How to Hire and Retain International Talent With Aaron Kochenderfer of Fakhoury Global Immigration
Unlock the complexities of hiring and retaining international talent in our intriguing conversation with Aaron Kochenderfer from Fakhoury Global Immigration. Together, we navigate the labyrinth of immigration policies and processes that Covid-19 has reshaped. Let’s also take a deep look into challenges of hiring from different countries, and the vital role of diversity.
Aaron delves into the intriguing world of dual intent visas, such as the H1B and L1, that offer a gateway to permanent residency despite their temporary nature. Underlining the importance of staying abreast with ever-changing immigration policies, the conversation spotlights the indispensable role of immigration attorneys in this process. Furthermore, we shed light on the often-overlooked benefits international workers bring to smaller companies and communities, including enhancing the tax base and making areas more appealing for new residents. Holding special significance is our discussion on the Detroit port of entry between the US and Canada and the role immigrants have played in Detroit’s redevelopment. This is an episode not to be missed if you’re interested in international talent acquisition!
Listening Time: 29 minutes
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How to Hire and Retain International Talent With Aaron Kochenderfer of Fakhoury Global Immigration
William Tincup: [00:00:00] This is William Tincup, and you are listening to the Recruiting Daily podcast. Today, we have Aaron on from Fakhoury Global Immigration. And our topic today is right up his alley. And something that I’m super interested in is how to hire and retain international talent. I’m sure there’s a pre COVID and a post COVID to that, but let’s just jump into it.
Aaron, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and your firm?
Aaron Kochenderfer: Sounds good. First and foremost, [00:01:00] so glad to be here, William. I’ve been looking forward to this. I’m glad at last we’re able to talk. If there’s a will, there’s a way. There is. So happy to be here. And yes, as you mentioned, I’m Aaron Kokernifer.
I’m an immigration attorney here in Troy, Michigan. We’re about 45 minutes north of Detroit. And quite busy, quite an interesting place for immigration because typically when people think of the most, interesting place for immigration, it would be right along the Texas Mexican border.
But here in Michigan, we’re at the busiest port of entry between the US and Canada, right between Detroit and Windsor in Canada. So it’s a very interesting place to be for immigration, actually. And I’ve been in business immigration. For about six years, and I’m very active in many different non profits that help immigrants, entrepreneurs, and families as well.
For instance, I’m really involved with this organization called Global [00:02:00] Detroit, and our main goal is to Attract and retain immigrants to Metro Detroit because there’s so many different studies that show that immigrants have helping, have helped Detroit redevelop itself, reinvent itself, within the last, 20 years.
And while I’m at it, I would even say immigrants helped the Detroit like in the 1920s. They authored our story and right now they’re authoring our comeback story. So I’m getting quite involved in that.
William Tincup: I’ve been to that port that you’re talking about, as you were talking about, I’m like, I’ve been to that port, and it was because I flew into Toronto, had to be in Chicago, and the next day at 8 a.
m., and they had wind shooters at O’Hare, so they canceled all the flights, so we had to drive from Toronto, you drive, when you drive, make this drive, you drive, and you come in that, you come in that way, that port, and it is busy. ________________ it was like four in the morning and it was busy, so I can’t even imagine what it’s like.
Aaron Kochenderfer: semis. Yeah.
William Tincup: It [00:03:00] was fairly intense. So let’s jump into the how to hire and retain international talent. Now prior to this life, I’d say in the nineties I used to sponsor a lot of H 1B vizs. Because of the business that I had, I needed technical talent.
That’s just, I couldn’t get easily here, but I could easily get it from folks that worked, that were, that worked in India or England or whatever. And I don’t remember the process being, I probably sponsored about 30 visas over the course of the time that I was working there. And I don’t remember that.
I remember the process being different per country. So that was that was an interesting learn, I don’t know if things have changed, but working with someone that’s from Mexico versus working with someone that’s from England versus someone from Germany, et cetera, like there was a different, not on our side, but their side.
