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US employers often state something like:

Our policy is to ensure equal opportunity in all aspects of employment regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, age, marital status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other basis protected by law.

But in fact, employers can and do routinely discriminate on the basis of citizenship. This is because of potentially expensive and troublesome visa issues. How is that consistent with the above clause?

Restricting attention to the citizenship bit, what does the above clause actually do for anyone?

How is such discrimination different from, for example, discriminating against women because they might potentially get pregnant and take time off? Or from discriminating against Muslims because they might fast one month a year and may thus be less productive during that month?

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    Where is your evidence for "can and do routinely discriminate on the basis of citizenship"? Is this just anecdotal – Ed Heal Jan 24 '16 at 8:45
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    This isn't strong enough for an answer, but I'm not sure that hiring someone that doesn't have a visa is the same as discrimination based on citizenship. There's a difference between saying that you won't hire someone because they are a citizen of a particular country and saying that you won't hire someone because they don't have the appropriate visas to work in the US (and you won't pay for the visas). I think it's up to the company if they want to sponsor a visa. I believe it's OK to not hire someone who isn't qualified to work in the US. – Thomas Owens Jan 24 '16 at 12:25
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    "Restricting attention to the citizenship bit, what does the above clause actually do for anyone?" Notice that phrase is "our policy". It doesn't say what happens when the law conflicts with "our policy", but I think we can guess. For example, it may well be my company's policy to be 100% OK with giving qualified nationals from country XYZ a job. But if it turns out that the local laws say that we can't do that... – Brandin Jan 24 '16 at 15:04
  • This is a site for practical, workplace-related questions. Not a debate platform. And as others have mentioned, discriminating on employment eligibility is legal, rational and different from discriminating on citizenship. – Lilienthal Jan 25 '16 at 9:57
  • There are non-citizens who can legally work and there are those who can't. I would say a company that doesn't base hiring on citizenship will draw the line at hiring people illegally. You can't discriminate on age, but we still have child-labor laws in the US. – user8365 Jan 25 '16 at 14:54
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Compare

Hiring this candidate would require us to help with the visa process. It's expensive and time consuming and if it fails we will have to repeat the hiring process

Or

This candidate is a dual US and French citizen. That could smooth the paperwork if we ever transferred him to the European division.

With

That name sounds Arab. We don't want foreigners.

Or

With that last name, he probably needs a visa. Don't even waste your time with the phone screen.

Or

Dual citizenship? Why would I hire anyone who isn't fully committed to this country?

Not discriminating on the basis of something doesn't mean ignoring it. It means only considering it in the very few cases where it's relevant to the job, and if it's never relevant to the job, not considering it.

Also, once a company has helped with the visa process, or hired a noncitizen who is in the country legally, that statement says that promotions, salary, and working conditions won't be affected by those things - they won't pay married people more, or assume single people can work weekends, or give better offices to citizens than to noncitizens, and so on.

The fact that for some (not all) applicants citizenship may be briefly relevant during the hiring process doesn't negate the entirety of the statement.

  • Dual citizenship? Why would I hire anyone who isn't fully committed to this country? Is this just making a point or have you actually come across this line of thinking? I find it bizarre since it's possible to have dual citizenship from birth. +1 for a clear explanation on the rest – rath Jan 24 '16 at 15:01
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    I have been told by non hirers that dual citizens are not really Canadians. And the former government made a law that we could be deported, even though we are Canadian citizens, if we did bad enough things. So I am completely sure some employers feel that way. – Kate Gregory Jan 24 '16 at 15:35
  • Obviously that employer is totally and utterly wrong. If you have a Canadian citizenship then you have a Canadian citizenship, that's it. Whether you have any other kinds of citizenships is completely irrelevant within Canada. – gnasher729 Jan 25 '16 at 8:47
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    @gnasher729 Maybe not completely irrelevant, if you could be deported. However, the employer should follow the advice in this answer and consider items which are relevant to the job. – Brandin Jan 25 '16 at 9:06
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Citizenship status is a complex issue.

If the position is one that the customer (US Government) is going to require that they have reached a certain level of citizenship, then the company has to require it.

If the job is for low pay, and the candidate needs visa sponsorship, they may feel that the cost and paperwork involved may make that candidate too expensive.

Now directly addressing your question. You may have a false assumption in the question. I went to the EEOC site to see what they say about this topic.

Learn about the various types of discrimination prohibited by the laws enforced by EEOC. We also provide links to the relevant laws, regulations and policy guidance, and also fact sheets, Q&As, best practices, and other information.

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Equal Pay/Compensation
  • Genetic Information
  • Harassment
  • National Origin
  • Pregnancy
  • Race/Color
  • Religion
  • Retaliation
  • Sex
  • Sexual Harassment

Notice that citizenship is not on the list.

  • No Sexual orientation - well guess US is still behind the EU – Ed Heal Jan 24 '16 at 14:42
  • This is the real answer. 99 times out of 100, a companies equal opportunity policy can be summarized as: "We obey all relevant laws in jurisdictions where we do business." – Dan Neely Jan 24 '16 at 20:04
  • Actually, citizenship status discrimination in employment is prohibited by US law, but only as applied to US citizens, nationals, permanent residents, temporary residents, refugees, and asylees. See justice.gov/crt/types-discrimination – user102008 Oct 13 '16 at 2:18
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The employer promises not to discriminate based on national origin and citizenship.

The employer has to follow the laws, which may require checking that you have a visa that allows to work in the country, and not employing you if that kind of visa is missing. There may be laws that require the employer to only hire from one group of people if there is nobody available from another group of people to do the job.

And the employer didn't promise not to discriminate based on the difficulty to solve all legal problems that might be in the way of hiring someone.

As this was mentioned elsewhere: Having the citizenship of the hiring country will solve all the problems that might occur. If an employer promises not to discriminate on citizenship, then I cannot see any reason not to hire someone with dual citizenship.

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In a nutshell, this applies to domestic employees. It's not really for overseas people, these are usually hired purely on monetary ground or sometimes on the skillset.

It's more of a sound good statement than a reality in any case even for domestic employees. Some companies give themselves a quota of females to employ, or ethnic groups to employ, or anything else. But I have never heard of one that gives itself a quota of overseas people to employ.

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