Politicization of immigration – Creating stability in an unstable environment

02 June 2016

By Peter Clarke, Global Mobility Services Leader & Julia Onslow-Cole, Global Head of Immigration

In 2005, the International Monetary Fund published its World Economic Outlook and reported that the “…world economy enjoyed one of its strongest years of growth last year. The robust growth is expected to continue this year, albeit at a more moderate pace.”[1]  Many predicted the world was entering an era of prolonged stability.

Today, even the most optimistic observers of the global stage would agree: the world is in a prolonged period of dramatic instability.   The global refugee crisis, the war in Syria and Yemen, and the drop in oil and commodity prices are creating unprecedented global stress points. Recessionary-like conditions persist in most major economies–despite the intervention of monetary and fiscal policy makers. China, Russia and the US seem to be jockeying for military advantages.  And, the threat of extremist terror attacks are becoming an everyday reality in some parts of the world.  As these geopolitical tensions continue, businesses are trying to manage market and technological disruption on a massive scale.  In summary, we are living through the most unpredictable and challenging environment in the post-war era.

Business leaders in every region and industry acknowledge the challenges. According to PwC's 19th annual CEO Survey, geopolitical uncertainty has become the second biggest concern of business leaders.  This instability is impacting cross-border employee mobility like never before.   As a result, immigration process and policy never been so high up the boardroom agenda.   

Geopolitical instability–particularly the refugee crisis and heightened terrorist activity–is having a major pro-right effect on governments around the world.  This is resulting in strict border and visa controls in many countries.  France, Brazil, Poland, Germany and many other territories are implementing more restrictive immigration measures.  The recent backlash against Chancellor Merkel in the German local elections over her “Open Door” migrant policies demonstrates that elections can be lost and won over the immigration debate.  The fragility of the EU's Agreement with Turkey underscores the complexities of finding a solution to the crisis.

As global mobility professionals know, these global security and macro-economic issues are hampering cross-border employee mobility.  These factors have exponentially increased the cost and burden of mobility, and have impacted the ability of global organizations to deploy talent quickly. This is happening at a time when the #1 talent goal of CEOs is to develop a pipeline of future leaders.

 In this environment, global mobility professionals need to promote a more strategic view of immigration policy and process.  The days of a passive, reactionary approach to business immigration are long gone.  Today, global mobility professionals need to be on the forefront of immigration risk management and immigration policy.  They need to be working side-by-side with their in-house counsel to better understand the organization’s business plans and the impact on talent movement.  Where existing immigration processes don’t fit, consider proactive discussions with immigration authorities to seek special rulings and concessions.    

PwC’s view is that the challenging immigration conditions will continue–and, in fact, it may represent the new normal.  In general, as domestic economies weaken, local leaders will tighten immigration policy. In this environment, global mobility professionals have an opportunity to play a more strategic role to ensure the success of the business in a global market.

PwC's  unique position as the #1 global immigration and tax provider allows us to navigate our clients through these challenges to ensure their mobility programs are sustainable and fully compliant.   To learn more, watch this short video clip with Peter Clarke, PwC Global Mobility Leader and Julia Onlsow-Cole, Global Immigration Leader. https://vimeo.com/162978778

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