For the employee that was, there was a different challenge. And so I always have that. I’ve always had that experience. Now I’m sure things have changed since then and either gotten better or [00:04:00] worse, but I’m sure not the same as what I was doing with it. But
Aaron Kochenderfer: things are a lot different now than comparison to, until it appears to when I was a rookie.
Yeah. So many things that’s changed. Tell me,
William Tincup: tell us a little bit about that. What’s going on?
Aaron Kochenderfer: I can say when I. First began this journey here in business immigration it was during the Trump administration, right? It was right in the heart of it. Yes. In the heart. And at that period of time there was some much scrutiny upon H 1B visas and basically any kind US visa under the sun.
You need more paperwork, more documentation to show that work was available in the future to show how the applicant was in fact qualified for the position and you just needed to supply as much documentation as humanly possible. Yeah. I think that’s a good way to describe it. And
William Tincup: that you couldn’t get the talent locally.
That was a crazy thing that I remember. It’s I can’t get this person locally. Like it’s unique to this one forest in the middle of in the middle of Spain. And that’s [00:05:00] the only place. And it’s how do I write this job description in such a way that makes it, I can’t find this person locally.
Sometimes I could, it was just like three or four times the cost. It’s it’s the same talent. They’re writing the same code. I don’t want to pay three, four times the amount in salary. Again, that was a, again, quirky thing. And I remember Trump, I remember him stalling a lot of the H 1Bs.
I didn’t know how bad it was, but I know he had a, he, again, it was kind of nationalism. So it makes sense from a broader kind of political perspective is he wanted everything to be American. Okay. Again, that’s not bad. It’s just there’s talent outside the U. S. that we don’t have.
Aaron Kochenderfer: It’s pretty objective.
No matter what you regard yourself, what side of the aisle you are, or third party, or whatnot, it’s pretty straightforward that we need international talent to supplement our workforce. Many studies show that. American [00:06:00] American born students are not focusing on STEM related fields and just want to put out there STEM.
I’m sure a lot of our audience knows stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. And we need these workers, especially as the world is starting to. Starting to focus more on artificial intelligence electric vehicles. There’s a lot of competition out there, and countries such as Canada, Australia, Singapore they’re really reinventing themselves how they’re becoming more welcoming for immigrants, and many studies show that they’re benefiting as a result.
Last year, Canada had a record high number of immigrants coming into the country, and some of it… It stems to how immigrants feel there’s uncertainty about coming to the U. S., and they feel that when they go to Canada, there’s a greater likelihood of obtaining a lawful permanent residence and becoming a citizen down the road, and I think that’s one thing [00:07:00] that policy makers in the U.
S. Are looking into
William Tincup: that you’d think, not just Canada is actually wonderful but that, that you’d think that another country is more stable. It’s just with all the work that has to get done like you’d think as an American, you’d think. Like where’s, where would there be a more stable place?
And again, talent I, you mentioned Singapore. It’s one of my favorite cities slash countries in their immigration policy. They have other policies that I’m sure the audience is aware of that are there, they’re a little, you can’t chew gum in public, stuff like that. Okay.
It’s all right, whatever, but their immigration policy is fantastic. Like they, they want you to have a job. You have a job, and you play by the rules, there’s rules, so you play by the rules, great! Like it’s super easy super easy, it’s you know what? What do we not want in our country?
Okay, we don’t want criminals, check. We don’t want crazy people, check. What else? What, why is the list got to be so
Aaron Kochenderfer: [00:08:00] long? I know, and a lot of countries are getting in on this especially after the pandemic. More and more workers are becoming remote. I believe it was Spain that had a remote work visa.
How great would that be? Just, hey, I got my visa. I’m going to, work on my laptop on a Spanish beach for two or three months and afterwards go back to my home country. And I think a lot of countries are just thinking outside of the box of how to attract more talent that are in these technical fields.
William Tincup: It’s just smart. I think it’s, I think it’s, again it’s a way of looking at talent. We’ve looked at globalization. Straightening eyes for a long time, actually, but the pandemic really got the kind of the talent people, the HR and recruiting side of things they we’ve been recruiting people.
