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Whether you’re considering expanding your operations overseas or simply seeking to access specialized expertise, there are several ways American companies can hire remote foreign employees.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the different options, including my vote for the most straightforward approach: using an employer of record (EOR) service for all the legal heavy lifting. I’ll also explain the key benefits of hiring international staff, and touch on some frequently asked questions about international hiring.

Can a US Company Hire a Foreign Employee in Another Country?

Yes, a US company can indeed hire a foreign employee in another country. This is often the case when companies decide to expand their operations overseas, or when they require certain skills or expertise that are more readily available in other countries. 

To hire a foreign worker, the company would need to follow the employment regulations of the foreign employee's home country, which can vary significantly. This typically involves acquiring the necessary work permits and visas, ensuring appropriate compensation, setting up payroll in the foreign currency, and taking steps to comply with local labor laws.

How Can US Companies Hire Foreign Employees?

Hiring a foreign employee can be quite complex and time-consuming, but there are services out there that can ease the pain, such as an employer of record (EOR) service. These services simplify international hiring by automating payroll, monitoring compliance requirements, and managing international employee benefits. EOR companies also employ legal experts in international labor law, to prevent any breaches in foreign employment regulations.

Aside from an EOR service, other ways you can hire an international employee include hiring them as an independent contractor only, or establishing a foreign entity abroad. The latter is a good option if your company has global expansion on it’s long-term strategic plan, though it’s certainly not the simplest route to take either.

Establish a Foreign Entity Abroad

If your organization plans to hire multiple foreign individuals residing within the same country, establishing a foreign entity within that country makes sense. This involves creating a separate legal business entity, such as a subsidiary or branch office, which can require considerable investment and legal legwork. It will also require full comprehension of the foreign hiring regulations in the country in question, which can be a time-consuming drain on your existing HR resources. 

If you do decide to go this route, once your legal entity is established, you can enlist the services of a local Professional Employer Organization (PEO) to help you manage your new workers. (To learn more about this option, read our comparison of PEO vs EOR services next.)

Use an Employer of Record Service

An EOR service can streamline the process of hiring foreign employees significantly, taking the onus of managing all the legal and administrative requirements off of your desk completely. That’s because an EOR partner acts as the legal entity for the foreign employee, handling all legal and payroll compliance, immigration processes, and tax filings in their home country. Over time, this can save a company significant resources and potential legal complications while ensuring a smooth onboarding experience for the new foreign employee.

Hire an Independent Contractor

Another cost-effective way American companies can hire international top talent is through an independent contractor agreement. It scrubs out the complications of obtaining work visas and permits. The company is not obligated to offer benefits such as health insurance and retirement payments, which significantly lowers workforce costs.

However, the employer must ensure a proper agreement is in place before working begins. Terms regarding payment, confidentiality, and project completion should be clearly laid out. It’s also advisable to work with a legal expert in US employment laws to avoid the possibility of employee misclassification, leading to potential legal complications down the road.

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How Can US Companies Pay Foreign Employees?

US companies can pay foreign employees in a few different ways, each with their own set of considerations and challenges. If you have a legal entity established in their home country, then the most common form of payment is direct deposit into the employee’s foreign bank account. If you don’t have a legal entity established, other options are through international money transfers like PayPal, or through wire transfers. 

While these methods offer your employee immediate access to their earnings, they often have higher fees. Plus, you’ll need to ensure you’re always in compliance with the foreign labor laws and taxation regulations in place within their jurisdiction too. 

To avoid all of these hassles and grant yourself peace of mind, I recommend either partnering with an EOR service or leveraging a global payroll service to ensure compliant payments for your foreign employees. 

Partner with an EOR Service

When you partner with an EOR service, they’ll manage payroll, tax obligations, and legal compliance in the employee's home country. The EOR will act as the local employer on paper, while the US company still retains control over the foreign employee’s work assignments and responsibilities. 

There are numerous EOR services out there, including ones that specialize in supporting different talent markets. If you’re interested in hiring Canadian staff, our list of the best Canadian EOR companies is a good place to start. Or, to hire talent across the pond, this list covers the best EOR services in the UK.

Use a Global Payroll Service

Another way to manage payments for international employees is via a global payroll service. These specialized services also ensure compliance with the tax laws and payroll regulations specific to the foreign employee's home country. This includes the accurate calculation of gross wages, tax deductions, and net pay in the designated currency of the foreign employee.

