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Employer’s guide to hiring international employees

9 min read
hiring international employees

Remote work has lowered the barriers between businesses and global talent, making it a perfect time for employers to build international teams. The benefits of hiring international employees include increased productivity and inclusivity, as well as access to a wider talent pool. However, navigating the complexities of international hiring requires understanding local payroll, taxes, benefits, and compliance, which can often be confusing, especially if you are a small business.

In today’s HR guide, we will explore everything you need to know about international hiring, including the legal aspects you need to keep in mind, and the benefits and drawbacks of hiring international employees. We will also explain how using the right tools and strategies can help you effectively hire and manage top talent from all around the world.


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Legal factors to consider while hiring international employees

Perhaps the most important aspect to consider when hiring international employees is HR compliance. You need to make sure you are up to date with all employment laws relating to international hiring, including visa requirements, employment eligibility, and tax and social security obligations.

The best way to check this is by conducting thorough research from an official source. For example, American companies hiring international employees should consult resources provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you are hiring international employees in Canada, in turn, you will need to consult the IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada).

Here’s a bit of information to get you started from the perspective of a US employer:

  • Employment eligibility verification. US employers are required to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all employees, including international hires, by completing Form I-9.
  • Visa and work authorization. International employees may require visas or work permits to legally work in the United States. Familiarize yourself with the various visa categories, such as H-1B for skilled workers or L-1 for intra-company transfers.
  • Labor and employment laws. International employees are entitled to the same labor and employment rights and protections as US citizens. Familiarize yourself with federal, state, and local laws governing minimum wage, overtime, workplace safety, discrimination, and harassment to ensure compliance.
  • Taxes and payroll. Keep in mind that international employees may have unique tax obligations. Consult with a tax specialist to determine proper withholding requirements, tax treaties, and any reporting obligations associated with hiring international employees.
  • Social Security and benefits. Determine whether your international employees are subject to US Social Security tax and eligible for benefits (some countries have bilateral agreements with the US that exempt certain employees from Social Security tax).

Benefits of hiring international employees

Hiring international employees offers numerous benefits to employers.

Here are some key advantages to consider:

  • Expand your talent pool. International hiring provides an opportunity to diversify your recruitment funnel and access a wider range of qualified candidates, helping you overcome any potential limitations in the local talent market. Opening up your recruitment and selection strategy in this way also provides you with the opportunity to focus more on skills-based hiring, giving you a competitive edge. This is particularly beneficial when it comes to small business hiring.
  • Reach more markets. International employees can bring language skills, cultural insights, and expertise in specific markets, helping you expand and develop your business globally.
  • Create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. By hiring an international workforce, organizations can experience a significant boost in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). This can help you build a dynamic and enriching work environment that drives employee performance and enhances creativity and innovation.
  • 24/7 operations and flexibility. Including international hiring in your talent acquisition strategy can help you extend your operational hours, provide customer support around the clock, and increase flexibility in meeting project deadlines. This can enhance efficiency, productivity, and customer satisfaction, particularly for businesses with global operations or clients in different time zones.
  • Increased cultural competence. Employing individuals from different countries enhances the cultural competence of your organization and promotes understanding, respect, and inclusivity within the workplace. What’s more, international employees can act as ambassadors, bridging language and cultural gaps and facilitating better communication and collaboration with clients, partners, and customers.
  • Global market insights. Finally, hiring international employees can help you access firsthand knowledge and insights into international markets, consumer behaviors, and business practices. This understanding can help you adapt your products or services to international markets more effectively.

Challenges of hiring international employees

Although there are a great many benefits to this recruitment strategy, hiring international employees comes with its fair share of challenges. The key to success is understanding these challenges, seeking professional advice when needed, and leveraging the right tools and technology to help you maximize the benefits of hiring a global workforce.

