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Has the New Pace of Visa Management Changed HR Forever?

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Managing a global workforce has always invited complexity. The past several years, however, underscore how important it is to have transparent tracking and a team that can communicate clearly to everyone involved.  

Visa processing and case management must be handled in a way that ensures stability for the employee and for the organization. Indeed, the visas themselves are only part of the equation: with so many shifting policies, the legal and business strategies must be intertwined. 

 Here are three factors to consider when evaluating your business immigration program: 

1. Need for speed  

2020 brought us a new economic reality. Some industries saw complete halts, while others were able to continue with growth plans. The catch? Tightening immigration policies and travel bans sidelined and stranded a staggering number of cross-border employees. 

As conditions change, being able to quickly address employee needs is critical to help keep their confidence in the company and to support their work. We have always leaned on technology to create a clear picture of a company’s cross-border situation, and the leap in capabilities offered by emerging software applications is easing corporate pain. 

Technology is an increasingly important part of the solution, allowing HR managers to get immediate answers and speak confidently about where employees stand and how their status is being handled; individual employees to obtain the same information about their cases; and senior management to be informed about immigration trends and strategies within the company. 

2. Human touch  

Technology creates a better processing system, but employees are still human. Uncertainty and questions about their status are valid, and having knowledgeable people who can explain where they stand and where they’re headed is invaluable. 

We are acutely aware of the connection between the personal and work lives of employees. If nothing else, 2020 highlighted that employee comfort, safety, and health is of paramount importance to companies that value a loyal workforce. 

HR managers should open and encourage direct lines?of communication between their employees and the immigration attorneys who are closest to their cases. Understanding how policies and restrictions will affect a worker’s family, for example, starts a different conversation about their status.  

 3. Legal expertise 

Every business immigration program should be grounded by an understanding of the legal environment.  Case management as a knowledge-based experience creates value, while visa processing in a factory environment creates risk.  

The line between legal requirements and visa approval is not always straight. Each nonimmigrant employment category has different requirements, conditions and authorized periods of stay. Employers and foreign nationals need to select the most appropriate category in order to improve the chance for approval. 

The need for legal expertise has been particularly clear recently, with visa denials and requests for evidence skyrocketing and the pandemic adding a layer of complexity never before experienced. Assembly line solutions are not the answer. Coupling state of the art technology with personal service and understanding creates real value for a company’s immigration function. 

As any tech or healthcare leader will attest, high caliber professionals from outside the U.S. are crucial components of growth. Consider that in the 2020 lottery for H1-B work visas, roughly 46% of the 275,000 registrants held a U.S. master’s degree or higher. Foreign nationals working abroad are just as valuable. 

Making sure these employees are protected and productive is a challenge, even in ordinary times. To maintain consistency and predictability across the global workforce, companies should deploy solutions that combine technology, legal expertise, and the human touch. 

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: Phil Curtis has practiced immigration law for more than 30 years and is a founder of Chin & Curtis, LLP.  He has guided Chin & Curtis for the last seven years and now serves as Co- Managing Partner.  With more than 40 professionals dedicated to serving the immigration needs of the business community, Chin & Curtis is New England’s largest independent immigration law firm.


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