In our previous articles, we covered how and why successful companies are transforming their immigration approach from a transactional model to a strategic one. We pointed to a few key drivers that were critical in determining the right time to invest in this transition, which raises yet another important question. What’s the best way for a company to get started? How can a company organize its immigration function to create and sustain a competitive advantage?
In the paragraphs below, we break down some tactical thoughts around how to get started with what is arguably the most important component of any immigration program: the Immigration Policy.
What is an immigration policy, and why have one?
In short, an Immigration Policy is a detailed, thoughtfully crafted document that dictates the full scope of how immigration is managed at a company - covering everything from which roles qualify for sponsorship, which parties pay for what parts of these processes, when Green Cards get started and much more. Think of it as the equivalent to the US constitution, but for a company’s immigration program. It outlines the rules and protocols of when and how a company will leverage immigration services, and those rules are uniquely informed by the broader strategic goals of the company (risk mitigation, competitive talent management etc).
To understand the purpose and value of having an Immigration Policy, consider the logic and process of building a house. To build a well-organized house entails multiple stages of planning and execution, and the order in which these stages are completed is paramount. A perfectly crafted plumbing system isn’t particularly useful if there’s no foundation for it to run through, for example, nor is the most weather-resistant roof of any use if it has no walls upon which to sit. With this analogy in mind, the Immigration Policy is effectively the “foundational bedrock” upon which all other strategic initiatives build on top of, and future articles will dig into those additional initiatives in detail. Suffice to say, the quality of a company’s Immigration Policy can have significant long term impact, and can spell the difference between that “house” standing strong through stressors, or collapsing at the first sign of resistance.
In practice, immigration policies offer transparency and guidelines for all stakeholders involved; for the recruiter, it can serve as a tool to incentivize international candidates and improve talent acquisition effectiveness. For team leads, a policy helps to automate visa renewal workflows that could otherwise be distracting and anxiety-inducing for their teams. It also improves predictability and reliability, which for Directors and other CxO’s tasked with strategic forecasting might have had limited to no visibility into the accuracy of upcoming talent spend.
By standardizing a set of working guidelines, company stakeholders benefit from transparency, predictability, and greater alignment towards the company’s strategic objectives whereas otherwise, each actor is left to their own initiatives and siloed knowledge of company practices.
How to craft a policy that fits your business objectives
As is the norm within immigration, there is no universal boilerplate policy that applies equally well to all organizations, though there are a handful of guiding best practices to get started. For most companies, the policy-building process begins with determining the company’s goals and priorities, as agreed upon by all relevant stakeholders including finance, legal, HR, recruitment, etc. Once goals are established, it’s worthwhile to do some industry-specific benchmarking research to ensure there are no incompatibilities with those goals (we can help with this). From there, the policy can be tailored to suit either a more defensive (i.e. risk mitigation) or offensive (i.e. talent management) agenda.
A few key elements to consider when personalizing your policy are:
Business growth objectives
- From a workforce planning standpoint, how many new-hires, and for what roles, is the company targeting?
- How competitive is your industry and region, and what’s the likelihood that your ideal candidate will require immigration sponsorship? (see this article for some quick stats).
- How complex, and therefore risk-prone, is your organizational structure that engages with immigration?
- Do you have only a couple stakeholders engaging with immigration, or many?
- Is there an annual budget assigned to immigration specifically, or is that spend lumped in with talent or recruitment?
- If your current provider bills hourly, how does your immigration budget incorporate the costs for unexpected legal consultations, or RFE’s (Requests for Evidence)?
Once you’ve gathered the appropriate research and clarified objectives from across the organization it’s time to put it all together! We would highly recommend working with your counsel (or see our recommendations and chat with us directly) on drafting the policy to ensure it doesn’t inadvertently increase legal exposure, and that it’s on par from a competitive benchmarking standpoint.
The actual content of this policy will vary based on the considerations above, but will typically cover an expansive range of tactical use-cases including: which visas a company is willing to sponsor, whether or not and in what contexts Premium Processing will be utilized, the hiring requirements for various Green Card categories, who pays for what parts of these processes, and much more.
Immigration policy in action
Once drafted, it’s critical to be aware that your policy is only useful to the extent that it is both understood and actively adopted by all your stakeholders. There’s no worse feeling than investing time and resources into a perfectly crafted policy, only to have it sit idly in an ancient Dropbox folder, never to see the light of day again.
To prevent this from happening, consider organizing stakeholder training sessions to ensure wide-spread adoption of the new document, and that all parties understand how, when, and why it’s to be used. It might also behoove you to consider re-evaluating the policy at regular intervals to ensure it is still serving your greater business objectives, as of course those objectives will change over time.
In light of the challenging immigration climate of recent years, it’s unsurprising that some employers have started to view immigration as more trouble than it’s worth. The reality, however, is that corporate immigration still offers significant benefits on both the macro level (for innovation and economic growth), and certainly at the company level for creating a diverse and productive workforce.
The difference between a company being able to capitalize on these benefits vs not, is in large part the product of how they approach immigration program management - deliberately and strategically, vs reactively and transactionally. As the foundation to any strategic program, the immigration policy can serve to reduce costs and risks associated with international hires, increase recruitment effectiveness, and mitigate the environmental challenges of immigration enough to transform it into a competitive advantage.
As one part of a more comprehensive set of tools, the policy is a likely starting point for many companies starting to take the path towards a more strategic immigration program. We will cover other topics in the following weeks such as job banks, recruiter training, and more. If you’d like to start a conversation about how your business objectives could be impacted through immigration policy, feel free to reach out to connect.
Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.