#GlobalMobility #1: How immigration legislation blocks mobility

Angela Weinberger

Business Travels have also become more difficult because of tightening immigration legislation.
Business Travels have also become more difficult because of tightening immigration legislation.

The current global economic crisis is often considered to have started when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in 2008. This event didn’t just mean the tragic loss of thousands of jobs, it meant that businesses needed to find new ways to combat a slow market – and fast.  Governments also reacted by finding ways to protect their citizens as jobs became scarce. This brought about major reforms to immigration policies and made the international job assignment process more time consuming. Businesses are left disappointed when much-needed talent isn’t issued a permit or when new projects have to be declined due to shortage of talents, and, perhaps even more detrimental, this level of protectionism is contradictory to the basics of modern economic theory. Thus the impact of immigration reform may not always be in the best interest of the citizens.

Generally the US allows 65,000 H1B work visas per calendar year. Often by summer all these visas have been assigned. What are businesses in need of specialized talent left to do for the remainder of the year? Use different visa types? Chose different assignees? Or just not serve the clients? Every year feels like in the movie “Groundhog day”: We never seem to have enough H1B visas. (The US is just an example, other countries have similar quotas).

On the contrary, the EU’s Stockholm Action Plan, the lack of natural borders and Schengen has made relocating for work within the EU easier than ever. Skilled professionals often move into new markets and offer their services at lower prices than what a local professional would charge. The results are more locals looking for work.

The PwC Talent Mobility 2020 study predicts that by the year 2020 more barriers to the movement of labor will fall and the idea of a global passport will become more of a reality. I love this idea but I think we are far away from it in 2013.

My personal view is that we have enough barriers to regulate markets with language and cultural differences being two of the most obvious. If governments want to use immigration reforms for economical gain, the law should be in favor of finding the best talent for the job no matter where the professional comes from. We should:

  • reduce administration in the migration of qualified talents
  • process immigration of skilled labor quickly
  • serve clients better and faster as we move the right talents into the right locations.

Unfortunately, even my current location Switzerland has increased the barriers again this year. More admin. More work. Wrong signal!

I am interested in your view:

  1. What is your experience with labor-market protecting measures?
  2. Have these measure been to your benefit or disadvantage?
  3. What do you think the immigration of skilled professionals will be like in 2020?

Please leave a comment or email me to angela (at) globalpeopletransitions.com.


Additional information on immigration:





United States of America

2 thoughts on “#GlobalMobility #1: How immigration legislation blocks mobility

  1. Pingback: Global Mobility #2: Eight ideas for surviving high-growth markets on a local package | Global People Transitions

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