What Do Small Businesses Need to Know About Hiring Immigrants?

Immigrants make up a key part of the American economy, and they can be a valuable, integral element of the labor force. In the U.S. currently there is a lot of immigration coming from Central American countries, and some of these people are coming as asylum seekers, as they try to leave the drug and gang violence that’s ravaged Central America.

When immigrants come to the U.S., they often send money back to their families using services like Remitly, but they also energize the domestic economy. At the macro level, immigrants are an essential part of the American economy, but what about the micro level? What should small businesses know about hiring immigrants?


There are certainly advantages for businesses who consider hiring immigrants. Some immigrants come to the U.S. on visas such as the H-1B Person in Specialty Occupation, and of that particular group of visa holders, 45 percent have a bachelor’s degree, and 43 percent have a master’s degree. This makes these immigrants a strong asset for small business employers, particularly as one of the biggest problems facing many small businesses right now is a shortage of skilled, qualified talent.

Of the companies that sponsor between three and five H-1B visa applications, 30 percent are small businesses, according to research from the Migration Policy Institute. 1/3 of all employers say they’re likely to hire more foreign nationals in the next year.

Another big advantage for small businesses who hire foreign nationals is the opportunity to expand their reach to new customers. With employees who represent key demographics, it can be a great way for small businesses to be more competitive in who they target with things like marketing and advertising.

Hiring Illegal Immigrants

There is a distinction that has to be made between legal and illegal immigrants when businesses are hiring. Under federal law, it’s illegal for employers to hire undocumented immigrants, to actively recruit them, or to refer illegal immigrants for work opportunities in exchange for a fee.

There are certain things small business owners might not know. First, it’s illegal to hire contractors who utilize illegal immigrants as part of their labor force.

It’s also important to very work authorization, although there are specific guidelines as to how this is to be done.

Language Concerns

Along with legal issues, small business owners also have to think about other logistical concerns as they expand their potential talent pool to include immigrants. One such concern is language.

Many immigrants to the U.S. have some knowledge of English, but it may be valuable to small business employers to work on helping talented employees become fluent in English.  It’s important not only for interacting with customers or other employees, but also for safety reasons, and to ensure efficiency in productivity.

Small businesses are facing a significant problem when it comes to hiring right now. They don’t have the people they need, and by hiring immigrants from all backgrounds, small businesses stand to benefit, but they also need to make sure they’re proactive in dealing with things like legality and language barriers.