Global Immigration: What happened in 2019 and where we’re headed next

Last Updated on February 23, 2023

The most important political developments of the year, plus some 2020 practice pointers for your organization

Immigration made front-page headlines in 2019 not just in the U.S., but across the globe. Talent shortages, political crises and presidential elections alike impacted various countries and created new challenges for employers looking to talent on the ground in these regions. As the world enters a new decade, it’s never been more important to stay on top of the news and policy changes that could impact your organization.

A year in review: The global talent landscape in 2019


The U.S. is no stranger to the skills gap, but 2019 saw the demand for highly skilled foreign workers rise in other countries as well. Canada, which has been vocal about its plan to increase migration to the country, passed the Global Skills Strategy to encourage high-skilled immigration in Canada amid STEM shortages and declining population growth. The legislation includes the Global Talent Stream, which expedites visa processing for workers with specialized skills.

Canada has a strong record of supporting high-skilled immigration to the country. This progressive disposition, along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent re-election, will likely aid Canada in its plan to bring in 1,000,000 immigrants by 2021.


In Europe, countries including France and Germany are leveraging immigration to mitigate labor shortages. In August 2019, the German Cabinet published the Skilled Workers Immigration Act, proposing new laws that makes it easier for immigrants outside the EU to secure work authorization by removing bureaucratic hurdles for employers. In March 2019, France rolled out the new French Tech Visa aimed at fast-tracking foreign hiring for French tech firms and start-ups in an effort to enhance the tech ecosystem in the country. The new visa eliminates master’s degree requirements from previous version, and is valid for four years.

Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, employers still remain in a state of uncertainty over Brexit. A decision on the country’s expected departure has been postponed until January 31, 2020. While an exit will mean no more free movement for EU nationals, the UK has announced other immigration routes to encourage high-skilled foreign nationalsparticularly those in STEM fieldsto contribute to the UK’s leading science and research sector, significantly enhancing the country’s intellectual and knowledge base.

For a closer look at European immigration trends and policies, check out the latest edition of our Around The World With Envoy webinar series.


This year, the world watched as protests broke out in Hong Kong over mainland China’s increasing control of the autonomous, democratic region. As the protests escalated, numerous countries including the U.S. have issued travel advisories. Most recently, pro-democracy candidates swept the Hong Kong elections in November, signifying that conflict between Hong Kong residents and the Chinese government will continue.

Elsewhere in the APAC region, Australia tightened its immigration policies under Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In March, the Australian government cut its annual immigration cap by 15%, from 190,000 to 160,000. A new skilled workers visa is also being introduced to steer immigrants away from Australia’s largest cities by requiring residence outside Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane as a condition for securing permanent residency.

Practice pointers for 2020

Understand compliance. Find out who and where business travelers are and whether assignees are in compliance with work permit status. It’s also a good idea to understand tax thresholds and local employment laws in destination countries.

Plan for the unexpected. The only thing consistent about immigration and global mobility… is the inconsistency​. Develop strategic and thorough immigration plans for your organization to account for changing regulations, unexpected site visits, audits and other potential issues.

Stay up to date. With immigration constantly changing, human resources and global mobility teams need to stay informed. Consult frequently with your immigration and tax advisors for updates, and follow reputable sources of information like the Associated Press, BBC and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). 

To get weekly global immigration updates delivered directly to your inbox in 2020, sign up for Envoy’s Immigration News Digest, and be sure to register our full webinar on the Global Talent Landscape in 2019 on December 11 at 2 p.m. CT!

Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with the global immigration team at Envoy Global.

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-retained attorney or other qualified professional.