Our position as immigration attorneys offers us plenty of opportunities to gauge the temperature of America’s business climate as it relates to immigration policy. So we weren’t surprised to read the results of a recently published study showing that business immigration is the number one policy concern among U.S. businesses.
The study, the first of its kind, was a joint effort by the National Association of State Chambers (NASC), Littler, and the Workplace Policy Institute. It is billed as a “50-state study on workforce engagement” among the NASC’s members. Given the organization’s size and influence, it is not hard to trust their findings.
Three Key Findings
The NASC study considered a broad range of issues that affect U.S. businesses. As the study’s report explains, immigration policy is “far and away and without a doubt” the most pressing national policy concern. This fact is the first of three key findings detailed in the report. The other two are:
- Labor Market Needs – State chambers of commerce and their members believe that immigration reform should be addressed with a particular focus on the needs of the current labor market.
- Visa Availability – NASC members believe the current visa system does not provide for enough business immigration to help employers fill open jobs.
It would appear from the study that business leaders understand that current immigration law was written for a different time. Things have changed dramatically since the most recent rules were implemented. As immigration attorneys, we agree with this assessment. We work with companies that mention the same frustrations over immigration law time and again.
Green Cards and Visas
According to an HR Dive survey conducted in early 2021, more than one-third of U.S. employers were concerned that immigration rules don’t allow for enough green cards in any given year. In addition, more than 40% of the survey respondents do not feel INS issues enough H-1B visas.
Both issues create big problems for companies looking to hire immigrant workers. Limiting both green cards and H-1B visas severely restricts the talent pool. In a tight labor market, a restricted labor pool only makes it more difficult for employers to keep things on track.
Employers have had an especially challenging time since the start of the COVID pandemic. Not only did the pandemic create an economic slowdown that forced a lot of companies to furlough and lay off employees, but it also created an untenable situation when the time came to bring those employees back.
Overcoming the Great Resignation
With COVID pretty much in the rear-view mirror, employers are faced with finding ways to overcome the great resignation. Our experience tells us that plenty of them are willing to look overseas for skilled workers. But with immigration law such as it is, they can only look so far and so often.
Companies are not allowed to bring in unlimited numbers of immigrant workers to fill out their payrolls. Those they can bring in must still go through a long and sometimes convoluted process to obtain a visa or green card. All the while, jobs remain open and the work isn’t getting done.
There has been a lot of talk in recent months about our nation’s immigration problems. Much of the discussion has focused on the southern border at the expense of immigration law reforms that could actually boost U.S. businesses by giving them access to a larger talent pool.
It is no wonder that the majority of U.S. companies consider business immigration the number one national policy concern. It remains to be seen whether our lawmakers in Washington will do anything about it.
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