In addition, global payroll services offer other benefits such as consolidated reporting for multinational companies and the ability to manage various employee benefits. By leveraging a global payroll service, companies can mitigate the risk of penalties or fines due to non-compliance, though it’s important to note that these services to not take on legal responsibilities in the same way EOR services do, so those obligations will remain on your desk.

What are the Benefits of Hiring International Employees?

Hiring international employees can offer a range of benefits to American companies, including increased access to new talent markets, richer local insights, and increased cultural diversity. Employing international staff can also enhance your business practices by expanding the abilities of your customer services into new timezones and languages. 

Global Talent Pool

Accessing the global talent pool opens up an array of possibilities for companies, lending greater access to world-class skills and experience from across different nations, including those that may be lacking in the local market. A new international employee can act as a foot-in-the-door in a new talent market, increasing the visibility of your company abroad and while tapping into your new hire’s local professional network. 

Local Insights in New Markets

International hires often bring new perspectives and experiences, enhancing innovation and creativity within a company. This diversity can further enhance problem-solving capabilities and allow business to offer products or services that cater to a broader range of clients or customers.

A Precursor to Global Expansion

Employing international staff can open doors to global markets. Having employees who understand the language, culture, and business practices of specific foreign markets is a valuable asset when considering international expansion. These employees can act as a bridge, easing communication and business transactions in these markets, and assisting with any on-the-ground requirements. 

Increased Cultural Diversity

Employing individuals from different cultural backgrounds will enhance the diversity of your workforce, adding unique perspectives to your work culture. Foreign employees can bring in new ideas, encourage cultural understanding, and contribute to creativity and innovation.

A diverse workforce is, therefore, not only a matter of social responsibility but can also be a strategic advantage. Diversity can lead to a more inclusive workplace environment, fostering mutual respect and promoting shared experiences among employees.

Increased Availability of Services

Other strategic advantages of employing foreign workers include the ability to expand your business operations into new time zones and languages. By employing staff in key geographic areas, you can expand the availability of your customer-facing services to offer 24/7 accessibility or tap into their native languages to make your customers feel more comfortable. 

Lower Employment Costs

Another key benefit is the lower employment costs typically associated with hiring workers in different geographic regions. This is a popular motivation for many businesses, especially those with restricted budgets that need to access specialized skills to supplement their core business offerings.

What Does it Cost to Hire a Foreign Employee?

Estimating the cost of hiring a foreign employee is no simple task. The final price tag will depend on a number of factors, including country-specific compensation rates, mandatory employer costs, visa requirements, benefits, and cost of living rates. I’ve explored each of these items below to give you a deeper understanding of what to expect. 

Country-specific Compensation Rates

Employee compensation rates vary based on the country you’re looking to hire in, as well as the skill level of the worker you’re hoping to hire. You’ll need to rely on international hiring experts, such as an EOR or a global staffing agency to understand the compensation baseline for your industry in any country you’re considering hiring in. A well-informed compensation program is crucial to ensure equality across your workforce.

Mandatory Employer Costs

In addition to salary costs, US rules and regulations may require employers to contribute to Social Security and Medicare taxes, in accordance with the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). I recommend speaking with a US employment specialist to understand these requirements in advance. 

Visa Sponsorship Costs

In some cases, you may need to sponsor your foreign employee if they are not a resident in the country they’re living in. This can lead to visa sponsorship costs, as well as lawyer fees, government filing charges, and other related costs. (This is another reason why working with an Employer of Record service is a preferable option in my books!) 

Employee Benefits

A US company hiring a foreign employee must ensure their benefits package is competitive and adheres to legal requirements at both local and global levels. This includes general offerings like healthcare, paid time off, and retirement plans. Offering robust benefits for foreign employees not only shows the company’s commitment towards employee welfare, but it also helps attract and retain top international talent. 

Cost of Living Rates

When hiring foreign employees, understanding the cost of living rates in their residential countries is crucial. These rates reflect the fiscal value of necessary expenses such as food, housing, and clothing. Comparing these metrics with the intended compensation for the role can provide insights into whether the proposed salary is fair and attractive.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hiring Foreign Employees

Here are some answers to popular FAQs you may be wondering about too:

Do foreign remote workers have to pay US taxes?

Foreign remote workers for a US company, who live and work outside the US, typically do not have to pay US taxes on their income from that employment. However, if they meet certain criteria, such as being present in the US for more than 183 days in a year, they may be subject to US tax obligations. I recommend consulting a tax professional to understand any obligations related to your specific situation.

Will my company have to pay taxes in a foreign employee’s home country?

Whether your company must pay taxes in a foreign employee’s home country depends on several factors, including the local laws of the employee’s country, the nature of the work performed, and whether there is a tax treaty between the employee’s home country and the US.

