As the Trump administration introduced further sweeping restrictions on immigration, employers are forced to deal with the ramifications of its proclamation amid the pandemic.
The proclamation suspends entry of all individuals pursuant to the H-1B, H-2B, L, and J non-immigrant status, and their dependents, without a valid visa until Dec. 31.
The proclamation’s restriction on immigration under the disguise of strengthening the economy through job retention for Americans is baseless. The stark reality remains to be that multinational corporations are facing a shortage of skilled professionals in the U.S.
While the proclamation adds a layer of complexity for many employers, this does not mean that viable options for impacted employees are nonexistent as the fact remains that many other countries welcome skilled professionals into their labor markets.
In fact, shortly before the pandemic, many EU countries acknowledged that they were losing in the race for attracting skilled workers—notably, Germany relaxed its migration policies for skilled workers to enter their work force to cater to the growing demand of companies through the Skilled Immigration Act.
Under the new act, professionals with comparable German qualifications can access the labor market with ease. The most notable highlight of the act is the deletion of the requirement of conducting checks to examine whether there are any EU or German applicants available to take on jobs.
With this understanding, employers should note that many other countries have not taken such a hard stance on global business immigration like the U.S. At this juncture, there is an evolving immigration trend that could assist in formulating options for employees that have been impacted by the proclamation.
1. Travel Restrictions: Entry Requirements
Countries are slowly easing their travel restrictions and permitting entry as country conditions improve. This aspect is particularly significant for employers seeking to find alternative options for assignees stuck abroad.
The EU’s internal boarders have reopened as of June 15 and the EU Commission has indicated that the external boarders will reopen to non-EU nationals by July 1.
While borders reopen, it is important to note that many countries are not willing to compromise their current control of the pandemic so there will be frequent measures introduced to tackle the spread of the virus. Countries are placing mandatory health screenings at all ports of entries, requiring self-isolation or government-run quarantine for all travelers, and even assessing the purpose of travel by evaluating the “essentialness” of travel for anyone seeking entry.
2. Increase in Requests for More Evidence
Documents submitted in support of the immigration process in any given country tend to be standard in nature. Given the current climate, employers can expect to be faced with amended requests for documents for work permit petitions.
An increasing number of countries will begin to require medical examination clearances for all assignees and transferees to ensure that the health, and safety, of locals is not compromised. Additionally, employers can anticipate being tasked with providing additional corporate documents to support the business justification for the relocation of employees abroad.
3. Significant Delays at Immigration and Labor Offices, Foreign Missions and Centers
It comes as no surprise that employers should expect delays for processing of global work permits. Government officials are facing significant delays and backlogs of processing work permits.
In some countries, like the UK, priority processing has been suspended altogether until further notice. Consulates have also been closed or are operating during limited hours. Additionally, once these offices reopen priority will most likely be given to previously canceled appointments, which will put new applicants waiting for months.
4. Compliance: Increase in Future Immigration Audits
The economic impact has been profound on many countries. In the interest of protecting local workers, many governments will actively enforce immigration laws.
As with any economic downturn, coupled with the fact that many governments have provided lenient right-to-work check procedures to accommodate lockdowns and social distancing measures, employers should anticipate increased audits and site inspections as countries begin to scale back on lockdown measures and resume regular functions.
How to Ease the Burdens
To ease the burden of the pandemic and capricious immigration proclamations, employers should:
- Evaluate impacts of newly enacted immigration policies, such as the recent Proclamation, and actively develop alternative plans for impacted employees.
- Continue to keep abreast of global immigration developments and country conditions where employers have subsidiary entities. Employers can create an internal team to help coordinate the efforts to keep abreast of immigration updates and spearhead all communication with employees.
- Track employee populations and actively plan international transfers given the heightened scrutiny of travel during this time.
- Maintain an accurate compliance method to ensure right-to-work checks meet local immigration requirements in foreign countries.
Employers should take an active role in determining the next steps of impacted employees during this time. Employers can address this new global immigration framework by planning. Now is the time employers should work ever so closely with their global immigration partners to ensure global updates are received and analyzed properly.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.
Yasmin Mirreh is an associate at Erickson Immigration Group where she specializes in corporate immigration. She advises multinational companies on employee mobility and immigration compliance.