Internationally. That’s, that wasn’t new, but for people to work remotely, maybe even never come into the headquarters, never even go into an office, never go into headquarters or anything like that. Now that some of that was new. Yep. Fair [00:09:00] enough. And working with people in different countries, like I think we had looked at, working with people in India, relatively easy, quite frankly and having a development firm in Krakow, Poland, it’s a great technical community there.
Super easy. Like I, I know actually three different companies that use technical firms to do all their development work in Krakow. And that’s just how they don’t do it, they don’t do it stateside, they do it, they’ve outsourced it and offshored it, I guess is a way of thinking about it. But talent itself.
It’s like we reinvented the way that we look at talent, I think, and it’s amazing because again, I don’t think the policy has caught up to the practicality of okay listen, we’re going to be remote forever. Okay, we’re going to get rid of our office, get out of our office space. Everybody’s going to be remote.
Aaron Kochenderfer: yeah, good point. I was thinking about that as well. No, so many people have gotten used to doing the exact same job in their pajamas with their [00:10:00] slippers on their mocha. It’s tough to say, all right you’ve been very successful doing that with, with your pet nearby, please come into the office.
We’re going to put an end to that. Yes I agree with you. I think we. We went down this road and now we need to enhance it. And, it’s it was a game changer in many ways, what happened in, in 2020. So
William Tincup: Where are we currently? What’s your, if you were doing kind of state of the nation with kind of international talent and you were to say, okay here’s the.
Here’s the things you should be doing and thinking about when you hire international talent. And here are the things that, okay, once you hire them, that’s great. Assuming you want to keep them, the retention part, here’s the things you need to think about in terms of retaining that talent.
You work really hard to recruit them, you have to work just as hard to retain them.
Aaron Kochenderfer: Yes, I think there’s so many different X factors involved about what visa that they come in on whether they ultimately wish to become a U. S. citizen. Yeah, for instance[00:11:00] sometimes employees come to the U.
S. based on L1B visa, which is something that is given when someone has specialized knowledge. On what the company is involved in, which it’d be very difficult to hire someone, anyone off the street, for lack of better words to fill that position because you need many years of wrapping your mind around the subject matter at hand.
L1B visa holders come in with a specialized knowledge, but that visa doesn’t lead to a green card. So often, companies say, okay, how about we fit this position, this person within a management role where they are supervising others or directing an essential function of the organization, and if they have years of experience under that visa type, then they can ultimately apply for an EB1C immigrant visa, which ultimately, years down the road, all depends on what your home country is.
can lead to a green card. There’s a lot of different factors in play in which HR [00:12:00] managers can and can think about well in advance. So everyone’s in a good position years down the road. And of course it was always good to partner with a, an experienced immigration attorney because it’s quite a nuanced field, a field that is changing all the time because.
There’s criminal law, there’s estate lawyers constitutional law. A lot of those regulations have been in place for over a hundred years, whereas immigration law it’s all federal, and things can easily change based on executive orders, which don’t need to be passed by Congress.
So really a president, whoever comes in saying I feel like changing this up. I don’t have the numbers in Congress, so I can just press this button and make a change.
William Tincup: And being up to date with that. I can tell you, because I did, I worked with, in Dallas, I worked with an immigration attorney.
And again it’s not just nuanced. It’s, it changes so fast. Cause Again, you’re if you think, if the audience, if you’re thinking about like a, like trade, international [00:13:00] trade, like we’re constantly reviewing, revising, updating, thinking about how we trade with different countries.
This is similar in the sense of there are laws both there on for them that they’ve got to abide by and that we’ve got to abide by. And unless you’ve hired someone in Northern France you probably, and again, even if you have, unless you’ve done it recently, you might be out of date.
Like it’s for the audience sake, when you think of payroll libraries, like in the United States, so you have federal, state, and municipal, Seattle, the city of Seattle, the municipality of Seattle can change its hourly rate. Its minimum hourly rate. And you can be out of date if you have an employee that’s hourly in Seattle, and if you just didn’t know that happened, like no one’s going to send you an email, it just happened, you’re not compliant.
Same thing kind of similar applies here. [00:14:00] You’ve got to be always in compliance. And you gotta have experts that help you navigate all those waters because it’s just filled with new stuff all the time.
