Moving to the United States: Relocation Guide

Are you looking to relocate talent to the United States? As an economic superpower, the US attracts many talented individuals and is a hub for growing business across several sectors. It comes as no surprise that its immigration rules can be varied and complex. 

Whether you’re looking to move employees on a temporary basis, or relocate them as a permanent resident, there are several paths you and your talent can take. This relocation guide gives you a glimpse of some of the options available, alongside advice on how to get settled in the US once their visa is confirmed.

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Moving to the United States: Employee Relocation Guide
Moving to the United States: Employee Relocation Guide - Sponsoring foreign nationals

Sponsoring foreign nationals

Employer sponsorship is generally required for foreign nationals to legally work in the US. And it’s relatively common for the employer to sponsor an employee for a resident green card if the worker hasn’t acquired permanent residence through another method.

Your company should also expect to pay the costs associated with visa sponsorship, as the law either requires payment by the employer or such practice is customary. 

This includes government filing fees, service provider fees, platform fees and other related expenses. With all that in mind, this guide is intended to provide a base-level understanding of certain common types of US immigration classifications and how they may be suited to different scenarios involving hiring foreign nationals to work in the US.

What are the most common visa options for the United States?

Moving to the United States - H-1B: Tech workers and other professional/specialized jobs

H-1B: Tech workers and other professional/specialized jobs

H-1B sponsorship is one of the most well-known ways to hire skilled foreign professionals in specialized fields. Generally, once an employee is granted H-1B status, they’re able to hold and renew it for up to 6 years — or longer for many people undergoing green card sponsorship. A few things to consider:

📌 Skills requirement: The employee must fall within the “specialty occupation workers” category, where the offered job requires at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in a specialized field of study related to the work. The sponsored employee also needs to have the qualifications required for the position.

📌 Wage requirements: Wage requirements differ depending on the type of job and seniority, where it will be performed, and how much the employer usually pays US employees in the same position with similar qualifications.

📌 Changes to employment: H-1B employment is specific to the terms listed in the petition, so changes in an employee’s position, employing entity, and work location may require a filing to amend their H-1B status.

📌 Limited availability: Only a limited number of people can be approved for first-time H-1B use each year, resulting in a lottery that the government uses to identify who will be eligible to be sponsored. As more US employers seek to fill critical workforce needs with high-quality non-US talent, the demand for the limited number of first-time H-1B slots increases, far exceeding the legal limit.

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Moving with family to the United States

Your talent may want to move to the US with family members based on their individual situation. There are several options to do this depending on the type of visa they are acquiring. 

H1-B visa: 

  • Spouses and children (unmarried sons and daughters under the age of 21) are eligible for H-4 status
  • H-4 status holders generally can’t work in the US
  • H-4 status holders may be eligible to apply for employment authorization if the H-1B status holder has arrived at specific milestones in the green card sponsorship process
  • H-4 status holders are generally eligible to study in the US

E1 visa:

  • Spouses of E-1 or E-2 status holders are generally authorized to work upon entry to the US in E-1 or E-2 status and should not need to apply for work authorization separately
  • Children (unmarried sons and daughters under the age of 21) are granted E-1 or E-2 status (corresponding to the principal E status-holding parent)

L1 visa:

  • Spouses and children (unmarried sons and daughters under the age of 21) may be granted L-2 status
  • Spouses of L-1 status holders are generally authorized to work upon entry to the US in L-2 status and should not need to separately apply for work authorization

Green Card:

  • When your employee is informed by the authorities that they can apply for a green card, their spouse and unmarried children under 21 can apply as dependents at the same time. 
  • Employers can’t directly petition for the employees’ spouse or children. 

How to get a social security number

If your employees are relocating to the United States, obtaining a Social Security Number (SSN) is an essential step, especially if they  plan to work or engage in financial transactions. Here's a guide on how to get the SSN:

Eligibility: Generally your employees must have authorization to work in the United States. This typically includes US citizens, permanent residents (or green-card holders), and individuals with certain types of work visas. In some cases, non-citizens might also be eligible for purposes such as receiving government benefits or filing taxes. 

Necessary documents: 

  • Identity documents, such as valid passport, birth certificate, or immigration document; 
  • Work authorization document: Evidence of work authorization, such as an employment authorization document (EAD) or visa documentation;
  • Completed application form: A filled out Form SS-5, which is available on the Social Security Administration (SSA) website or at your local SSA office.

Visiting the SSA office: You can find the nearest SSA office using their office locator tool on their website. Scheduling an appointment isn’t always required, but it’s recommended to avoid waiting times. At the SSA office, your employee would bring all necessary documents, submit their application form, and may have their photograph taken for their SSN card. 

Receiving the SSN card: After the application is processed, the SSN card will reach your employees by mail within a few weeks. The SSN remains the same throughout their lifetime, even if their immigration status changes.

Taxes in the United States

Understanding taxes and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is crucial for individuals relocating to the United States. Here's a guide to navigate the tax system:

Determine tax filing status and year: Tax filing status depends on your employees’ residency status. Resident aliens are taxed on their worldwide income, while nonresident aliens are only taxed on income earned in the US. The US tax year runs from January 1 to December 31. Employees can determine which tax year they should be filing for based on their arrival date in the US.

Getting a tax identification number: If your employees have a Social Security Number, that also serves as their identification number. If employees are not eligible for an SSN but need to file taxes, they can apply for an Individual Identification Number (ITIN) from the IRS. 

Understand tax obligations:

  • Federal Income Tax: As a resident alien, employees are subject to federal income tax on their worldwide income. Nonresident aliens are taxed only on income earned in the US. Use IRS Form 1040 to file your federal income tax return.
  • State and Local Taxes: In addition to federal taxes, employees may also be subject to state and local income taxes, depending on the state where they reside. 
  • Employment Taxes: As the employer, you will likely have to withhold taxes from paychecks for federal income tax, Social Security, and Medicare. You will also have to provide employees with a Form W-2 at the end of the tax year, summarizing their earnings and tax withholdings.

Filing Tax Returns:

  • Determine Filing Status: Your employees will need to determine whether they are filing as single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, or head of household.
  • Gather Necessary Documents: Relevant documents income statements (e.g., W-2s, 1099s), deductions, credits, and any other tax-related documents.
  • File Tax Return: Employees can use tax preparation software or seek assistance from a tax professional to prepare and file their tax return. They can file electronically using the IRS's e-file system or mail a paper return to the IRS.
  • Pay Any Tax Owed: If your employees owe taxes, they should make payment arrangements with the IRS online, by mail, or through an installment agreement.

Health insurance in the United States

Navigating the healthcare system and understanding insurance options can be daunting for individuals relocating to the United States. Here's a guide to help you understand healthcare and insurance in the US:

Employer-Sponsored Insurance: Many employers offer health insurance coverage to their employees as part of their benefits package. This typically includes options for individual and family coverage, with the employer often covering a portion of the premium.

Individual Health Insurance: Individuals who do not have access to employer-sponsored insurance can purchase individual health insurance plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace or directly from insurance companies. These plans offer coverage for essential health benefits, including preventive care, emergency services, and prescription drugs.

Government Programs: The US government provides healthcare coverage through programs such as Medicare for individuals aged 65 and older, and Medicaid for low-income individuals and families. Eligibility requirements vary by state.

COBRA Coverage: Individuals who lose their job or experience a qualifying life event may be eligible for COBRA continuation coverage, which allows them to temporarily continue their employer-sponsored health insurance plan, typically at their own expense.

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