Leading up to the pandemic, companies and global mobility departments were starting to become accustomed to grappling with increasingly strict employment immigration rules and regulations across the globe. Spurned somewhat by a rise in protectionist sentiments and geopolitical events, these restrictive schemes raised the stakes for more diligent corporate immigration strategies and a required unwavering commitment to compliance.
Then March 2020 happened, and the need for flawless attention to detail and compliance in corporate immigration programs was highlighted even further. Despite a COVID-caused slowdown of new cases and temporary moratoriums on immigration opportunities around the world throughout much of 2020, company stakeholders had the opportunity throughout the past 12 months to reset their priorities and take inventory of how they organize and administer their corporate immigration programs. These strategies need to account for the realities of a post-pandemic environment, which will likely require more vetting of health and safety restrictions and the potential compliance issues of a more welcoming work from anywhere future.
To assist clients with current and new challenges in administering corporate immigration programs, Aires conducted a Pulse Survey on immigration practices in which we focused on learning what was most important to corporate immigration stakeholders when it came to its program’s policies, priorities, processes, and responsibilities.
Corporate Immigration Policies
A company’s immigration policy provides overarching direction as to how it approaches corporate immigration responsibilities and matters of employee work authorization. Within the survey, we found that 7 out of 10 respondents did indeed have a formalized immigration policy at their company. Within that group, 32% had a policy for U.S. immigration matters only and 25% had a single comprehensive policy that applied to both U.S. and non-U.S. immigration matters.
Aires strongly suggests that its clients with immigration activity document immigration protocols in a formal policy or published guidelines. Not only does this outline and provide familiarity with best practices and expectations, but it also ensures fair and nondiscriminatory treatment amongst all employees, a critical component to compliance with labor and employment laws.
Aires regularly works with clients in the creation of formal immigration policies and guidelines both in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Corporate Immigration Program Priorities
We asked survey participants to rank what elements of their corporate immigration program were most critical. Based on the results of the survey, the number one priority was efficiency in administering immigration cases. That is, procuring an immigration benefit for an employee quickly and properly. Undoubtedly, an employee’s satisfaction with an immigration process will depend heavily on the element of time, which is sometimes a challenge in corporate immigration due to the efforts required to arrange applications and the unpredictability of government processing times.
Aires works with its immigration clients to ensure proper implementation of processes and workflows that can be replicated in multiple jurisdictions, allowing our client stakeholders to understand and manage expectations while we and our partners control communications and submit applications with immigration authorities. It is our belief that this joint, team-focused approach to customer service allows for an efficient case preparation and compilation process while also allowing company stakeholders to have transparency to case status and proactively anticipate any unforeseen and uncontrollable delays.
Corporate Immigration Processes
It is not surprising that most of the respondents of the survey outsource their immigration functions (84% of survey respondents outsource immigration). Of those, 48% use just one provider/vendor, whereas 49% utilize multiple immigration partners.
At Aires, we believe there are benefits to both approaches. First, an immigration program that is outsourced to just one immigration provider can realize enhanced familiarity with one provider; however, to be able to choose best-in-class pricing and services, it is often necessary to have multiple providers (if not many) throughout the globe.
The Aires immigration service provides clients with the best of both worlds. Utilizing one platform and a “single source of truth,” processes and workflows are consolidated under the Aires umbrella exclusively. With 70+ partners across the world and the ability and independence to work with our clients’ preferred vendors, we can still easily and flexibly engage a wide array of practitioners to work on our clients’ cases. We feel that this is a critical element to compliance and efficiency.
Corporate Immigration Responsibilities
The majority of participants in the survey have confirmed that responsibility for corporate immigration rests with their Global Mobility teams. However, there are some exceptions noted. For instance, one respondent informed us, “Global Mobility has oversight for immigration outside of the U.S. In the U.S., however, our legal department has oversight.” Other than global mobility and legal departments, HR staff working in a specific location may be responsible for applicable immigration matters.
It is not uncommon to see Global Mobility have the most immigration responsibility but to also divvy up obligations depending on the destination country. This is a fair approach; however, uniformity and centralized data retention can be forfeited in this scenario. Due to Aires’ role in administering immigration programs for our clients, we are able to delegate immigration activity within an organization on the basis of either jurisdiction or some other criteria, while at the same time conserving important single-pane-of-glass principles when it comes to corporate immigration program management and data reporting.
The corporate immigration landscape will undoubtedly continue to adapt to a new, post-pandemic normal. And, coupled with the fluidity of geopolitical events and relations around the globe, immigration program strategies should continually be reviewed and enhanced to meet company objectives and compliance requirements. Chief among these is recognizing a strong balance between efficiency and compliance. Aires can deliver this type of immigration program management to our clients while offloading the administrative burdens of immigration work, centralizing processes and data, and managing vendors that are submitting immigration petitions on the company’s behalf.
We invite you to reach out to your Aires representative or a member of the Aires immigration team for a full copy of the pulse survey or to explore these topics further.