Aaron Kochenderfer: Yeah, you hit the nail on the head that you need to be privy to so many different things. As you mentioned it’s, there’s not going to be an announcement that pops up on your phone.
Hey, by the way change in federal policy. This is now the new criteria.
William Tincup: Belarus has now been added to a list that you can’t hire from. What? How did that happen?
Aaron Kochenderfer: It’d be great. There would be a Alexa would know what Alexa, Hey, Alexa, what’s the latest changes in immigration policy?
Wow. That’s something that AI could probably get in and on maybe. Oh yeah.
William Tincup: Oh yeah. But it’s still be new. It’s still be new. First of all, yes, but it’s still be nuanced because it’s two sided. It’s both that country and their approach to letting their talent work with countries outside of their own, et cetera.
And our policies. Of course, we look at our policies first because you got to get over those hurdles [00:15:00] initially, which leads me to one, one of the things you mentioned about status, like what the candidate wants. I ran into this sometimes they didn’t know. They didn’t know if they wanted to go for a green card or if they wanted to become a citizen.
They needed an H 1B to work, legit. Okay, so that’s, so they knew that, but they didn’t quite, some of them did. I remember an English woman that I recruited she knew exactly, she wanted dual citizenship. She wanted dual citizenship. And so she knew what she, but most of the people that I sponsored didn’t, they didn’t know.
So what do you what do you advise clients in a situation like that? It’s okay, let’s just assume that they do want to become citizens and kind of work backwards, or…
Aaron Kochenderfer: For the, for those folks I think I have I guess I’m I’ve been blessed to work with a lot of people that had a good idea of what to do down the road.
So that has helped me throughout my experiences, but for… For anyone who’s on the fence [00:16:00] and I guess it all depends on their respective backgrounds, whether they qualify for these sort of visa types, but they are dual intent visas, such as the H 1B visa the L 1 visa. Those sort of visas are temporary in nature, in which you still need to maintain a residence abroad.
At the same time, you’re spent within that particular visa type, such as. H 1B and L 1 that could ultimately allow you to apply for a green card. So there are some visa types that are have dual intent such as those I just mentioned. And there’s one that are purely just temporary in nature.
And one example would be the TN visa, which is for citizens of the U. S. Canada, and Mexico. They’re like a piece of a relative piece of cake to get. It’s very easy. You just put together some documents, go to a port of entry, and within an hour or less, you could be in the U. S. working in accordance to your approved petition.
However, those are [00:17:00] only available for in two year increments. However, you can thankfully continuously renew. Your TN visa, but if you keep on doing it too often, then the government may raise an eyebrow and say, is this really temporary in nature if you keep on applying for the same thing?
William Tincup: Every week on Monday at 8 a.
m. doesn’t seem temporary as much as it is. Yeah. That reminds me of how we used to look at minimum, not minimum wage, but full time employees. I think Microsoft a hundred years ago got in trouble for this because they were, basically you. I think back then you couldn’t work over 32 hours a week, you couldn’t have like regular calls or regular meetings, things like that.
Like you had to, if you were part time, you weren’t getting benefits, you had to be actually part time. And and I can’t remember if it was Microsoft or somebody else, but They had employees for months working, classified as part time, so they weren’t getting benefits, they weren’t full time employees, they didn’t have the rights associated to that, [00:18:00] and and healthcare and all of the other stuff, and and they got called on it okay, first of all, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.
And so I think of the same thing when I think about immigration and about, okay, how you’re going to have that person work. It’s, again there’s guide rails, there’s rules and walking someone in every Monday or having them walk in every Monday on a temporary visa. Again, if it’s temporary, that’s fine.
but it better not be temporary for, three years .
Aaron Kochenderfer: Exactly. And sometimes people want to come in on a temporary on a temporary basis. Yeah. And then figure out in the meantime while they’re in the US on a temporary basis, who knows what’s gonna happen. Yeah. Hey, maybe they’ll, they, they’ll meet in American citizen and and they ultimately become married.
