Understanding Covid-19’s Impact on Immigration and Mobility Programs

Last Updated on March 2, 2023

Envoy recently fielded a public survey to better understand how COVID-19 is impacting immigration and mobility programs at organizations across the U.S.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on global mobility. Many office employees are now working from home, and immigration and global mobility initiatives have been temporarily halted. While some of the changes and restrictions implemented by USCIS and the State Department have been lifted, most employees are still working remotely, and organizations have had to adapt their processes and policies accordingly.

Envoy Global recently conducted a survey to better understand how global mobility and immigration professionals are adapting to managing remote immigration programs during the pandemic. Envoy CEO Richard Burke and COO Manu Sivanandam then presented the survey results in a webinar.

Key findings from Envoy’s benchmarking survey on COVID-19's impact on immigration and global mobility

Universal WFH Policies

Perhaps unsurprisingly, nearly all respondents have implemented a work from home policy due to the pandemic. A large majority of respondents (78.5%) said they’ve been working from home longer than six weeks.

“[Working from home] has very much become the new normal across the country,” said Sivanandam.

Prior to moving to a remote work environment, companies likely had different policies about how much flexibility employees had to work outside of their office. When local governments began closing non-essential businesses, many executives and managers were worried about the transition to remote work and the effects it would have on productivity.

Luckily, the transition to remote work has been easier than expected. In fact, approximately 41% of respondents said the transition was “very easy.” According to Ray Kirby, Talent Mobility Manager at Nordstrom, “The switch to remote was smooth from an immigration standpoint because the Envoy platform is purpose built for a distributed team.”

A Need for Rapid Change

With the sudden transition to remote work, HR and talent acquisition teams had to quickly implement immigration process changes. For example, 40.6% of survey respondents said they have an intranet they use to post Notice of Filings (NOFs). This group of respondents said they started this new process as a result of remote work.

Some respondents (31%), were already using an intranet to post NOFs. Approximately 29% of respondents said they were not using an intranet. During the webinar, Sivanandam mentioned that this work environment may be an opportunity for these employers to explore using an intranet to post NOFs.

Not All Change Has Been Easy

For the most part, employers across the country are pleased with the move to a fully remote workforce. However, there are still some areas of stress, particularly with foreign national anxiety. During the pandemic, the U.S. government has instituted numerous travel bans and policy changes, leading to many questions from foreign national employees wondering if and how they may be affected.

According to survey respondents, the main questions and areas of concern from foreign nationals are about extensions, the initiation of the green card process and travel.

Employers have introduced innovative ideas and tactics to help reduce the anxiety and stress felt by foreign nationals. During the webinar, attendees shared some of the following ideas and tactics they’ve implemented:

  • Weekly check-ins/one-on-one meetings
  • FAQs
  • Closer communication with the legal team
  • Weekly webinars
  • Office hours
  • Fireside chats
  • Open and honest lines of communication
  • Sharing updates on company intranet
  • Creating a Slack channel specifically for foreign nationals, their managers and HR support 

Global Travel Remains Uncertain

Respondents were split as to whether they believe global (non-U.S.) immigration and travel assignments would pick up during Q3 2020. Just over 50% said “no,” while approximately 48% said “yes.”

These results make sense given how much we still don’t know about the virus and when companies might be able to bring their workforce back into a physical office. Some countries, like New Zealand, have contained the virus and have started lifting in-country restrictions. But hotspots in South America, Europe and the U.S. means travel will likely remain limited and borders will stay closed.

With uncertainty ahead, it’s important for immigration and mobility teams to stay on top of the news and the latest regulations and travel advisories as they are released. Additionally, Burke also offered some larger, organizational advice.

“Make certain you’ve got a seat at the table, and that you make certain concerns about immigration are heard,” said Burke.

For more insights on immigration news and policy, COVID-19 and its impact on mobility Immigration policy, talent acquisition and other HR topics and trends, subscribe to our immigration blog.

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.