Virginia, US
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| Rajeeva Chandra

Immigration Compliance: From Fragile to Agile

Recent Developments and Trends The recent changes in immigration policies in the US, UK, and Australia reflect on the continuing rise of populism as well as ever increasing challenges for global businesses. 

Part 1 in an Immigration Compliance series

Recent Developments and Trends

The recent changes in immigration policies in the US, UK, and Australia reflect on the continuing rise of populism as well as ever increasing challenges for global businesses. This is impacting the global mobility and growth strategies of companies across the globe. What this also means is enhanced immigration law enforcement. This is already reflected in the recent reform measures announced in the US (H1B Compliance & Enforcement Measures announced in April 2017) and UK (Immigration Rules changes that took effect April 6, 2017) including surprise checks, visits, and audits.

In the Asia-Pacific region, strict enforcement of immigration laws is already in practice in countries like Australia, where the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIPB) conducts frequent audits and surprise checks. This will continue to be in focus given the recent Australian immigration reform measures impacting the 457 program. In Singapore, with the implementation of the Fair Consideration Framework (‘FCF’), some 250 companies have been placed on a watch-list for not doing enough to hire and groom Singaporeans. In general, there is an upward trend of surprise audits (visits by government agencies to crack down on illegal immigrants). Immigrant law violators that are targeted are not only at blue collar jobs but also more and more at white collar jobs. Large multi-national companies have also come under the scanner of government agencies across the APAC region and, increasingly, in emerging markets such as Indonesia and China.

Common Challenges Faced by Companies

The challenges faced by large multi-national companies on immigration compliance are different, in the sense that they tend to arise more on account of lack of expertise in the immigration subject combined with inadequate governance. Rarely do compliance issues arise on account of a conscious violation. In some cases, the immigration processes including business travel governance are not scaled up with the growth in business and travellers. Short term travellers or business travellers increase the vulnerability of companies in violating immigration laws. Most of them engage travel desks with expertise in ticketing but not necessarily in immigration laws, which enhances the risk of non-compliance.

Benefits of Compliance

With the tightening up of the work pass requirements and more protection of local labour, it is essential to manage business travellers effectively and to plan ahead in good time in order to obtain the right work passes when required. There are usually options available so that a robust mobility programme facilitates the movement of talent rather than holding up business. Conversely, lack of mobility support and governance is likely to result in non-compliance with the risk of audits and serious consequences for companies, their employees, and the ability to continue to do business.

In times like these, the key imperative for global businesses is a cross border mobility strategy with maximum compliance. Companies must make sure they progressively move into a proactive compliance mind-set. In the long term, a fully compliant mobility strategy will bring several efficiencies into the processes as well as fuel business growth. Last but not the least, a comprehensive immigration compliance framework supported by robust underlying governance, processes and technology will certainly position companies, in these uncertain times, to move forward from being fragile to agile.

Next in this series: Focus on corporate challenges pertaining to business travellers and possible measures Companies can take for risk mitigation.