That’s one way to become a US citizen. Not saying that’s the one, that’s the main purpose of coming in on a temporary visa, of course, but this is an example of how, who knows, and perhaps while they’re in the U. S. They ultimately get much [00:19:00] recognition within their particular field, have made noteworthy contributions within the field, and all of a sudden they qualify for an O 1 visa due to their great work in the U.
S., and those could technically all ones that they are temporary in nature, but there are many reports of how they could in fact be successful for a green card. Yeah, so there’s so many moving parts in immigration and a lot of it depends on what you did before you arrived in the U S and what you do once you do arrive in the U
William Tincup: S.
And it’s looking at those specialized skills. And again, like I’ve got a friend that, that hires a lot of engineers and now, they’re not hiring as many metaverse engineers, if you will, or people that are specialized in that. They’re hiring a lot of data scientists, a lot of AI, and there’s not enough.
First of all, America, we just don’t produce enough of that talent, period. Just to deal with the amount of consumption that we need today, much less tomorrow. So it’s okay, they’ve got to look outside the four walls of the United States [00:20:00] just to get that talent so that they can get the projects done.
Aaron Kochenderfer: Yes. I think it’s quite objective and in the same vein. One thing that I think the U. S. can really benefit from is something called the Startup Visa, which many countries are starting to pursue. Canada, our friends up north, again they’re right on this, one of the, on the frontier they’re really blazing a trail when it comes to the Startup Visa, because right now, there is no convenient way for someone to travel to the U.
S. For the sole purpose of starting up a business there, there’s something that was just re implemented the by Obama administration got this going, but now it just started to be implemented once again, called the international entrepreneur rule. However, there’s so much stride stringent criteria in which you need a significant amount of money in order to qualify for this.
Yeah. You need, if they have a
William Tincup: significant amount of money. They’re probably not starting a new [00:21:00] business. I don’t know. Maybe may, maybe not, but , that’s just, again, the bureaucracy, I think that scares a lot of people. Or at least pre covid. I think it would’ve scared a lot of people away from international talent.
Now, because of scarcity and especially certain skills, they, whether or not it’s bureaucrat bureau bureaucracy or not, they’ve gotta get the talent. ’cause if you don’t have the talent, you can’t get the job done. So I think it’s like, what are the rules and how do we play so that we can get the talent?
I think the smarter firms probably some of the better firms that under kind of understand this game, they know how to play the game. They know that this is a game of, the best talent wins just like in, in your sports metaphor, the best talent wins and you gotta have it.
Whether or not the talent’s in pick a place or whether or not it’s in, outside of Detroit, it doesn’t really matter. You just gotta have
Aaron Kochenderfer: the best talent. Yeah you are your talent really and sometimes the dollar figures [00:22:00] Some folks away, perhaps, because every single immigration filing, there are filing fees, legal fees disbursement fees and really the USCIS, that’s the government entity that is in charge of immigration, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services they’re a fee based organization, and of course all of their funding is through purely from filing fees.
And they haven’t increased their filing fees since 2016. So unfortunately I think it’s on the horizon there. Those there’s going to be these noteworthy increases across the board, but so some people may wince when they see these increases, but really in the grand scheme of things, you need this sort of especially temp STEM talent in order to compete against.
Countries across the planet, because it’s, so we’re the competition is global in nature and without the sufficient talent, it’d be difficult to expect to succeed. How do you
William Tincup: keep your clients apprised without, revealing any secrets or [00:23:00] anything, but how do you keep them up to date like that?
I knew there were a few based. Because I’ve interacted with that agency in a way. I knew they were fee based. I got that part, but I didn’t know that they had to increase their fees and gosh, it’s on seven years. That that would be something that I, as an HR leader and a talent leader, that’s something I’d like to know.
So how do you, as, just as a firm what’s the approach? Is it a newsletter? Is it, once a month you just talk to your clients? Like, how do you keep them abreast of the moving parts in immigration?
Aaron Kochenderfer: There’s, there, of course, a newsletter. Those need to be issued. But for the respective attorney and the respective HR contact at the company, there needs to be good communication, open communication.