Here are some key challenges to consider:

  • Immigration and work permits. Obtaining the necessary visas and work permits for international employees can be a complex and time-consuming process. Employers must stay updated on immigration regulations and work with immigration specialists to ensure compliance.
  • Legal and regulatory compliance. Complying with international labor laws, tax regulations, and employment standards can be challenging. Employers need to understand the legal requirements of both their home country and the country where the international employee will be working. This includes minimum wage laws, employment contracts, and tax obligations.
  • Language and cultural barriers. Communication and cultural differences can sometimes make it difficult to manage international employees. This is especially true in terms of language barriers and differences relating to work practices and communication styles.
  • Time zone and remote work challenges. Hiring international employees often means dealing with different time zones, which can also impact communication and collaboration. Establishing efficient communication channels and accommodating remote work arrangements is therefore crucial for maintaining effective teamwork.
  • Benefits and payroll administration. Managing international employee benefits, payroll, and taxes can be complex as each country has its own regulations and requirements.
  • Onboarding. Incorporating international employees into the organization can be difficult, especially if they work remotely. That’s why it’s so important to have a comprehensive onboarding program in place with the right tools and technology to support it.

How to hire a foreign employee

Whether you’re recruiting internally or externally, it’s essential that you follow a series of defined steps when you hire an international employee. We are now going to explore these steps to help you design your own international hiring process checklist.

Determine work authorization

Firstly, make sure the candidate you are evaluating has the legal right to work in the US. Request relevant documents, such as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), work visa, or proof of permanent residency.

Keep in mind that work authorization can vary based on factors such as visa status, citizenship, and employment eligibility categories. Thoroughly review and validate the candidate’s documents to ensure they are eligible to work in the United States before proceeding with the hiring process.

Evaluate labor certification requirements

Secondly, you need to determine if the position requires labor certification through the Department of Labor’s PERM process. This process ensures that hiring a foreign employee will not negatively impact job opportunities for qualified US workers. Assess whether the role meets the criteria for labor certification, such as proving that there is no qualified US worker available for the position.


If the candidate does not possess work authorization, consider sponsoring them for a visa. Sponsorship is where you obtain a specific work visa on behalf of the employee. This typically requires submitting the appropriate visa application and supporting documents and demonstrating the qualifications and need for hiring a foreign employee. It’s a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney to determine the appropriate visa category and navigate the complex sponsorship process.

File petitions

The next step is submitting the necessary forms and supporting documents to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Typically, this includes Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) and Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) for employment-based visas. You also need to include supporting documents such as job offer letters, labor certification (if applicable), and proof of the candidate’s qualifications. Adhere to USCIS guidelines, pay the required fees, and ensure accurate and timely submission.

Monitor application status

Track the progress of the visa application through USCIS’s online system and stay updated on the application’s status. Make sure you respond to any USCIS requests to avoid delays in processing. Being proactive in this way helps you keep the process of hiring international employees on track.

Ensure employment law compliance

Familiarize yourself with employment laws and regulations relating to hiring international employees, including tax requirements and reporting obligations. You also need to make sure you comply with federal and state laws related to wage and hour requirements, workplace safety, and anti-discrimination practices. Additionally, ensure that international employees receive appropriate benefits and understand their rights within the organization.

Moreover, stay updated on changes to immigration laws and maintain proper records for the duration of their employment.

Relocation and onboarding

Finally, once a candidate’s visa has been approved and they have accepted your offer, the next step in the hiring international employees process is helping them with relocation (if needed) and onboarding. This last step is essential as it helps your new recruit seamlessly transition into their new role and environment.

Start by assisting them with practical matters such as finding housing, transportation, and obtaining a Social Security Number. Familiarize them with the local area and connect them with relevant resources and support networks.

In terms of onboarding, create a comprehensive orientation program specifically tailored to international employees. This should include an introduction to company policies, procedures, and expectations. It should also include information about benefits, payroll, and tax requirements. Provide them with access to necessary tools, technology, and training to ensure they can perform their job effectively. You could even assign them to a mentor or buddy to guide them during their first few weeks.

Above all, make sure you create a welcoming and inclusive work environment where international employees feel comfortable expressing themselves and contributing their unique perspectives.

Employers hiring international students

Hiring international students can be a beneficial strategy during situations like a hiring freeze or a quiet hiring period, offering a number of unique benefits for employers.

For one thing, hiring international students brings diverse perspectives and cultural exchange to the workplace. They can contribute unique ideas, insights, and experiences, fostering creativity and innovation within the team. Plus, hiring international students can serve as a talent pipeline for future recruitment. How? Because by building relationships with these students during their academic journey, you can identify top talent and potentially offer long-term employment opportunities within the organization.

