Legal Immigrant Labor Challenges; How Are Businesses Coping?

I recently sat down with Richard Burke, CEO of Envoy, a company that helps organizations navigate U.S. immigration and secure global work authorizations and business visas.

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US Startup Visa Program

Perhaps you recently heard that the U.S. Startup Visa Program, designed to bring foreign entrepreneurs into the United States, has been shelved. While the program’s end isn’t likely to impact any current businesses, it does bring into focus the tenor of the current administration when it comes to legal immigration and its relationship to business development in the United States.

Concerns Over Trump Administration’s Views on Immigration Have Not Curbed Interest in Sourcing Immigrant Workers

When the new administration came into office, there was great concern that the administration’s views on illegal, low-skilled immigration would “permeate the administration[‘]s posture towards high-skilled, legal immigration” said Burke. He continued, “and those skills were well founded.” Burke mentions a number of tactics that made high-skilled immigration more difficult, including the travel ban, curbing premium processing, tightening up who can qualify for the H-1B program, and slowing applications.

Despite the administration’s actions and concerns surrounding them, Envoy research showed that demand for international talent was even higher than it was before the election. Burke remarked, “[I]t’s interesting that despite regulatory tightening, employers are saying our need is increasing for foreign talent, not decreasing.”

What Will Companies Do?

With legal avenues of foreign workers being shut down, restricted, and/or slowed in the United States, companies have to find other ways to maintain their operational personnel. Here are some of the things that Burke mentioned.

  1. L1 Program

According to Burke, the L1 program is designed “to help companies with international operations move people into and out of the U.S. and not make those large companies dependent on the H1 lottery.” For example, Burke said, if a French company has established offices in the United States and France, it can move an employee from France to the United States.

There are plenty of checks on this type of transfer that prevent abuse of the visa, but for organizations with a presence abroad and home, and with the kinds of capital and resources to engage in the L1 visa process, it is a good solution.

Because of concerns with the future of the H1 visa program restrictions, Burke says that the L1 has become “a very important and very valuable” visa.

  1. H-1B Program

Some companies still make use of the H-1B program, but overall demand is down. Burke elaborates, “Not because the need has gone away, it is just because it is so difficult to succeed in the h1b lottery. Only 1 in every 3 applications has made it through in the last few years.” Burke says that some companies are essentially giving up on the H-1B program, “if things are too uncertain and they can’t stake their hiring policies on the h1b program.”

  1. Postponing Projects

Without the proper workers, some projects have to be put off until proper staffing can be accomplished—if it can be accomplished.

  1. Canceling Projects

Some companies are not willing to wait for an unknown source of talent, so they are simply canceling projects that they had planned. Burk says about 25% of employers are postponing or canceling projects. Both the postponing and canceling of projects “have negative implications for tax receipts by the government, have negative implications for job growth by the government, and negative implications for GDP growth.”

  1. Moving Projects Overseas

A number of companies are meeting uncertainty in staffing due to immigration restrictions as too chaotic or damaging and are moving overseas. Meanwhile, says Burke, “Canada’s policies are opening up. Prime Minister Trudeau has actually been in San Francisco recruiting companies to go to Canada.” And Canada is not alone. Other countries like China are easing restrictions on the flow of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) workers because, “they realize that STEM industries are wealth creators” says Burke.

Being such an important topic, we at the HR Daily Advisor really want to know how you handle foreign nationals in the workplace. Please consider taking our survey, and you’ll get the results for free.

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