Honestly, who wants to read one more article about an immigration ban? That was my initial reaction when we started brainstorming exactly what impact this Executive Order could have on our clients and the employees we support across the globe. But in speaking directly with many of those companies affected by the fundamental immigration shift, clarity is beginning to emerge and with it, a vision for how to care for your employees in this new world.
Talk With Your US-based Foreign National Employees
This immigration ban has shaken many foreign nationals to their core. A close friend whose family emigrated from Iran decades ago told me over the weekend “for the very first time I worry about my family’s safety. I don’t see us being forced to flee the country, but if that happened you better believe we couldn’t return to Iran – where would we go”? It’s time to talk with your employees with international roots about how they are doing and what they are feeling. Of top priority is to simply understand how your employees are faring, to the extent they are willing to share. But beyond that, I’ve heard countless employees giving serious and near-term consideration as to whether it’s time to return home or at a minimum leave the US. If you can show them you care, you’ll have a dedicated and engaged employee for years to come.
Find a “Home” For Affected Employees… and Candidates
For your current employees that need to relocate, let’s find a safe place for them. For example, if you have a subsidiary in Dubai it may be appropriate to start exploring a secondment for your employee with roots in that region. Or perhaps consider a transfer of your US-based employees to a more convenient time zone, a tactic that many of our clients have embraced by setting up Canadian operations to employ their global talent and strategy; check out recent comments from Prime Minister Trudeau that hints at a more open immigration policy.
But what if the employee wants to return home to a country where you may not have the ability to employ them yourself? This is the perfect scenario for an International PEO arrangement which allows you to employ that individual in country when you don’t have a legal entity of your own.
Access to H1-B visas are surely going to be more difficult under the new presidency. Christopher Mims from The Wall Street Journal wrote a timely piece on how this could materially injure US tech companies. Mims suggests, “The biggest loss from excessive or capricious restrictions on immigration would ultimately be the loss of the community of best-in-the-world minds that coalesce in a tech hub like Silicon Valley.” I completely agree with Mims on this point, but do we then decide to not hire that top talent at all? Of course not! We hire anyway and find a way to make them a part of the company even if it means employment takes place in a country other than the US. As the world flattens, companies have improved their collaboration and communication across borders, time zones, languages and customs to make their remote employees feel a part of the bigger team. As a global organization, I can tell you we are power users of Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts, and we always err on the side of a phone call (time zone permitting of course!) versus an email.
Move Forward Versus Standing Still
We are an adaptive species and adapt we must. Perhaps that statement rings hollow considering I’m an American-passport-holding national… but realistically what other choice do we have? The time is now to let our own actions speak for themselves and hiding our heads in holes during periods of uncertainty will further no cause. To keep global (and local) economies moving forward we need to each place our daily tiles in the mosaic. Further, as we are always looking for competitive advantages now is the time to go scoop up incredible global talent while your competition wallows in inaction. Go find that top nanoscale structured material expert and hire her today in her home country. And call Velocity Global if you don’t have a way to hire her directly, we’ll get her onboard tomorrow in basically any country on the planet so you can run laps around your competition.