While our industry often discusses the importance of hiring the best people, the process of hiring isn't typically addressed.
Hiring an employee is complex, and if the employee is out-of-state or even from another country, the process becomes even more complicated.
Here Emily Lewis and Lea Alcantara – the savvy minds behind web design and development studio Bright Umbrella (opens in new tab) – share their sometimes fraught experiences.
Lea Alcantara: A year ago, I decided to move from Canada to the US, which meant I would have to dissolve my freelance business. It also meant that I wouldn't be able to continue producing CTRL+CLICK CAST with Emily. Neither of us wanted to change the podcast and we loved working together, so we took advantage of the opportunity to join forces more formally."
But in order to work for Emily's company, I had to apply for a US work visa. After much Googling, I determined I needed to apply for a TN visa – a temporary work visa that would allow me to enter the States immediately.
But that's as far as I got on my own. Emily and I quickly realised we needed expert help with the visa application. Enter a specialist immigration attorney, who gave me an exhaustive list of the documents I needed to include – including a detailed letter signed by the employer, and documents proving my experience and educational credentials.
Finally, my application was complete and ready to take to US Customs. Long story short: it was approved. For are more detailed account of the application process, visit abrightumbrella's visa page (opens in new tab).
Emily Lewis: Once Lea had her TN visa, hiring her as my first employee was just like hiring any US worker. And because Lea would be my first employee, it was a no-brainer to hire a human resources consultant to simplify things from the outset.
The consultant advised me on the basics of hiring, primarily defining the job, the compensation rate and status – all of which I'd already done for Lea's visa application. She then gave me a list of all the new hire documents that Lea would need to complete and I would need to keep on file. During this time, I also worked with my accountant to set up payroll and prepare for the federal employment-related taxes.
Taxes and notaries
EL: Bright Umbrella is based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But Lea would be working remotely from Seattle, Washington. This remote scenario is where the HR process diverged from a typical hire. When hiring a remote employee, you are responsible for following the employment laws of the employee's state. That meant I needed to adhere to Washington state's employment laws. It also meant that I needed to register my business in Washington and obtain a Washington business license.
And it meant more taxes. Now, on top of federal and New Mexico business taxes, I also have to pay Washington employment-related taxes – an unpleasant but necessary investment. Another unique aspect of hiring a remote employee is the I-9 employment eligibility form, which must be verified in person by the employer or an authorised representative.
Visit abrightumbrella's hiring archive (opens in new tab) for more details about remote hiring and HR.
A year later
LA & EL: There is no question this was a tremendous amount of work. But there is also no question the investment was worth it to the company. Together, we are able to provide a fuller scope of services. Together, we have fine-tuned our processes and redefined our identity. And together, we learned the greatest lesson of all: hire experts.
Thanks to the expertise of our immigration attorney, HR consultant and accountant, the whole process became 'checklists' to follow. We had experts we could trust and turn to for any question or concern. During what could've been a tumultuous time, we were able to stay focused on our clients. We were able to continue to be the experts our clients turn to for their questions and concerns.
Words: Emily Lewis and Lea Alcantara (opens in new tab)
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Have you found hiring new employees difficult, or do you have any tips? Let us know about your experiences in the Comments!