And for instance, in my, for my personal experiences, even when I hear of a little like a rumble of a possibility of how there could be a noteworthy change, I’m going to relate it to my HR contact because they need to be planning things in advance. I don’t [00:24:00] want to surprise them at all oh, by the way, this just went up by a
William Tincup: couple thousand dollars.
It’s now 40 percent more. What? That’s your fees? No. No, our fees are the same. We haven’t done anything with our fees. In fact, we probably should change our fees. Preference wise. Is it better sometimes, lawyers, they can interact with them, each other in such a different way, in a fast way, because they speak the same language of sorts.
Is it, have you found it easier if they have a general counsel? If they’ve got a lawyer inside, or maybe even a lawyer in HR, that that happens as well. Is it easier to talk to another lawyer about what’s going on, or do you find it easier for you to talk to HR folks?
Aaron Kochenderfer: Honestly, from my personal experiences, at least I can say this HR folks, I have an easier time, especially HR folks that are within a larger, Yeah.
Organization. Yeah. Yeah. I can see that like smaller companies those points of contacts within those respective HR [00:25:00] re departments they need to be a jack of all trades, right? So they’re, they’re not privy to all this criteria for instance, of what it takes to qualify for an H one B.
However, for a Fortune 500 company, they have several people. Oh yeah. The HR department that’s focused Yeah. Solely on immigration. Yeah,
William Tincup: They, it’s not it’s not their first rodeo. They know the process. They might not know from that specific country, there might be some uniqueness to it and some things might’ve changed, but you’re not going to have to completely educate them on the entire process.
Great. So I get that.
Aaron Kochenderfer: Okay. Okay. It’s easier. But that said, I do enjoy working with smaller companies. Yeah. Because it gives you a chance to reach far back and all the things that you learn and showcase, or lack of a better word, showcase all the things that you gather throughout the years. You can
William Tincup: also, you, you talk about impact again, if it’s a, if it’s a massive, 700, 000 person firm and you’re helping with one visa you don’t really get to see the impact [00:26:00] of that person. They’re going to make an impact. Okay. But like with a smaller person, you add one great, we’ll say data scientists, that’s, that person can change the course of a small company.
Like instantly they can just they, the impact that can be felt. So I can see it from a perspective of you’re helping a smaller company and this is a really important talent piece of their puzzle. And this person’s going to have impact it’s almost like drafting in the NFL.
Like when you draft in the NFL or any sport, the sooner that player could get to where they’re actually game worthy and making an impact, the better. In a small company, you can see it’s just, it’s noticeable. You can see it. In a larger company, it still happens, you just can’t see it as well. That makes sense.
Aaron Kochenderfer: It does. And you just feel it because my communications is often through [00:27:00] email, sometimes over the phone, but within those small companies there’s more celebration after a visa approval. You just sense it virtually how it just, it means so much. for that person. And and that’s why it’s so important for and really, when you step far back and really look at the entire forest.
And when I say that, like respective communities like Metro Detroit, you can really see how those sort of individuals in the smaller company can really have an impact on the overall community because those sort of workers can really expand a respective company. And as a result, they hire U.
S. workers, which in the grand scheme of things, enhances the tax base. Can make a an area more attractive for new residents. And that’s really what places like Global Detroit are doing is what can we do to help these smaller companies so they can expand and grow organically? [00:28:00] Ah,
William Tincup: she’s smart.
I, you know what, I just looked at the clock and I know we’re over. I apologize. But this has been absolutely fantastic. I need to have you on and also I need to introduce you to a couple of people. So Aaron, thank you so much for carving out time. I know how You know, time is precious, but I appreciate you coming on the show and explaining everything to to the audience.
Aaron Kochenderfer: Awesome. Yeah. Happy to be here. And yeah, feel free to reach out again. And yeah. Immigration it’s rapidly changing, but I have faith that policymakers will. Make decisions that create winning solutions for everyone involved, because really that’s what it’s about.
There’s nothing political about this. We want to really help American communities, American workers, and and of course, immigrant entrepreneurs. Their dreams come alive as well, but really, in the grand scheme of things, it’s just creating win situa win solutions.
William Tincup: Listen, thank you again, and thanks for everyone listening. Until next time. [00:29:00]
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.