Employers face hurdles in pursuing foreign employees

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U.S. immigration policy is having a chilling effect on the hiring of foreign workers, which may result in companies engaging in more sponsorships, according to a veteran employment-based immigration lawyer.

Since coming to office, President Donald Trump signed the Buy American, Hire American Executive Order on April 18 2017 and banned travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Although there are no new laws in place, the executive order prompted officers to scrutinize work-related immigration applications more strictly, causing delays, and even roadblocks, in hiring foreign workers, causing difficulties for companies that depend on foreign employees.

“What we are seeing the Trump administration doing is to change the way the immigration system works by sub-regulatory actions,” says attorney Andrew Greenfield of Fragomen Worldwide. Greenfield, who has been working in the field of employment-based immigration for 24 years, has seen many changes made to immigration law during that time.

The hiring of foreign work has become more complex. “HR firms and departments of employers that work with foreign workers will find themselves needing to engage in sponsorships. HR departments will need to become more sophisticated and work with outside council,” he says.

Greenfield spoke on Friday at a conference organized by the New York-based HR platform Namely. The audience, made up human resources professionals, asked him about issues dealing with foreign workers who are also asylum seekers. He said HR professionals need to keep in mind that changes in the country’s conditions, such as a new democratic government or a dictator no longer being in power, could cause asylum requests to be thrown out.

One HR expert that specializes in the hiring and retainment of foreign talent is Dayna Hunt, senior human resources generalist of the German engineering and consultancy company P3. The company hires more than 100 foreign employees, according to Hunt. Most of their engineers come from Germany, India and China.

It is difficult to hire and retain foreign employees “not necessarily because there are new rules, but with the ‘Buy American, Hire American’ [Executive Order] and the political climate a new tone is set for officers. They try to do what they think they are expected to do,” says Hunt.

She says the unpredictability regarding their status does not affect the productivity of their foreign workers. “Foreign workers work harder. I guess they
don’t want anything else to be against them,” she adds.

Hunt sees the retainment of foreign employees as a benefit to her company.

“There is a shortage of engineers. We are at the lowest unemployment rate. We cannot find engineers in the U.S. They are all taken,” she says.

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