Last Updated on February 23, 2023
As the population of foreign national employees continues to grow for many organizations, there is an increasing emphasis on the role played by HR and mobility teams.
Managing the immigration needs of an organization can be a time-consuming responsibility for HR and mobility teams. As such, dedicating new or current HR and mobility team members to this function can help organizations streamline the growing responsibilities driven by employment-based immigration.
For some organizations, immigration and mobility are a function of the HR or legal team. For others, there is a dedicated immigration or mobility team tasked with the numerous responsibilities associated with managing and retaining foreign talent in the U.S. and globally. Organizations with demanding immigration and mobility needs may even bring in one or multiple HR professionals with certified Global Mobility Specialist (GMS) credentials to manage their program.
Understanding the responsibilities of these teams is key for an organization to ensure employment continuity for crucial foreign national employees. Implementing strategies to leverage the insights and knowledge of industry best practices can contribute greatly towards achieving this goal.
Determining the Mobility Needs of the Organization
Organizations will first want to determine their specific immigration and mobility needs.
It’s important to note that these needs may change as an organization scales up or changes course. To remain flexible, HR and mobility teams can periodically pose three key questions to narrow down their needs:
- How many foreign national employees does the organization sponsor in the U.S. and worldwide?
- What types of sponsorship does the organization support?
- What are the perk packages?
How many foreign national employees does the organization sponsor in the U.S. and worldwide?
The number of foreign national employees within an organization can range from zero to thousands. Some foreign national employees may work for the organization but do not require company sponsorship.
For example, recent foreign graduates in the U.S. on F-1 OPT or F-1 STEM OPT may have up to three years of work authorization that does not require company sponsorship. While some oversight may be required, HR and mobility teams generally maintain limited involvement with the immigration matters of non-company sponsored foreign national employees.
The other bucket of foreign national employees includes those sponsored by the company on a visa like the H-1B or – in the global context – a High Potential Individual visa from the UK, for example. Each sponsored employee requires time, cost and resources from the organization to maintain their work authorization and employment.
As such, an organization with 500 foreign national employees based around the world may require a vastly larger budget and internal team to manage the company’s immigration and mobility program than an organization with just a few dozen foreign national employees.
As the number of foreign national employees grows within an organization, the financial and human resources needed to manage that program may also expand.
For organizations with a global presence, HR and mobility teams must maintain awareness of employment ratio requirements, which limit the number of foreign national employees permitted to work at a company versus the number of local employees at the company. In some global cases, HR and mobility teams will need to ensure that the organization has the financial capacity to support local and foreign national employee ratios.
What types of sponsorship does the organization support?
There are many temporary employment-based visas in the U.S. The most common for organizations in the U.S. include:
- H-1B for Specialty Occupation Workers
- L-1A/L-1B for Intracompany Transferees
- E-3 for Specialty Occupation Workers from Australia
- TN for NAFTA Professionals
- O-1A/O-1B for Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement
- H-2A for Agricultural Workers
- H-2B for Non-Agricultural Workers
There are also three main categories of employment-based (EB) green cards.
Furthermore, if an organization incorporates entities across the globe, each country possesses its own range of employment-based visas, business visas, work permits and more with varying requirements.
Some organizations may choose to only sponsor employees for some of these temporary visas, work permits or permanent applications like green cards. HR and mobility teams should understand how the requirements of each visa fit within their organization’s needs, as well as their budget and resource capacities. Leveraging knowledge resources – like those offered by Envoy Global – and the advisement of immigration legal counsel are great strategies for HR teams to assess these questions for their organization.
What are the perk packages?
Offering immigration- and mobility-related perk packages to foreign national employees is a great strategy for organizations to attract and retain talent.
Budget, the capacity of the HR and mobility team and the scope of the organization all factor into perk package offerings.
Some examples of these perk packages include, but are not limited to:
- Housing (temporary housing, corporate housing).
- Relocation expenses.
- Paid dependent visa or green card/permanent residence applications for family members.
- Transportation (car service, company car, rental car).
- Paid air travel expenses for foreign nationals and immediate family members to visit their home country.
- Immediate green card sponsorship.
- Destination services (e.g., setting up bank accounts, school tours, real estate).
- Cultural assimilation training.
- Paid work authorization applications for dependent family members.
- Starting the green card/permanent residence process sooner.
- Supporting premium/expedited government processing when available.
For more insight, read Envoy’s 2022 Immigration Trends Report to learn more about which perks organizations are offering.
Establishing Responsibilities for an Immigration and Mobility Program
With the unique needs of an organization understood, HR and mobility teams are equipped to manage the responsibilities required to keep the immigration cases and other mobility matters on track. Certain responsibilities may be delegated to other internal stakeholders like foreign national employees and hiring managers. However, HR and mobility teams will typically manage the core functions of the program.
These functions may include some of the following:
- Acting as point-of-contact between foreign national employees/candidates, hiring managers and immigration legal counsel.
- Overseeing progress of immigration cases for foreign national employees/candidates.
- Supervising the maintenance of immigration compliance documents, such as Public Access Files (PAFs).
- Managing various tax and compliance requirements related to global or domestic relocation.
- Operating within HR Information Systems (HRIS) and other immigration- and mobility-related vendor tech platforms.
- Reviewing immigration data dashboards.
- Liaising with senior leadership to report on the organization’s immigration and mobility functions.
- Seeking to continuously improve policies through maintaining awareness of industry best practices.
A well-functioning immigration and mobility program can be bolstered by establishing clear responsibilities and delegating those responsibilities amongst the team.
To achieve this goal, HR and mobility teams can implement a few strategies to position the considerations discussed above into their organization’s unique needs and capacities:
- Determine the specific immigration and mobility needs of the organization and assess the available resources for meeting those needs.
- Establish and distribute the immigration and mobility responsibilities across the team and consider hiring additional HR and mobility professionals if the organization is growing.
- Leverage immigration and mobility knowledge resources – like those offered by Envoy Global – or immigration legal counsel to continuously improve the organization’s policies and strategies.
Assembling a strong team of HR and mobility professionals is essential to ensure the growth and success of organization. By implementing the strategies above, organizations can enable their foreign and global workforce to experience a smooth immigration process with support from dedicated professionals on the HR and mobility teams.
For more content on strategies for managing an immigration and mobility program, check out Envoy’s HR Strategies page.
Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Waleed Salaheldin, who is a Supervising Attorney at Corporate Immigration Partners, and Amrita Jolly-Sodhi, who is a Managing Attorney at Global Immigration Associates. Corporate Immigration Partners and Global Immigration Associates are the two independent U.S. law firms Envoy exclusively works with on the Envoy Platform (the "U.S. Law Firms").
Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an attorney at one of the two U.S. Law Firms working with the Envoy Platform or another qualified professional. On non-U.S. immigration issues, consult an Envoy global immigration service provider or another qualified representative.