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Immigration for Businesses

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You have a non-U.S. citizen working at your business, so get a green card for him or her.

End of blog post.


It isn't that easy. But you knew that. Numerous factors influence immigration status:

-          Is the immigrant in the United States for the first time?

-          Is the immigrant from India, Canada or Nigeria?

-          Is the person an unskilled owner, part owner of the company or an artist?

The U.S. government provides information for businesses regarding non-U.S. citizen workers, but immigration is complex. Many businesses find the only way to navigate the field is to get a lawyer who specializes in immigration.

There are also resources available online to gain an understanding of the process of working with an immigrant.

Whether your business has an immigration attorney on speed-dial or is wading into the immigration pool without counsel, there are “dos” and “don’ts."


-   Don't believe there is such a thing as an “easy guide”. The first reliable Immigration guide that I found was over 400 pages long. Do not believe a pamphlet, or website, that explains immigration any more than you would believe a pamphlet that explains world history.

- Don't think a current legal immigrant is an expert. Immigration cases have many moving parts. Listening to a person who has immigrated successfully can be like getting advice on starting a pet shop from someone who runs a successful restaurant.

-   Don't ignore warning signs. Hiring an immigrant as an independent contractor to “keep your distance” may garner trouble. Businesses that have a reason to believe a new hire is using a fictitious name or social security number probably have a duty to investigate.

-  Don’t use ignorance as an excuse. Just as the state trooper will not allow ignorance of a speed limit as an excuse for speeding, government agencies may be less than willing to accept ignorance of a worker’s immigration status as an excuse from a business. And remember, it may not only be the illegal worker in legal trouble.


-  Do fix problems that you already have. Often, government agencies look more favorably on - and work better with businesses that engage in - self-reporting than on those “caught in the act.”

- Do document they way you insure you only employ legal hires. Train your human resources personnel and provide for an audit of HR files. The easiest way to execute the plan is to have a checklist in each file.

- Do make a plan before it is too late. Know the right steps to take before your worker leaves his or her country of origin can save, money, time, and hassle - also known as dealing with “red tape."

Christine Branstad


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