Immigration Consulting - Opportunities and Challenges in the Global Economy

By Ashish Kuckreja, Global Mobility Manager - India & South Asia, Siemens Technology India

Increasing globalization and changing working practices are continuing to drive a significant increase in the number of cross border working arrangements. This has resulted in the rapid rise of the Immigration consulting industry in India as well as in countries around the world, having significant business and economic activity.

Another accompanying trend with an increase in the number of cross border working arrangements is the enhanced focus of the Immigration and tax authorities on the compliance position of multinational organizations with internationally mobile employees. 

The acceleration of global mobility is happening, it seems, in spite of governments in many regions, rather than aided by it. Those countries that facilitate the free movement of labor are more likely to become the most economically competitive. Those countries that recognize that their ageing workforce will soon create a pressing need for imported talent have already taken the first steps towards lowering their immigration barriers and it is expected that more countries will adopt less restrictive immigration practices in the future. But it won’t be easy, as recent history has illustrated.

The economic turmoil of recent years, combined with political instability and unrest in many parts of the world, has pushed immigration up the political agenda. Borders have tightened in many regions, as some governments attempt to restrict immigration in their response to low employment, while others bow to concerns over national security.

In a business world where organizations will have to move people faster and more often, this increased politicization of immigration is a problem. The political awareness to anticipate immigration changes will become an essential skill for the organizations with support from the Immigration consulting industry.

Immigration issues will be one of the major contributors to the increase in short-term assignments and business travelers in the coming years, as businesses navigate immigration requirements. In the longer term, though, the clear economic benefits that talent mobility brings will encourage greater collaboration between businesses and governments to remove some of the Immigration barriers.

The nature of global mobility has moved well beyond its traditional form and the Immigration consulting function is no longer restricted to delivering services to assignees and other stakeholders rather it will become a vital strategic tool that requires a predictive rather than reactive mindset. Modern mobility has widened the demands placed on the Immigration consulting function, which must now:

  • Manage compliance and risk.
  • Deliver a good assignee experience so that the worker can concentrate on their new role.
  • Understand, report on and manage costs of movement of employees.
  • Make sure that the organization gets the best value for money and report on the return on investment.
  • Contribute to developing a sustainable talent supply
  • Promote the rapid deployment of key skills and talent
  • Develop meaningful management information to aid business strategy and decisions
  • Partner with the business, understand the wider business strategy and then develop effective communications, policies and processes to deliver the talent mobility strategy.

Recent Trends in Immigration Enforcement around the Globe

  1. Increased global focus on compliance
  • Canada – Increased compliance efforts and frequency of audits
  • Singapore – Ministry of Manpower has increased rate of audits and stricter standards
  • United Kingdom – Increased rate of audits, in addition to stricter immigration regulations and increased government fees
  1. European Refugee Crisis
  2. Increased Bureaucratic and documentation requirements. For example in China there is an Increase in overall processing time due to increased document requirements.
  3. Stricter Enforcement of Immigration regulations
  • Canada – Biometrics and Electronic Travel Authorization for Non-Visa Nationals
  • Singapore – Stricter measures require salaries be published and job advertising
  1. Immigration Practices by Countries
  • Lead time: The lead time is how long it takes from initiating the immigration process to obtaining approval from the government. The average time needed to obtain work authorization varies widely across countries, from roughly one week to over six months.
  • Certain countries impose minimum salary requirements on foreign workers.
  • Developed countries impose quotas, labor market tests and extensive documentation requirements on foreign workers.
  • The cost of work visa has seen an upward trend for certain countries in the recent past but this has not minimized the uncertainty in the work authorization process.

Future Scope

Over the coming decades, demographic changes and economic forces will combine to transform the business landscape still further. New centers of growth will emerge.

Demand for global mobility of talent will increase further as new markets emerge for multinational companies to sell their products and services to, and also manufacture their goods at lower cost. Offshoring will continue to gather pace. A new breed of mobile worker will emerge alongside the expatriate and would meet the globalization demand through commuter and rotational assignments. Companies will continue to tap into the rich talent pools in emerging markets, particularly India and China.

Thus to manage these rapidly emerging trends in the global economy and mobility of talent, the Immigration consulting industry would have to be geared up to be able to support their clients for them to have the right skills in the right place at the right time.

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