Immigration Employer Advocacy – Insights from Immigration & Mobility Decoded

In the latest episode of Immigration and Mobility Decoded, we had the pleasure of speaking with Betsy Fisher, the U.S. Director at Talent Beyond Boundaries. Betsy is an advocate and expert on helping displaced individuals access employment opportunities.  

During our conversation, Betsy shared insights into the global landscape of refugee employment. From innovative programs like Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot to the intricacies of U.S. immigration policy, Betsy shed light on the challenges and opportunities facing displaced individuals seeking work.  

Join us as we explore the intersection of immigration, employment and advocacy with one of the leading voices in the field. 

Below is a brief and lightly edited transcript of this conversation.    

Immigration & Mobility Decoded:    

Betsy, would you want to zoom out a little bit and just look at, briefly, some other countries around the world and just hear your opinions and just your expertise on what are other countries doing to help asylum seekers seek employment and how do they compare as well as contrast with the U.S.? 

Betsy Fisher: 

One thing I would point to and that Talent Beyond Boundaries has worked extensively on is Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot or EMPP. This is a program that TBB advocated for a long time with the Canadian government, and it’s essentially a hybrid humanitarian economic visa. If a refugee outside Canada gets a job offer from a Canadian employer, they can receive an economic visa, but with accommodations, with flexibility. 

If they don’t have a travel document or extensive documentation of all their employment or education, those aren’t strict barriers, there’s flexibility in the process. And if they’re approved, they receive permanent residency when they arrive.  

And with that comes access to services that we know the Canadian government offers to its residents, including healthcare. So, it’s a recognition that people have a lot to contribute, and that the reality of displacement makes certain things about employment-based visas challenging. And I think it’s a real model for other governments to follow. 

Immigration & Mobility Decoded:    

Betsy, we are still early in the year, but it is 2024, obviously an election year here in the U.S. What role does the party holding the White House, what influence does that political party or the person who is president have in making future decisions and kind of potentially laying out the vision for refugee programs, et cetera? 

Betsy Fisher: 

Sure. So, I think almost complete authority. On the one hand, the refugee resettlement program we saw under the previous administration was extremely easy to upset and to gut. The refugee resettlement and asylum programs were devastated.  

We’ve seen a very significant rebound under this administration in the resettlement program, but we’ve seen an ongoing policy of adding restrictions and limiting access to asylum from this administration. I think the other answer is as much power as Congress lets them have. In the current moment, Congress has completely abdicated authority in immigration.  

The only option a president has, no matter their viewpoint, is to act on their own because Congress is not showing up as a partner. You mentioned it’s March 22nd as we’re recording. We are 12 hours from a government shutdown and almost six months into the fiscal year.  

And there is no year-long spending bill passed. Part of why the president has so much authority is that Congress has not been a partner in governance and that enables these wild fluctuations in policy that we’ve seen. 

Immigration & Mobility Decoded:    

Betsy, are there any pieces of immigration legislation that you’re currently eyeing or you’re hearing chatter about that maybe you’re interested in? 

Betsy Fisher: 

I think what we would love to see is legislation that would provide more opportunities for employment-based visas, or at least flexibility when economic conditions provide for larger amounts of work-based immigration. We’re finding that no one’s opposed to hiring refugees if they’re qualified. People want good help.  

Nobody is opposed to paying for good help if that’s necessary. The challenge of matching refugees with U.S. employers is the time. To hire someone who’s outside the U.S. through an employment-based visa is going to be usually a couple of years even for an EB2 NIW, a national interest waiver where you don’t need to go through a PERM process. Those visas are backlogged. To get an H-1B, you have low odds through the lottery and must wait for it.  

There’s no option that provides help at the level of urgency that employers face and that corresponds with their business need. More visas to respond to that level of need, or at least to provide flexibility when the economic conditions require it.  

I think the place where we’d be most likely to see some movement is in healthcare where not only are the conditions most urgent, but they’re most urgently impacting rural areas that are likely to have representation from a party that is less supportive of immigration now. 

Tile image from the Envoy Global 2024 U.S. Immigration Trends Report. Envoy Global’s 2024 U.S. Immigration Trends report found that many U.S. employers encounter barriers when it comes to hiring talent. Betsy stresses the importance of legislation that would promote opportunities for employment-based visas.
Envoy Global’s 2024 U.S. Immigration Trends report found that many U.S. employers encounter barriers when it comes to hiring talent. Betsy stresses the importance of legislation that would promote opportunities for employment-based visas.

Immigration & Mobility Decoded:    

Betsy, I want to wrap up and just kind of let you talk a little bit more about your organization, Talent Beyond Boundaries, or TBB. I know you mentioned a little bit earlier, but I would just love to hear more and love for you to share with the audience an overview more of the work that you do in connecting employers with refugees and how you operate. 

