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5 Changes in Immigration Policies for Workers on Assignment

Global mobility programs are confronting a new trend in immigration policy that makes placing workers on assignment more difficult and expensive. In an effort to preserve job opportunities for their citizens, some countries have placed quotas on work permits, or inter-company limits on the number of foreign workers that can be hired.

Tightening immigration laws is one way to stem the flow of foreign nationals seeking better work and living conditions, especially for developed countries with strong economies.  The surprising Brexit vote in the UK was partially motivated by the desire to close the flow of EU migrants into the country.

Regardless of politics, companies planning on sending employees on assignment should carefully review these policies and anticipate any limits that may be imposed on work permits for assignees.  Failure to stay up to date could result in permit denials, inhibiting business activity.

What are the New Changes in Immigration? : A Country Case-Study

Immigration Changes in the US

The US has been the dubious leader in strict immigration policies for some time, and that continues with several recent changes.  The H1B visa program for non-immigrant workers has always been subject to an annual quota of 65,000, and there is now an increase in fees for certain companies that are heavy users of H1B visas.  In some cases, the fees can reach as high as $10,000 per H1B employee and is being opposed by countries such as India whose IT workers account for nearly two-thirds of all H1B visas issued.

The H1B visa program has also seen new restrictions on the ability of workers to change locations inside the US without a new application.  Moving a worker to a new city may mean submitting a new H1B petition.

Also, the very popular visa waiver program for business visits of 90 days or less is under pressure from a new rule that will increase scrutiny of visitors that have previously been to certain Arab countries.

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Singapore’s tightening Immigration Policy

Singapore’s traditional ‘open door’ immigration policy is also finding some opposition, leading to increased restrictions on the number of foreign workers that can be hired.

Those rules now include a quota (depending on industry) of the number of foreign workers allowed in relation to Singapore workers in a company.  The quota is accompanied by a ‘foreign worker levy’ which is a “pricing mechanism to regulate the number of workers in Singapore.”

Since many companies use foreign labor given the lower compensation, the levy removes the economic incentive. Furthermore, there are already 1.35 million foreign workers in Singapore, and many residents feel that their country is no longer their own.

Recent Immigration Changes in Canada

In order to secure a work permit in Canada, an application must be filed to show that the position could not be filled by a Canadian.  This is known as a Labor Market Impact Assessment, and has several requirements including proof that the company has advertised for the position within Canada.  The applicant must also be from a country that is in Canada’s visa waiver program.

South Africa tightens Immigration Laws

In Kenya, there is a new rule that requires each foreign worker to undertake a Kenyan understudy, in order to train a local replacement after the worker’s departure, or at least gain from the influx of expat skills.  There has also been a broad request from immigration for locals to report any foreigners without a valid work permit.  These new rules are clearly designed to favor Kenyan workers, and minimze the presence of foreign workers in the country.

Changes in Saudi Arabia’s Immigration Policy

Six million expatriates live in Saudi Arabia, and there are stringent immigration and work permit requirements.  For example, work permits need a sponsoring company. This work permit cannot be transferred to a new company until two years has passed.  This rule was put into effect to prevent companies hiring workers for the sole purpose of transferring them to other companies.

How Can a GEO Employer of Record Assist with the Changes in Immigration Policies?

A GEO local employer of record is a legal entity already established in the host country, and in a position to sponsor and process work permits at any time.  The GEO also handles all aspects of local employment and payroll, replacing the time consuming and expensive DIY approach to foreign employment.

This is a real asset for companies just entering a new market, who may not have a subsidiary to sponsor work permits for employees (work permits cannot typically be sponsored by companies solely located in another country). The GEO sponsors the permits on behalf of the employees, and will deal with any quotas, fees or other regulations in place.

The GEO can stay current with changes in immigration laws that might affect the work permit process, and can rely on a local network of partners to overcome any delays or limits.

Get in touch to find out more about how an Employer of Record Solution can help your company

The information in this article is subject to changes in local legislation.

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