Changing Face of Immigration in Global Markets

By Mitali Sharma, Global Head of Immigration and Mobility, Intelenet Global Servies

The International Organization for Migration has estimated the number of foreign migrants to be over 200 million worldwide today. Of the present 200 million immigrants around the world, nearly 70.6 million are in Europe, followed by North America, with over 45.1 million immigrants and Asia with nearly 25.3 million. Asia is a major source of immigration for skilled as well as un-skilled labor. International assignments play a key role in the movement of work force geographically to maintain balance between the demand vs supply. International assignments are also a great way to give employees the opportunity to gain insight and deep understanding of business with customers and business partners across diverse cultural platforms beyond their current geographies. As the world becomes a global place it has become a compact region for movement of skilled labour which is sparse in some but abundant in another. An immigration consultant helps to identify the skill set and match it to the applicable permits or use combinations so that the skills are available lawfully across the geographies as per their demand. This ensures that the demand is addressed and at the same time the local rules and laws are respected therefore maintaining compliance and healthy, law obliging environment for the organization as well and its workforce or talent.

There are two distinct types of immigration from India - people with technical skills and professional expertise migrating to the US, UK, Canada and other western countries and unskilled labor migrating to the Middle East. Large proportion of IT revenue is dependent on movement of skilled workers. Until the late nineties immigration out of India was concentrated from certain geographies and was limited to known territories. Most of this was unskilled workforce trying to use gainful employment for the benefit of finances. This category of work force did not care about the working conditions or lack of benefits it could possibly be due to limited knowledge and exposure to global working conditions. Over the period of time as the work force in India started getting opportunities to refine, improve and learn owing to the IT boom, the educated minds understood the need for demanding equal wages, better working conditions and employment rights as per the local labour laws as well as healthcare benefits as a consideration for overseas assignments. The sole factor for considering overseas movement was no longer money alone.

Adding to this was various countries creating laws to ensure that immigration was not a tool used to undercut wages for their own citizens. Most of the A-list countries created immigration laws and started to curb work permits by setting up quotas to filter skilled work force as compared to labour based on minimum wages. Organizations across realized the need to have support staff to understand and interpret these immigration laws and rules enforced by the governments at the same time address the needs of the skilled workforce so that business could exist with maximum profitability. Immigration evolved as the tool to move skilled labour to the destination where there was a temporary or permanent requirement without disturbing the local sentiments. Immigration compliance became a factor along with valid licenses to operate lawful business for multinational companies.

The search for cheap skilled work force drives multinational companies to explore emerging markets in developing countries. It is essential to follow the immigration laws along with taxation policies. Every law abiding organization wants to remain compliant to ensure smooth functioning of businesses and at the same time need to build leaders, nurture talent within the local work force. The immigration consultants are now looked up as enablers. International movements are no longer limited to the developed nations hence the consultants are required to have a holistic view to provide proper guidance to multi-cultural employers. The challenge of the day for the employers includes attracting and preparing those with highest potential to take on international assignments. It appears less daunting when it comes to moving the potential talent to developed nations. Providing them with lucrative packages along with matching lifestyle options for self and family has become essential for assignees before negotiating international assignments. The immigration consultants now have to take up the role of Global Mobility advisors and enablers to ensure smooth sailing. They understand the immigration law and interpret the regulations to ensure that the business runs efficiently. Organizations look at immigration consultants as advisors on rules and regulations for operating businesses. The immigration function no longer looks at immigration alone, it is all about Global Mobility – the ability for the organization to carry out business lawfully in another country and to enable the employee to earn prevailing wages as well as gain lawful employment overseas.

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