If you want to live and work in America as a licensed healthcare professional, you’ll likely need to find an international staffing agency to assist you. There are many reputable agencies out there that have your best interests in mind. But unfortunately there are also entities (or individuals) out there that exist to prey on those eager to improve their lives and careers in the USA. PassportUSA has seen enough examples of both to advise you on how to choose an international staffing agency.
The following are 10 ways to choose the right international staffing agency to fulfill your ambitions of working in the United States:
1) Choose a staffing agency that does not charge. On the PassportUSA Facebook page, which has nearly 2 million followers, one of the most common question received is “How much for your services?” People are clearly used to being charged up front and paying fees for these services, which is a shame because that’s not the reality when dealing with a reputable international staffing agency. In fact, if the agency is POEA licensed to recruit Filipinos (like PassportUSA) then they may charge up top one month’s salary for their services. However the majority of POEA licensed healthcare recruitment agencies receive payment for their services from their U.S.-based client/healthcare organization. Therefore, you should not expect to pay a fee to the agency.
If you’re asked for upfront money, you need to look elsewhere. That’s just the tip of an enormous iceberg.
2) Work with an agency that’s received the Joint Commission Certified Gold Seal of Approval. When making a decision this important, you should seek as much evidence as you can that you’re dealing with a legitimate agency. The Joint Commission Certification is an extra screen you can use to vet international staffing agencies.
The Joint Commission is a U.S.-based nonprofit tax-exempt 501 organization that accredits more than 20,000 national healthcare organizations and programs. When assessing your agency, look for the “Gold Seal of Approval.” The Gold Seal Of Approval™ honors agencies that fully comply with the Joint Commission’s national set of consensus-based quality standards, as well as those agencies who demonstrate a commitment to excellence in providing healthcare staffing.
Typically Joint Commission certified agencies will have more career opportunities to offer you as well as it is relatively common that U.S. healthcare systems will not contract with an agency or staffing provider that does not meet this standard.
3) Pick a staffing agency bound by the AAIHR Code of Ethics. The American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment (AAIHR) is a Delaware not-for-profit 501(c)(6) organization that is the voice of the international healthcare recruitment industry. Formed in 2006, the AAIHR represents the mutual interests of U.S.-based organizations that participate in the recruitment of foreign-educated healthcare professionals. Its goal is to promote legal, ethical, socially responsible, and professional practices for international healthcare recruitment.
Members of the AAIHR sign and must adhere to a strict code. Ask the agency you’re speaking with if they’re members of any international staffing regulatory organization. If they aren’t, ask them why.
4) Brand Recognition – Even if you don’t recognize the brand you’re dealing with, the internet will. Sign with no agency before thoroughly vetting them online. Run a Google search. Are they showing up in the results? Do they have social media pages? If so, how active are the pages and how many people are liking or following?
While it won’t tell the whole story, it tells a vital part. Large followings indicate authentic community interest. Would hundreds of thousands of people be following something that was fake? Take a look at agency pages and websites. Are they updating them with new and relevant content? Are they responding to comments? These are quick and easy signs that let you know more about the agency you’re speaking with.
5) Assisted Relocation – This goes a long way in separating the good agencies from the bad ones. How far are they willing to go to ensure you make it to the States and that you’re ready to live an American life? Take PassportUSA for example. PassportUSA flies an agency representative down to meet every single one of its arrivals before their first day on the job. Furthermore, they help arrivals with numerous tasks, like:
- Setting up a bank account
- Getting a social security card
- Taking candidates to the grocery store
- Getting candidates a car
- Providing cash to buy items needed for initial housing purchases like bedding, linens, and kitchen items, and more
- Meet and greet with your co-workers prior to your first day on the job
Ask your agency how far they go to ensure their candidates are comfortable before starting a new job in a place they’ve never been.
6) Benefits – Ask up front what kind of benefits you can expect when you sign a contract. The following is a short list of things you should expect from any reputable international staffing agency:
- 401(k) – with employer match. (A well-known and reliable way Americans set aside money for retirement)
- Quality health insurance
- Disability insurance
- Professional Liability insurance
Those are the bare minimum. Better agencies may offer relocation assistance, and the following additional items:
- Platinum level health insurance
- Dental, life, and disability insurance
- Paid time off (PTO)
- Allowances for continuing education courses
- Housing and relocation allowances
7) Track Record – Find out how long your agency has been in business. This is especially important for two reasons: an agency that’s been a business for a long time is obviously a successful business and more trustworthy than say a business that’s just recently emerged. But also, experience is so important in international recruiting because you want to be dealing with an agency that can clear unexpected immigration hurdles like visa retrogression.
For example, PassportUSA has been in business for over 10 years and has endured numerous visa retrogression periods. The fact that we are still in business and placing international medical professionals in the U.S. is something we’re very proud of. But more importantly, is says to you that an agency like PassportUSA can handle a visa retrogression and still get you where you want to go.
8) Recruiter Accessibility – It’s unlikely you’ll get anything but a positive response if you ask your agency “How accessible are your recruiters?” But do they practice what they preach? If you find that your recruiter isn’t being responsive to you, then it might be time to consider other options. You need to be able to reach these people. They often have answers to questions and vital information you need for your new life in America. They should be easy to reach and welcoming your calls or e-mails.
9) Compensation – Compensation is much different than pay. Don’t base your decision entirely on pay. You should add all of these additional items into your compensation package: the value of your visa filing, relocation to the USA, insurance and benefits package, stipends and reimbursements for expenses, retirement benefits and your hourly wage. Certainly you must earn a respectable wage, but be aware that U.S. wages vary widely based on where in the country you will be working — as does the cost of living in that area. For example, a nurse in Los Angeles should not compare pay rates with a nurse in Arkansas. Their pay rates differ widely but the nurse in Arkansas earning less may actually be enjoying a higher standard of living because her earnings go further because of less expensive housing and so on.
10) Assistance with Family Visa Filings – One of the most pivotal separators between a great agency and an “also ran” is if they help you bring family or dependents to the United States with you? We know how lonely and intimidating traveling to a new country for a new job can be – we see it daily. Ask your agency if and how they will get your family to the States too. If they don’t provide help, know that there are better agencies within reach that will assist you.
And if you’re considering PassportUSA, be sure to ask your recruiter how our family visa assistance program can literally save you thousands of dollars in processing U.S. visas for your immediate family members.