Take home message: Departments employing foreign nationals, either as faculty or staff, must make sure that those foreign nationals obtain an appropriate visa before coming to the United States – or if they are already in the U.S., verify that they are legally authorized to work for U-M. Departments hiring international students or scholars must also ensure that the employment is lawfully authorized under the terms of their student or scholar visas.
Note: if you are travelling overseas for work or study abroad, see the Travel Compliance page.
- Hiring a foreign national employee differs significantly from hiring a U.S. citizen, and requires the hiring unit to obtain an employment-based visa before the individual can work in the U.S. – see the International Center’s overview of Hiring Foreign National Employees for a detailed overview of the different visa options, and the processes and U-M units involved.
- If a foreign national is being employed for a research position, identify any export control regulations or issues that may prevent the individual from obtaining approval for an employment-based visa, licenses, or security clearances needed to perform the job (for instance, if they are from a country that the U.S. government has determined to be sponsors of international terrorism): see Important information when hiring for research positions.
- Visa categories: The International Center is the final and official authority for determining the most appropriate visa categories for U-M positions: see Determining an Appropriate Visa Category for guidance on how to determine what visa best fits a particular position. If a foreign national is brought to work at U-M under an inappropriate visa, then the whole of U-M risks losing its ability to sponsor international students, scholars and employees.
- Hiring international students: international students who are present in the U.S. on an F-1 or J-1 visa are entitled to work for U-M in limited circumstances: see the International Center pages on Employment Options for F-1 Students or Employment Options for J-1 Students.
- Visiting Scholars and Visiting Professors (J-1 visas) are entitled to work for U-M in connection with their area of expertise; and are entitled to engage in occasional lecturing or consulting that is incidental to their research or scholarship, but such activities must be specifically authorized in advance by the International Center in order to be lawful: see Incidental Employment for J-1 Visiting Scholars and Professors for guidance, as well as the Departmental Administrators’ FAQs about J status. However, note that J-1 visas are never appropriate for tenure-track positions, nor for medical doctors engaged in patient care.
- Federal law requires that U-M complete a Form I-9 for all new employees, to verify their identity and work eligibility. For foreign national employees, the documentation required to complete the I-9 form is different than for U.S. citizens, and it is important that the I-9 form accurately notes the period of work authorization under the foreign national’s U.S. visa. For more information about I-9 forms in general, see our separate compliance page on Employment Issues and HR’s page on I-9 Guidelines: When/how is the I-9 completed.
- When an employee’s work authorization (and I-9 form) is close to expiring (for instance, because their visa has a limited period during which they are authorized to work at U-M), action will need to be taken if departments wish to extend the term of employment, which the International Center can assist with: see the I-9 Expiration Information page for guidance.
- SSNs: Foreign national employees will need to obtain a social security number as soon as practicable after arrival in the United States: see the International Center page on Getting a Social Security Number and Card.
- The taxation of foreign nationals can be quite different to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. See the Foreign Students, Faculty & Staff page maintained by Payroll Services to learn more and to find the forms that must be completed by foreign employees. Foreign employees can also find resources and links to help them with their personal tax situation on the International Center tax pages.
- Hiring a foreign national employee differs significantly from hiring a U.S. citizen, and departments need to allow plenty of lead time before the foreign national is due to commence their employment, to facilitate the necessary visa processes – see the International Center’s overview of Hiring Foreign National Employees for information.
- If a foreign national is brought to work at U-M under an inappropriate visa, then the whole of U-M risks losing its ability to sponsor international students, scholars and employees. Always think carefully about the true nature of the job that will be performed by a foreign national employee, and consult with the International Center early to allow time to obtain the appropriate visa.
- Although there are many additional processes that need to be undertaken when hiring foreign nationals, it is important to remember that these are IN ADDITION to the same employment laws and compliance issues that apply to ALL employees. See our separate compliance page on Employment Issues and Equity and Diversity for an overview of these requirements.
For questions about employment issues, see our list of contacts on the Employment Issues page.
Established 3/4/11, last updated 3/7/17- Contact us if you believe any information is incorrect or outdated.