Four Insights on the Demand for Foreign Talent in 2020 and 2021

Last Updated on February 23, 2023

Employers continue to use visa sponsorship as an important talent acquisition lever

Talent acquisition faced a tumultuous year in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession slowed hiring and created uncertainties for many employers. However, despite these conditions, Envoy Global’s 2021 Immigration Trends Report found that even amid all the change, the need for global talent persisted, and immigration will be imperative to employers as we rebuild our economy post-pandemic.   

Four trends in talent acquisition and visa sponsorship

Employers expect the demand for foreign talent to increase despite pandemic concerns 

Employers continued to use visa sponsorship to fill positions despite travel restrictions and an economic slowdown in 2020. Survey respondents indicated that foreign talent will continue to play a role at their organizations in the future. 

Eighty-two percent of respondents said they expect their foreign national headcount to at least remain the same over the next year, and 59% expect it to increase. For 44% of respondents, filling open roles is the primary reason for growth in their immigration work. This aligns with data from New American Economy’s latest report, commissioned and co-authored by Envoy, which found that computer-related jobs made up 69.6% of all foreign labor requests in FY 2020, a slight increase from FY 2019 despite the COVID-19 pandemic.


The adoption of remote work will not impact employer visa sponsorship levels

Despite speculation that the widespread adoption of remote work would allow employers to hire domestic talent outside of their local labor market, employers reported that the domestic talent supply is still too constrained to meet their needs. In our survey, 71% of respondents said that the adoption of remote work would either not impact sponsorship levels (30%) or lead them to sponsor more foreign nationals (41%). For those who said sponsorship levels would increase, 42% said this was because they were hiring with the intent to return to local offices when safe to do so.




U.S. universities and colleges remain an important recruiting source for foreign talent

With more than 1.1 million international students pursuing degrees at U.S. universities and colleges, the higher education system is a valuable source of foreign talent, particularly in STEM fields. In 2019, foreign nationals earned over 50% of all master’s degrees in computer science and engineering. Respondents in our report continued to list U.S. universities and graduate schools as their two most important recruiting sources. Moving forward, 58% of survey respondents said their organization will become even more reliant on universities and exchange programs as sources of talent. For 43% of these employers, this was primarily because of the skills and training found in new graduates.


Pandemic-related immigration restrictions have made sourcing foreign talent outside the U.S. more difficult

Facing consular and border closures, as well as a presidential proclamation suspending new nonimmigrant visas through most of 2020, employers sought out talent already inside the U.S. Of the 58% of employers who said they anticipated their organization becoming more reliant on universities and exchange programs, 32% said this was because of border closures that limited the ability of foreign nationals not already on status to enter the U.S.


Want even more insights on employer trends in visa sponsorship? Download the full 2021 Immigration Trends Report. To learn how Envoy can help you secure the right talent for your organization, contact us today.

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 an Envoy-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional.