Hiring International Students: The Economic Advantage

Hiring an international student studying at a university in Michigan is an investment in our state’s economic future.  Michigan’s economy is currently evolving; it no longer relies heavily on the auto industry and manufacturing, it is moving toward a diversified, highly technological economy. This creates a need for new, creative recruiting strategies that allow access to previously untapped talent pools. Not filling the new positions that this technological economy provides will hinder the growth of Michigan’s economy.

Detroit is one of the fastest growing markets for tech jobs. For Michigan to keep up with this growth, we need to look at hiring international students with higher level degrees in these fields. The people who fill these high-level tech positions are innovators; they develop the new products of technologies that will put Michigan back to work, not take jobs away.

Other countries are currently changing their immigration policies to match their economic needs.  Since our lawmakers are currently at a standstill, we need to learn to work within the current regulations to keep this talent in Michigan and prevent international students from becoming competitors, taking their companies and their jobs to other states, or more likely, out of the US.

Studies show that:

  • Immigrants disproportionately contribute to economic growth, employment, and wage gains.
    • 25 percent of high tech companies in the U.S. from 1995-2005 had at least one immigrant founder
    • More than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies in 2010 included at least one immigrant founder or the child of an immigrant founder
    • Highly educated immigrants are twice as likely to hold patents, three times as likely to start their own businesses (In Michigan, immigrants are 6x as likely to start their own businesses)
    • 76% of patents from the top ten patent-producing universities in 2011 had a foreign born investor
    • Immigrants with entrepreneurial aspirations start their business an average of 13 years from arriving in the U.S., so hiring an international student means you may be hiring a future job creator.More than 50 percent of PhDs and in some cases, nearly 50% of the master’s degrees in the Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) fields are awarded each year in the U.S. to international students.
  • Michigan is currently experiencing a severe shortage of qualified engineering and IT talent—there are five engineering positions for each qualified job applicant.
  • The STEM fields are the fastest-growing job sector in the country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics however, forecasts a 230,000 STEM worker shortage by 2018.
  • As more and more companies become global, the need for multicultural awareness and global competency becomes paramount


Common Employer Concerns (i.e. “Myths”)

1. Aren’t I displacing a U.S. worker by hiring a foreign national?

No, Studies show hiring foreign nationals with advanced degrees promotes job growth.  For every 100 H-1B work visas approved, 183 new jobs are created each year.  If you control for just the jobs in the STEM fields, 262 new jobs are created. (link to “immigration and American jobs”?  see link below)

The reason for this is that for a foreign national employee to qualify for an H-1B,

  • The job must require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree
  • The foreign national must meet all job qualifications
  • The employer must pay the a salary equal to or more than the federally determined prevailing wage
  • Many foreign nationals hired into these positions are high level researchers, IT experts, and engineers – creating new products/technologies that will create jobs as all skill levels.

2. I don’t want to deal with all the red tape, I have heard too many horror stories

Negative experiences make it through networks much faster than success stories.  With proper planning and a well seasoned immigration attorney, the process is not that difficult.  There are two very common mistakes employers make that are the root of the majority of horror stories.

  • Not enough time to prepare visa application
    • Many employers think that the application can be prepared today and sent tomorrow.  These applications take time to prepare, it is important to plan appropriately so you can meet important deadlines.  For more information on employer sponsored work authorizations, click here.
    • International students come with their own work authorization that can last anywhere from 1-3 years, this will allow more than enough time to prepare a work visa application.
  • Hiring the cheapest attorney instead of the most qualified
    • Preparing a successful visa application takes the expertise of an experienced immigration attorney.  They know what documentation the US Immigration Service is looking for and how to prepare a successful application.  Hiring an attorney who doesn’t have experience with immigration applications is just like hiring a tax attorney to defend you in a criminal trial.
    • For more information on hiring an immigration attorney, click here.
  1. Is it worth my time, money, and effort? 

Immigrants are generally more loyal and stay longer

  • The average domestic graduate changes jobs every 2-3 years until age 35.  US employers generally value a more diversified resume for advanced professionals, so our culture does not promote staying with one employer for an extended period of time.
  • Most international students come from cultures where staying loyal to one employer is valued more than a diversified resume
  • May avoid turnover and training/relocation expenses
  • Even if an international student needs to return home at the end of his/her student employment authorization, you will have that employee the same amount of time as a domestic applicant. Therefore, you would not have to do anything different than you would for a domestic applicant
  1. Work visa applications are too expensive.

As an investment, the return is far greater than the expense.   Not only do you bring new perspectives to your company and expand networks, it’s cheaper to hire international students from Michigan universities on their own work authorization and change their visa status to an employer sponsored work visa when it expires.  The Math — employer currently pays 7.65% of salary for FICA/Medicare.  International students on F -1 or J-1 visas cannot benefit from social security, therefore they don’t have to pay into it which means neither does the employer.  Also, since domestic applicants tend to change jobs more often than foreign applicants, there may be turnover costs as well as more training costs.

Executive Action on Immigration

Executive Action on Immigration Reform from USCIS

The following was taken from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website regarding executive action on immigration reform:

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions that, in part, will modernize, improve, and clarify immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs to grow our economy and create jobs.

These immigration reform initiatives have not yet been implemented, and USCIS is not accepting any requests or applications at this time. Beware of anyone who offers to help you submit an application or a request for any of these actions before they are available. You could become a victim of an immigration scam. Visit the USICS Resources on Executive Actions page to get updates when new information is posted.

USCIS and other agencies and offices are responsible for implementing these initiatives as soon as possible. Some initiatives will be implemented over the next several months and some will take longer. Over the coming months, USCIS will produce detailed explanations, instructions, regulations and forms as necessary.

USICS will:

  • Work with the Department of State to develop a method to allocate immigrant visas to ensure that all immigrant visas authorized by Congress are issued to eligible individuals when there is sufficient demand for such visas.
  • Work with the Department of State to modify the Visa Bulletin system to more simply and reliably make determinations of visa availability.
  • Provide clarity on adjustment portability to remove unnecessary restrictions on natural career progression and general job mobility to provide relief to workers facing lengthy adjustment delays.
  • Clarify the standard by which a national interest waiver may be granted to foreign inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises to benefit the U.S economy.
  • Authorize parole, on a case-by-case basis, to eligible inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises who may not yet qualify for a national interest waiver, but who:
    • Have been awarded substantial U.S. investor financing; or
    • Otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting-edge research.
  • Finalize a rule to provide work authorization to the spouses of certain H-1B visa holders who are on the path to lawful permanent resident status.
  • Work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to develop regulations for notice and comment to expand and extend the use of optional practical training (OPT) for foreign students, consistent with existing law.
  • Provide clear, consolidated guidance on the meaning of “specialized knowledge” to bring greater clarity and integrity to the L-1B program, improve consistency in adjudications, and enhance companies’ confidence in the program.

USCIS is the official source of information about executive actions on immigration. Please visit and subscribe to their immigration action page for updates.

How to Hire an Immigration Attorney

Are you interested in filing for an H1-B visa in Michigan for 2015?

An H1-B visa allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. If you plan to file for an H1-B visa, hiring an immigration attorney may be in your best interest for many reasons, including:

  • US Immigration laws are some of the most complex, ever-changing laws in the government. An immigration attorney will have experience with these laws and be able to interpret them to your specific application.
  • While regulations and rules apply to all applicants, the facts and circumstances are never identical. An immigration attorney can determine how the law applies to your unique situation.
  • Many immigration issues involve other legal issues with which an immigration attorney should be familiar.

If you think you want to hire an immigration attorney, here are some steps to get you started:

  • Consider how much you are willing to pay an immigration attorney to help with your H1-B visa, but make sure you select your attorney based on quality, not price.
  • Ask if the attorney has worked with any cases similar to yours, to make sure they have experience with your specific case.
  • Choose an attorney who you are comfortable with. Make sure you are comfortable talking to and disclosing information to your attorney, as they will need to properly represent you. If you are shy or embarrassed around your attorney and withhold information, it may compromise your case. It is important to be truthful and comfortable around them.
  • It may be in your best interest to find an attorney who speaks your native language. This may be hard to find, but it is worth asking.

There is much more to consider, so make sure you do your research before hiring an immigration attorney! The first day that H1-B visas are accepted in 2015 is April 1. Visas are limited, so it is important to make sure your application arrives on that day so you have a greater chance for eligibility!

The time to hire an immigration attorney is now! Click here  for more information and our recommendations for hiring an immigration attorney.

The President Has Spoken on Immigration: What Does It Mean For YOU?

Among the recent presidential actions on immigration are provisions to modernize, improve and clarify immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to grow our economy and create jobs – with the greatest economic impact affecting U.S. businesses, foreign investors, researchers, inventors and skilled foreign workers.

While specifics won’t be known about changes to economic oriented immigration policy until the guidance and regulations are issued, the effect of changes in the regulations impacting foreign students will be primarily among F1 visa holders. For foreign students specifically, further expansion and extension of optional practical training (OPT) is being proposed which could open the door to great opportunity for both students and employers alike. The next step in this process is for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to develop regulations for notice and public comment on the changes. No timeline for this process has yet been established.

What this means for international students interested in staying in the US after graduation for experiential education could be profound, likely further extending the current 17 month STEM extension period, as well as the expanding the designated degree programs that qualify. Currently, certain students who graduate with a STEM degree are eligible to remain in the United States for an additional 17 months (beyond the standard 12 months) on an optional practical training (OPT) STEM extension. Students may qualify for an additional 17 months of OPT under the following circumstances:

  1. Your degree for your current period of post-completion OPT is a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM program listed on the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM designated degree program list
  2. The employer from which you are seeking work uses the E-Verify Program
  3. You have not already received a 17-month extension of OPT
    Approximately 10,000 students are currently working in Michigan on OPT, and over 29,000 international students are studying in Michigan colleges and universities. The purpose of the presidential actions relative to STEM expansion/extension is clear – to further open a pathway to experiential employment in the United States for talented foreign students to lessen the talent shortages so widely reported by employers, while improving the Michigan and national economies.

What can you do as a student? Prepare. Begin by completing a Free profile of yourself on the GTRI GOregistry, and make certain that you have a current “American styled” resume for employers to review.

What can you do as an employer? Prepare. Apply to GTRI to become a Global Opportunity Employer, GOemployer, and consider participating as an employer in the GOregistry for unlimited access to skilled global talent waiting to hear from you. To learn more about the GOregistry please contact Jeff at GTRI at or by calling 517-290-0853.