Here’s what employers should know about hiring international students:

  • Work authorization. Before hiring international students, it is crucial to verify their work authorization status. International students in the United States typically hold an F-1 visa, which allows them to work on-campus or through certain authorized off-campus employment programs.
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT). International students may be eligible for OPT. This option provides them with an opportunity to gain practical work experience related to their field of study. OPT allows employers to hire international students for up to 12 months (or 24 months for STEM graduates) without needing to sponsor a work visa.
  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT provides international students with the opportunity to engage in employment related to their academic program. Employers can hire international students with CPT authorization for specific work experiences while they are still enrolled in their studies.

Hiring remote international employees

You have two options when you hire international employees. You can hire them to work at your premises and assist them with relocation. Or you can hire remote international employees and expand your hybrid workforce.

Let’s explore a few things to keep in mind when you hire remote international employees.

Firstly, make sure that your company has the necessary infrastructure and tools in place to support remote work. This includes reliable communication channels, scheduling software, recruitment analytics, and secure data-sharing platforms. You also need to make sure you have employee time-tracking software so that you can monitor and record employee hours remotely.

Secondly, you need to make sure you are familiar with all employment laws in the countries where your remote international employees are based. This includes compliance with local labor laws, tax obligations, and benefits requirements. Consider consulting legal and tax professionals to navigate the complexities of international employment compliance.

Thirdly, in terms of the hiring process itself, it’s essential that you have a reliable applicant tracking system (ATS) in place. That way, you can track each stage of your remote recruitment funnel. The solution you pick should include features for job posting and distribution, candidate sourcing and screening, and interview scheduling and coordination. It should also include collaborative evaluation and feedback tools as well as automated status updates.

Finally, you also need to make sure you have a platform in place for remote employee onboarding. Keep in mind that your remote employees won’t be physically located at your premises, so it’s important to offer them all the resources and support they need at this stage. That way, it will be easier for them to integrate with the organization and feel like they are a member of your team from their first day.


Hire and manage top talent from around the world

As we saw above, hiring international employees can offer a number of appealing benefits. However, it can also present certain unique challenges for organizations. Using the right tools and software can help you overcome these hurdles and unlock the full potential of an international workforce.

For example, Factorial’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS) offers a range of valuable features that can help organizations build a productive and motivated international workforce. These features, available through a handy hiring dashboard, include:

  • Job posting and distribution. Factorial’s ATS allows you to create and publish job postings through multiple job boards and platforms, ensuring maximum visibility for your international job openings.
  • Candidate sourcing and screening. The ATS provides tools for sourcing candidates from various channels, including job boards, career sites, and social media platforms. It also includes automated screening capabilities, such as resume filtering and keyword matching, to help you efficiently identify qualified candidates.
  • Interview scheduling and evaluation. You get access to a range of interview scheduling features, allowing you to easily schedule and coordinate remote interviews with international candidates. You can also easily review candidate profiles, provide feedback, and rate applicants, streamlining the evaluation process.
  • Automated status updates. Keep candidates informed about their application statuses and next steps throughout the hiring process. This helps maintain a positive candidate experience and saves time for HR teams.
  • Multi-language capabilities. The platform supports multiple languages, enabling seamless communication with international candidates in their preferred language.

Not only that, but Factorial’s HRIS also includes custom onboarding features so that you can design an efficient and informative onboarding process for your new, international employees. All this whilst ensuring data protection and legal compliance. That way, you can navigate the complexities of hiring international employees with confidence and build a diverse and talented global workforce.

Cat Symonds is a freelance writer, editor, and translator. Originally from Wales, she studied Spanish and French at the University of Swansea before moving to Barcelona where she lived and worked for 12 years. She has since relocated back to Wales where she continues to build her business, working with clients in Spain and the UK.  Cat is the founder of The Content CAT: Content And Translation, providing content development and translation services to her clients. She specializes in corporate blogs, articles of interest, ghostwriting, and translation (SP/FR/CA into EN), collaborating with a range of companies from a variety of business sectors. She also offers services to a number of NGOs including Oxfam Intermón, UNICEF, and Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation Leadership.  For more information or to contact Cat visit her website ( or send her a message through LinkedIn.

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