In some cases, having an employee working in a foreign country can create a “permanent establishment,” potentially subjecting your company to corporate taxes in that country. It’s crucial to consult with a tax professional or legal expert familiar with international tax law to navigate these complexities and ensure compliance.

Do I need to provide foreign employees with benefits like health insurance?

Yes, you should consider providing foreign employees with benefits aligned with their local laws and customs, including health insurance. The requirements for offering benefits can vary significantly from one country to another. It’s essential to research and comply with the employment laws in the employee’s home country to ensure you’re meeting legal obligations and competitive standards for employee benefits in their local market.

What’s the difference between the EOR and contractor hiring models?

The Employer of Record model involves hiring through a third-party organization that becomes the official employer, handling legal and HR responsibilities, including payroll and taxes. In contrast, the contractor model involves hiring individuals as independent contractors, where the company is not responsible for taxes or benefits, offering more flexibility but less control.

EOR is more compliant for long-term, whereas contractors suit short-term, project-based work.

Will an international employee need a US work visa?

An international employee only requires a US work visa if they plan to reside and work physically in the United States. However, if they remain in their home country and work remotely for a US company, a US work visa is not necessary.

Should I provide computer or office equipment to a foreign employee?

Yes, providing computer and office equipment to foreign employees is a best practice to ensure they have the necessary tools for their job. This not only helps maintain productivity and security standards but also supports a consistent work environment across your organization.

It’s important to consider the logistics and tax implications of shipping or purchasing equipment in the employee’s country, aligning with local employment laws and customs.

Which roles are the most suitable for hiring international employees?

The most suitable roles for hiring international employees are those that can be effectively performed remotely, such as in IT, software development, digital marketing, content creation, and customer support. These positions often require only a computer and internet connection, allowing for flexibility in work location. Opting for roles that can transcend geographical barriers maximizes the benefits of access to a global talent pool and operational flexibility.

What is an offshore vs nearshore remote worker?

An offshore remote worker is located in a country far from the hiring company’s home base, often in a different time zone, to capitalize on cost savings and increase access to a broader talent pool. For American companies, offshore remote workers may reside in Asia, Africa, or Europe.

A nearshore remote worker is based in a country closer to the company’s location, typically within the same or a nearby time zone, making collaboration and communication easier due to the smaller time difference. For American companies, nearshore remote workers may reside in Canada, the Caribbean, or Central or South America.

What are the pros & cons of hiring an offshore vs. nearshore employee?

If you’re trying to decide whether to hire a nearshore or offshore remote employee, consider these pros and cons of each first.

Pros of Hiring Nearshore Employees:

  • Easier real-time collaboration due to similar work hours
  • Closer cultural ties, facilitating smoother teamwork

Cons of Hiring Nearshore Employees:

  • Higher costs compared to offshore hiring
  • Limited talent pool compared to global options

Pros of Hiring Offshore Employees:

  • Significant cost savings
  • Access to a diverse, global talent pool

Cons of Hiring Offshore Employees:

  • Communication barriers due to time zone differences
  • Potential challenges in cultural integration

What is employee misclassification?

Employee misclassification occurs when a business incorrectly categorizes workers as independent contractors rather than employees. This distinction is crucial as it affects eligibility for benefits, tax implications, and legal protections.

Misclassification can lead to legal penalties, back taxes, and the obligation to provide benefits retroactively. However, working with an EOR partner can help you reduce these risks. Partner with an EOR Service to Hire Foreign

Partner with an EOR Service to Hire Foreign Employees with Ease

Hiring foreign employees offers several strategic advantages for US companies, including access to a global talent pool, enhanced cultural diversity, and expansion into new markets.

However, the administrative and legal challenges of international employment can be daunting. In my opinion, this is why you should strongly consider working with an EOR service. Doing so will remove these obligations from your company’s shoulders and give you peace of mind that your global operations will remain compliant going forward.

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By Kim Behnke

Kim Behnke is an HR Tool Expert & Writer for People Managing People. She draws on her 9 years of human resources experience and her keen eye for systematic processes to support her analyses of the top HR tools on the market. She is passionate about maximizing efficiencies and streamlining workflows to ensure internal systems run smoothly. Kim's HR experience includes recruitment, onboarding, performance management, training and development, policy development and enforcement, and HR analytics. She also has degrees in psychology, writing, publishing, and technical communication, and recently completed a Certified Digital HR Specialist program through the Academy to Innovate HR. When away from her desk, she can usually be found outside tending to her ever-expanding garden.