In 2018, immigrants comprised over 17% of the United States’ labor force. Many of these workers are permanent citizens, but some remain in the country on work visas.

Despite this figure, securing visas for foreign workers can prove challenging. And the process may take more time than is ideal. But by following these steps, you can make sure than employees from abroad have the legal right to work in the United States.

Determine your employee’s eligibility

A candidate could appear great on paper, and even in an interview. But once you’ve extended an offer, you might run into problems with their eligibility to work in the United States. Your candidate may have had past visa issues, or they could have a deportation on their record. And any affiliation with extreme political or religious groups also makes an employee ineligible. By law, you must file an Employee Eligibility Verification form (I-9). This form determines whether they can legally work in the United States. It must be completed no more than three days after hiring the employee.

Obtain certification for your employee’s visa

To hire foreign workers, you need certification from the Department of Labor (DOL). The agency must prove that your offer will not hurt wages, employment opportunities or conditions for native workers. Keep in mind that the number of visas the DOL certifies each year tops out around 140,000. Thus, having the correct certification can improve your employee’s odds of securing one.

Know what visa your employee will need

You may extend temporary contract offers to some employees. Since they will likely stay in the United States for a short period, they are eligible for a non-immigrant – or temporary – visa. If you lay off the employee or terminate their contract, this visa will expire.

Other employees may join your business in a more permanent role. In this case, they would qualify for an immigrant visa. This visa grants them permanent resident status. But first, you must prove that nobody in the United States can fill their role. You will also have to sponsor the employee’s visa. The process for obtaining one may take time – up to several years depending on their home country.

Hiring foreign workers can help grow and diversify your business. But the process is complex and may cause you plenty of headaches along the way. Consulting with an immigration lawyer can help you work through these challenges.