for your HR credential? See these SHRM eLearning courses on how to manage immigration in your workplace. Many SHRM eLearning programs offer professional development credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP credentials.]

Green Card Sponsorships Up

Perhaps the ultimate perk for talent from abroad is the chance to attain permanent residency in the United States. Employers are offering green card sponsorship sooner and more often, according to the study. "We believe green card sponsorships are going up because of the uncertainty around the H-1B program and other temporary work visas," Burke said.

Seventy percent are sponsoring employment-based green cards for their foreign national employees, 37 percent are sponsoring more green cards this year than last, and 35 percent are sponsoring them immediately upon hire, an increase from the 30 percent of immediate sponsorships reported in 2017. Almost half (47 percent) pay all green card fees for employees, and 69 percent sponsor based on performance.

Nineteen percent of respondents are sponsoring fewer green cards this year than in 2017.

U.S. companies are also getting creative to attract and retain valuable international talent by coming up with ways to expedite the green card process.

"Companies willing to take the additional steps to adopt a formal, proactive program to help promote employees in a way that builds their professional dossier so that they can qualify for a shorter, more expedited priority classification will boost the value the worker feels within the company, strengthen loyalty and increase retention," Cun said.

It's an idea she's explored with a few corporate clients. Offering green card sponsorship has become almost table stakes for many in the technology sector, and because talent from India can wait for up to a decade in backlog lines, how can an employer wanting to attract the best stand out? "Even if companies agree to start the green card process for a new hire, there's nothing that can be done to change the backlogs," Cun said.

An alternative is building qualifications for workers so they can move from the EB-3 and EB-2 green card categories for skilled and professional workers to the less populated EB-1 category for priority workers. Ways to support eligibility for the higher status include giving foreign national employees opportunities and projects that allow them to take charge and get recognized, and then documenting it, she said.

"That also means that you can't hide everything behind an NDA [nondisclosure agreement] and shroud it in secrecy. That will be hard for a lot of tech companies, especially, worried about competitors poaching their workers."

But it will be "really hard to lure these workers away" if they really enjoy what they are doing, receive recognition for it and are on track to get a green card faster, she added.

"I'm not saying that implementing these steps will absolutely guarantee being moved to the EB-1 category, but thinking outside the box" will give companies that extra edge in the competition for foreign national talent, she said.

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