Betsy Fisher: 

We have two main avenues of work. One is working to make employment-based opportunities, to make work-based immigration accessible to displaced people. So that means working with governments to open immigration pathways like the EMPP that I mentioned. We also work with trade organizations to identify licensing issues.  

Our UK team was able to develop a policy for nurses to be relicensed that had flexibility on some of the things that I mentioned earlier, while insisting on a high standard of qualifications to make sure that people are getting the care that they need. So really working to change the system of employment-based immigration to work for the realities of displaced people, meaning both skills and the need for flexibility. 

We also match employers and refugees through a platform called the Talent Catalog, where tens of thousands of displaced people have registered their skills and experience. And then employers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, the UK and in several countries in the EU can contact us and identify, “Hey, I’m really looking to hire a machinist or an electrician or a climate change consultant,” whatever it is that they’re looking to find. And we identify candidates from the Talent Catalog to support them through the process then. 

Immigration & Mobility Decoded:    

Do employers come to you first, or what does that process look like? 

Betsy Fisher: 

Yeah, we are open to being contacted at any point in time, We also go to conferences or are introduced to people. Oftentimes, immigration lawyers recommend us to their clients as one part of a strategy to address their labor needs. Once we get in touch with someone, however, that starts, if they express an interest, we’ll figure out what their initial needs are and what the available immigration pathways might be.  

We ask them for an MOU that just sets out the mutual expectations, what we’ll do, what we need from them to make it work. We have the employer identify the specific job descriptions that they’re looking to hire for. And then, we identify candidates who we also support to make sure that they feel comfortable with the expectations of what an interview in that context might be. And if there’s a fit, we then support both sides in the mobility process, including by working with the immigration council.

Immigration & Mobility Decoded:    

Betsy, if you could wave your magic wand, what legislative changes would you make to the existing U.S. immigration system? 

Betsy Fisher: 

I already mentioned increased flexibility in employment-based visas and more visas when times are good. Also, Migration Policy Institute put out a paper on a bridge visa, the idea that if you come here for something like an H-1B, you should be able to get a green card.  

This idea of people being in limbo and waiting indefinitely after building a life here and investing here, we shouldn’t have that problem. So, a bridge to a green card. I mean, I teach international refugee law. If I could wave a magic wand, I would make the U.S. refugee definition compliant with international law by scaling back statutory bars like firm resettlement and material support. And I also do pro bono work. If I could wave that wand again, I would pass the Stateless Protection Act, which gives stateless people access to a pathway to citizenship in the U.S. and other things like a travel document. 

 Immigration & Mobility Decoded:    

Thanks, Betsy! Is there anything else you wish to highlight that we didn’t hit on earlier? 

Betsy Fisher: 

We’re in the early days of building our programs in the U.S., so we’re always eager to connect with employers. But I also want to highlight that we are really excited about some of the advocacy success that we’ve seen in the U.S. The spending bills that we hope will be passed today include reporting requirements.  

The accompanying reports have directives to the Department of State to explore ways to expand refugee labor mobility in the U.S. and to explain to the appropriations committees in Congress how they accommodate visa processing for refugees and stateless people. So, those are things we’ve been advocating for a long time.  

A reporting requirement won’t change the world, but it does urge the department to think about it and, hopefully, start moving. We’re excited to see early days in congressional engagement around these ideas. 

Immigration & Mobility Decoded:    

Do you have any words of wisdom regarding advocacy? How can employers or listeners advocate, and what paths do you recommend? 

Betsy Fisher: 

I think the role of employers as advocates—the potential for that role—can’t be overstated. Employers who think, “I’d love to be involved, but I can’t wait two years.” That’s a great opportunity for you to engage with your congressional leadership and say, “We need action here. We need additional employment-based visas. We need legislation that would promote better economic inclusion for refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants.”  

That could include things like federal legislation that could identify some ways to improve state and local licensing. And I think, as always, advocacy is about being dedicated, focused on the mission and persistent because things can take years and not go anywhere, then come down off the shelf and pass overnight. As advocates, we can’t control the outcome, but we can always ensure our stories are out there. 

Envoy Global’s ninth U.S. Immigration Trends Report examines the global immigration landscape in 2024 in depth. Download the full report to get all the details.   


Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. Envoy is not a lawfirm, anddoes not provide legal advice. If you would like guidance on how this information may impact yourparticular situationand you are a client of the U.S. Law Firm, consult your attorney. If you are not a client of the U.S. Law Firm working with Envoy, consult another qualified professional. This website does not create an attorney-client relationship with the U.S. Law Firm.