How Are Recent Immigration Rules Impacting Talent Strategies?

As immigration crackdowns continue, U.S.-based employers are increasingly experiencing difficulties in filling open roles.
immigration talent strategy

Business leaders are increasingly concerned with how they will fill vacant roles in their organizations.

“The changing landscape around enforcement of immigration laws makes them concerned and nervous,” said Richard Burke, CEO of Envoy Global Inc., a global workforce management software company specializing in immigration services based in Chicago.

In a recent “Immigration Trends Report from Envoy, employers indicated that they are boosting efforts to hire foreign national talent to get work completed. In 2017, 63 percent said sourcing these employees is very or extremely important to their talent strategy; this year, 70 percent felt the same sentiment. Further, 28 percent increased staff to aid in their talent attraction efforts.

Burke said that many of Envoy’s customers prefer to hire U.S.-born talent because doing so is easier with fewer transactional costs and less worry about compliance. However, many experts say there aren’t enough employees present in the United States to fill those roles. Many companies estimate about 1 million technology-related jobs in the U.S. could remain empty in 2020, so companies will need to consider nontraditional engineers who might lack degrees, according to a 2016 TechCrunch article. Business leaders might also turn to other methods of finding talent, such as adjusting business practices or even location. Envoy’s report found that 26 percent of businesses surveyed had to delay projects, and 22 percent relocated work overseas. “That’s not really in anyone’s interest,” Burke said. Employers want to keep the jobs local and contribute to GDP growth — all things the current administration wants — but they’re making it hard for employers by not allowing to hire a talented group of individuals, he said.

Without the right talent pool, business could struggle, said David Morgan, president of the information technology and engineering vertical at Addison Group, a staffing and job search firm based in Chicago. When his clients can’t find their necessary talent locally, they could take business overseas where there are enough people to fill open roles, leading to job loss in the U.S.

As a member of TechServe Alliance, Morgan has focused on the issue of H-1B availability. “We first of all have a problem with the number of visas that are even currently allowed,” he said.

In fiscal 2017, there were 236,000 H-1B visas available, which will dwindle to 85,000 for fiscal 2019. Even if the number of these visas currently allowed tripled, supply still would not meet demand, Morgan said. He added that STEM education is important to improve the supply of highly educated talent over time, but the U.S. still needs a short-term fix to help with demand, which he said is only going to continue increasing.

Similarly, crackdowns on legal and illegal immigration, as well as reductions in refugee admittance, mean fewer immigrants of all skill levels will enter or remain in the U.S. “There’s been a dramatic reduction in regulation in other areas, and the one exception has been immigration,” Burke said. His customers consist of U.S.-based employers seeking tech talent; Burke said these business leaders say they understand security and H-1B abuse are issues, though these problems are the exception and not the norm in immigration practices. Fixes to these issues include penalizing employers that lack proper background checks and abuse the system, while improving government background checks “so those who are willing to comply can hire the necessary foreign national talent, address the abuse concern and address the security concern.”

Lauren Dixon is a senior editor at Talent Economy. To comment, email