Thinking Beyond the Border When U.S. Immigration Hurdles Arise

Under the current administration, it is increasingly difficult for U.S. employers to hire foreign nationals and expand operations. As a result, employers are looking abroad for alternative incorporation and investment opportunities in countries where hiring practices and immigration policies are making it easier to do business. So while the U.S. tightens its borders, many other countries are doing the opposite and simplifying their immigration policies in order to better engage in the global marketplace.

A few of the most popular countries U.S. companies have turned to hire and relocate key talent include Ireland, Canada and the Netherlands.  The Irish government in particular has implemented numerous regulatory changes to draw companies seeking markets with pro-business immigration policies. Strategies that streamline work permits, reduce entry requirements, and expedite processing are just a few of the changes the Irish government has made to attract businesses that will grow their economy.

Earlier this year, for example, the re-entry visa requirement for visa-nationals (e.g. China and India) employed in Ireland was abolished. Previously, a work permit holder would be required to apply for a re-entry visa that would allow for re-entry into Ireland after travel abroad. This travel restriction often resulted in loss of revenue for companies as their new hires were unable to depart Ireland to attend trainings or visit customers abroad while the visa application processed. Now that this travel restriction is gone, hiring and employing visa-nationals in Ireland, without interruption, has been improved.

An agency that has played a key role in the rise of foreign enterprises in Ireland is the Industrial Development Authority (IDA). The IDA is a non-commercial, autonomous, state-sponsored body solely responsible for the attraction and retention of inward foreign direct investment to Ireland. The IDA eases and expedites employer sponsored immigration processes by way of the Trusted Partner (TP) initiative. Irish companies can apply for TP status which gives them access to streamlined employment-based application requirements and processing times. Companies with TP status can sponsor work permit applications that are adjudicated in 3 weeks versus 13 weeks for non-TP sponsors.

To directly compare one facet of U.S. and Ireland immigration policy, we should look at the recent change in the U.S. H-4 visa and Ireland’s equivalent dependent visa. In February of this year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security put forth a proposal to rescind work authorization for H-4 visa holders – these are dependents of Specialty Occupation H-1B visa holders.  In contrast, in March 2019, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) ruled that dependent visa holders under the “Critical Skills” category, a visa similar to the H-1B, would hold derivative work authorization. Such a change coming so closely on the heels of the U.S.’ decision is a significant consideration for U.S. employers looking to provide their expats with optimal family earning potential.

Ireland is made further attractive to U.S. companies due to its favorable tax laws, highly-skilled labor force, and the fact that English is the predominant language. Post-Brexit, Ireland will be the only official English-speaking EU member state. In addition, Ireland provides companies with a European base allowing them access to the EU markets. Their corporate tax rate is 12.5%, compared with the U.S.’ corporate tax rate of 21%. Ireland is ranked fourth in the world for the most efficient business tax system according to PWC, putting them just behind Qatar, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.

Finally, Ireland recorded GDP growth of 6.7% for 2018, making it the fastest growing economy in the EU for the 5th consecutive year. U.S. companies are playing a key role in this development as companies such as Apple, Google, eBay, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have all chosen Ireland as their European headquarters. It’s important to note that it’s not just a one-way street — Irish companies also create jobs in the U.S. According to The Irish Times,  “Ireland is now the ninth largest source of FDI to the US, with 800 companies employing more than 100,000 people, the value estimated at more than $85 billion.”

Ireland has proven that opening its doors to foreign labor is essential for thriving in this global economy. Employers seeking to attract and hire the best talent from around the world need access to immigration policies that support their hiring needs. As globalization marches on and immigration policies in the U.S. change, it is important to be informed on other countries’ immigration policies in order to provide creative solutions abroad for employers and individuals. And for those constituents of American Congressional members, this blog post might just be required reading on your next advocacy visit. If the U.S. isn’t able to compete, other countries will benefit. It’s not in question, it’s reality.

by Roman Zelichenko and Michelle LePage