Recent immigration regulations are creating new challenges forÂ companies who rely on global talent.
By Marta Chmielowicz
Recent changes in U.S. immigration policy are creatingÂ roadblocks for American businesses and their employeesâespecially those who rely on global talent. AccordingÂ to Envoy Global Inc.âs 2017 Immigration Trends Report,Â globalization in the business world is on the rise. In fact,Â 55 percent of employers expected to hire more workersÂ from overseas in 2017, up from 34 percent in the year prior.Â In addition, 63 percent of HR leaders claimed that hiringÂ international employees is very or extremely important toÂ their talent acquisition strategyâa significant leap fromÂ 42 percent in 2016.
But in a highly uncertain and rapidly changing politicalÂ climate, employers that depend on access to global talentÂ are being met with increased scrutiny and complications.Â âThe Trump administrationâs travel restrictions, whichÂ includes the âTravel Banâ and more general scrutiny ofÂ visitors entering the U.S. as imposed by Customs andÂ Border Protection, can create compliance and businessÂ interruptions for those relocating and also can spread toÂ the companyâs entire business traveler population,â saysÂ Robert Bartle, director of immigration and legal affairs atÂ Aires.
The âTravel Ban,â which forbade the emigration of citizensÂ from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, andÂ Venezuela to the U.S., created significant travel challengesÂ for employees from the restricted countries. And in April,Â another executive order was signed that has furtherÂ complicated the relocation process.
âThe biggest policy impact has been via President TrumpâsÂ Executive Order 13788, which is titled âBuy AmericanÂ and Hire American,ââ Bartle explains. âThough thereÂ have not been formal legislative changes resulting fromÂ âBuy American and Hire American,â the orderâs aim atÂ protecting the U.S. workforce has resulted in tighterÂ review and scrutiny for foreign workers applying for workÂ authorization in the U.S.â
Facing the Impact
As a result of Trumpâs executive order, U.S. ImmigrationÂ Services has instituted a more vigorous review processÂ for H-1B visa applicants. In particular, Roberta Carnaccini,Â global operations director of immigration at CrownÂ World Mobility, says that businesses are under greaterÂ pressure to demonstrate the need for foreign nationalÂ employees. âIn the U.S., we are witnessing more andÂ more âRequests for Evidence,â where immigration officialsÂ question the need to bring in non-U.S. workforce onto itsÂ soil.â
This is hurting companies that require highly specializedÂ and skilled employees and creating hiring and productivityÂ delays. âWe are in the midst of a growing talent shortageÂ in many sectors, particularly in technology and healthcareÂ as well as skilled trades, and this policy has made it evenÂ more difficult for companies to source the talent theyÂ need,â says MSI Global Talent Solutionsâ President CarolinaÂ Rojas Newman.
Other immediate impacts of the new immigration policiesÂ include:
1. Recruitment challenges. Limiting the number ofÂ legal immigrants allowed to work in the U.S. is a majorÂ concern for organizations that rely on a fluid approachÂ to recruitment and relocation.Â â[Immigration regulation] leads toÂ a less fluid global workforce, oneÂ in which employers may not beÂ able to recruit needed or desiredÂ talent or place current workersÂ in the locations they prefer,â saysÂ Bartle. âAnd as a result, companiesÂ will need to increase recruitmentÂ efforts and investments with localÂ candidates and new hires.â
According to Littlerâs 2018 AnnualÂ Employer Survey, 48 percent ofÂ HR professionals feel that tighterÂ restrictions on visa adjudications isÂ the most significant issue that willÂ impact the workplace in the nextÂ year.
2. A more complicated process. TheÂ process of getting internationalÂ hires and transfers approved hasÂ also become increasingly complex. According to Carnaccini,Â companies are now required to provide extensive proofÂ that temporary transfers will be returning to their countryÂ of origin. Plus, visas for permanent transfers are even moreÂ difficult to secure.
âPermanent moves are more affected as the real need toÂ have a specific role (and person) permanently in a countryÂ will need to be proven. Companies must demonstrate thatÂ no local workforce is able to perform the same function,âÂ she explains.
Bartle says that issues related to immigration complexityÂ can also affect ancillary elements of the relocation process,Â including:
- shipping belongings into a country;
- enrolling children in school;
- opening a bank account; and
- signing a lease.
âAll of these matters can be frustrated when immigrationÂ is delayed, which could create friction with the overallÂ relocation process and compliance with company policies,âÂ he adds.
3. Higher costs. Delays and added complications alsoÂ have a direct impact on a companyâs bottom line.Â From spending more time compiling applications andÂ responding to âRequests for Evidence,â to consulting withÂ attorneys about potential challenges, applying for workÂ authorization in the U.S. today requires a higher initialÂ investment.
Failure to comply with regulations can also result inÂ significant costs and consequences. Carnaccini says,Â âCompliance is imperative these days, not only to preserveÂ corporate reputation but as fines can be extremely heftyÂ and, in many cases, comprise criminal consequences. To beÂ and remain compliant, one must follow and abide to theÂ local immigration rules.â
Adapting to the New Reality
How can organizations prepare themselves to meet theseÂ challenges head-on and ensure a fair and compliantÂ relocation process? The experts recommend four bestÂ practices:
1. Remain organized. The key to compliance is data, andÂ Bartle says that compiling the specific information of allÂ employees possessing immigration sponsorship is a goodÂ first step to managing deadlines, requirements, and policyÂ changes.
âIt is always key to have a good grasp and handle on yourÂ foreign national worker population (i.e., those workingÂ in countries in which they are not a citizen), whether inÂ the U.S. or elsewhere. Having this information and dataÂ duly organized will allow the organization to make soundÂ strategy decisions and remain nimble with regard toÂ personnel that could be impacted by shifting immigrationÂ laws,â he explains.
In addition to managing the details of each transferee,Â such as visa status and expiration dates, organizationsÂ need to remain up-to-date on any rule changes so thatÂ they can quickly adapt and protect their sponsoredÂ employees.
2. Be vigilant. Due to the complexity of todayâsÂ immigration regulations, many employees may not fullyÂ understand the requirements and limits of their travelÂ plans. HR needs to communicate with their sponsoredÂ employees, monitor their stay in the host country, andÂ ensure that all immigration procedures are followedÂ properly. âOne of the ways companies can ensure theyÂ remain compliant is by being as vigilant as possible aboutÂ an employeeâs whereabouts to ensure they donât exceedÂ days in country,â says Rojas Newman.
3. Remain flexible. In this competitive immigrationÂ environment, organizations have to remain aware of theirÂ options and be flexible enough to adapt if the processÂ goes awry. For example, employees can be encouragedÂ to apply for a different type of visa or be sent to anotherÂ location entirely.
âIf one type of visa is denied, companies can in someÂ instances apply for another type. For example, if an H1-BÂ or L-1B visa is denied, which is happening more often,Â the company can try applying a merit-based visa. TheseÂ include the O-1 (for âindividuals with extraordinary abilityÂ or achievementâ) or the E-3 for Australian nationals inÂ certain specialty occupations,â Rojas Newman explains.
4. Leverage the local workforce. In some cases, travelÂ limitations may be so strict that organizations wouldÂ be better served by reaching out to local talent andÂ developing training programs to create their own talentÂ pipeline.
âSeveral nations have a ratio system for which a companyÂ sending international workers will need to abide toÂ a certain percentage of local nationals to foreigners.Â Examples, among others, are Egypt, Angola, and Algeria.Â Companies will need to start thinking about leveragingÂ the local workforce, often by training them and ultimatelyÂ benefitting the countries,â says Carnaccini.