Many political observers say 2013 may offer the first real chance for comprehensive immigration reform since the Reagan administration. Stung by a large Hispanic gap in the 2012 polls, Republicans – led by new-guard moderates like Florida Sen. Mark Rubio – have been reaching across the aisle with proposed changes that would affect how employers hire, recruit and staff both low-skill laborers and high-skill target workers.

Employer organizations and coalitions are commending such efforts. However, just dealing with the current landscape (both in terms of importing and exporting wage-earners) can be challenging enough, even before reforms are taken into account. Experts say companies need to carefully consider their staffing needs before deciding whether their workforce needs more foreign nationals or U.S. citizens, both at home and abroad.

This spring, the American Council on International Personnel and the Society for Human Resource Management applauded congressional efforts to fix what they called the dysfunctional U.S. immigration system, in particular singling out for praise the bipartisan “Gang of Eight.”

“Immigration reform during this Congress offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fix a badly broken system. We congratulate the Senate ‘Gang of Eight’ for their work to prepare and introduce this bill,” says Michael Aitken, SHRM vice president of government affairs. “ACIP and SHRM look forward to working with both the Senate and the House to make sure that the employment verification system is effective and easy for employers to use and provides certainty in the hiring process.”

Joy Hill, international assignment manager at Visteon Corporation and a member of SHRM’s global expertise panel, says that verification may be the first decision hiring managers have to make. “If the immigration reform does take place based on what has been outlined and what we can see taking place right now through the Senate,” she says, “then it is going to open up a lot of opportunities for doing local hiring with the increase in the H-1B applications.” But those specialty occupation visas will come with increased oversight.

“There are a lot of stipulations that are going to go along with that and a lot of additional requirements that are going to be enforced in order to be even eligible to apply for those H-1B applications,” Hill says. “So that, in and of itself, is going to change how the organization has to handle the staffing requirements. One of the stipulations is that there will be mandatory use of the E-Verify or a similar system. Companies, if they aren’t already, that’s going to force them to enroll in the E-Verify system, and then of course all the requirements that come with that enrollment. So, each organization is really going to have to take a look at what their staffing needs are, and how much they’re willing to open up their processes to government inspection.”

To read more about immigration reform’s possible impact on HR and recruiting, read tomorrow’s inBrief. For the full story, pick up a June 15 EBN.

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