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By Lauretta Codrington

Art of hiring and keeping foreign workers

Joseph Lagat was born in Lagos, Nigeria. He traveled to the USA on an F-1student visa, attending (EMU) Eastern Michigan University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in finance. Joseph wanted to extend his stay in the USA, so he applied for an (OPT) Optional Practical Training 24-month extension1 at the international student office at EMU. The accounting firm where he spent the last 12 months is registered with Homeland Security’s E-verify database. As a result, both Joseph and the accounting firm met the requirements for the OPT extension.


Heather Knox is the HR Generalist who managed the onboarding activities for Joseph. When he arrived at the office for orientation, she showed him the company video and then walked him through the onboarding paperwork. This included the handbook, job description, W-4 Employee Withholding Allowance form, I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form, I-193 Training Plan for OPT Student Form, and Healthcare opt-in/out-forms.

Since Joseph will be working closely with the research department, Heather included a Non-disclosure agreement. As an OPT employee, Joseph has reporting obligations and fees to Eastern Michigan University’s Office of International Students and Scholars. He is required to submit a copy of his Employment Authorization Document. This is form I-765 and is issued by (USCIS) United Stated Citizenship and Immigration office2. Joseph is required to report any changes in his address, and any other lifestyle changes that will affect his immigration standing.

Permanent employment

Joseph and the accounting firm agreed that six months before his OPT program is completed, the company would petition USCIS to make Joseph a full-time permanent employee. Joseph’s degree in finance is a complement to his OPT program with the firm. During Joseph’s time with the company thus far, he has had an opportunity to train with the international division as well as the insurance division making him the Subject Matter Expert in a created position entitled “International Finance and Insurance Broker.”

This would require the company to petition the US Citizenship and Immigration Services using form I-129 Petition for an H-1B Nonimmigrant Worker. The base cost of the form, as of January 17, 2017, is $460. Some of the requirements include: applying to the Department of Labor for a Labor Condition Application certificate3, providing evidence of the uniqueness of the position and Joseph’s credentials as the only candidate to meet the criteria.

Heather completed the onboarding meeting with Joseph where they went over each document and spent time in discussion about his contractual agreement with the company. Part of Joseph’s responsibility will be to travel to the company’s headquarters in India once per quarter or four times per year. OPT has a travel policy that Joseph must consider when traveling. The OPT travel requirements include having a valid passport six months prior to the travel date; verifying I-20 has the accounting agency contact information listed, and having a valid visa stamp. Having all this in place will allow for a smooth process while Joseph travels.

In order to stay on top of reporting issues for Joseph’s OPT program and the USCIS, as a condition of employment, Joseph will meet with HR on a quarterly basis to ensure that all requirements are being met and on time.

Article sources

1Eastern Michigan University Office of International Students

2 United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

3United States Department of Labor

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