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Companies add immigration reimbursement to list of benefits

Posted at 3:07 PM, Jul 13, 2022

The atmosphere restaurants bring to our lives is something a lot of us took for granted prior to the pandemic, but the pandemic gave many of us a different perspective by helping us realize what we truly value in life and in a work setting.

Brayanm Cordova Heredia has been working at Noodles & Company in Illinois for seven years. He says he appreciates the diversity within the company and the work opportunities. Now, he says he really feels valued because of a new immigrant assistance benefit the company recently added.

Noodles & Company CEO Dave Boennighausen says three employees from its 475 restaurants have already taken advantage of the benefit. Many more are asking about it.

"What that program allows is for our members of the workforce that are on a journey to become a U.S. citizen or are re-upping in terms of their overall work authorization, allows the reimbursement of up to $500 every two years to help them along that journey," Boennighausen said.

Cordova Heredia says he had just paid $540 to renew his residency green card when he found out about the benefit.

"I was just taking a little water break and thankfully, I don't know, I just looked to my right and there is this immigration fee reimbursement program," Cordova Heredia said. "And I was just like astounded. I thought it was a joke at first. I thought somebody was playing a prank on me or something because I was telling a few of my peers of the fee that I had to pay."

He was happy to find out it wasn't a joke.

"I couldn't help but to go and run to my general manager immediately as soon as I found out about this and asking him kindly to guide me," Cordova Heredia said.

Stephen Yale-Loehr teaches immigration law at Cornell Law School.

"This is a new trend because of the tight labor market and employers need to figure out how to both attract and retain workers," Yale-Loehr said. "And with foreign workers being a growing part of the employment base, benefits to foreign-born workers is increasingly one way that they can entice people to come work for them or to stay with them."

He says other workplaces have started to consider stronger immigration benefits.

"Amazon has just started a reimbursement program to cover fees for a work permit renewal, which can cost between $410 and $495 every two years," Yale-Loehr said. "Tyson's Foods, which is the biggest U.S. processor, is expanding its immigration benefits by offering a program to its workers to give them free legal services ranging from work authorization renewals to green card and citizenship applications."

Companies are also considering or have added benefits like English language training.

"We have seen that supporting people throughout this journey to become a US citizen or to maintain that work authorization, they just become great ambassadors for your brand, very loyal to the company as well as to your guests," Boennighausen said.

That's certainly the case for Cordova Heredia.

"It's really including our lives outside of work and you know that makes me even more invested," Cordova Heredia said.