During the Trump campaign, immigration issues figured prominently, with much said that could impact American companies. This included withdrawing from or renegotiating NAFTA and introducing measures that would make it harder for non-U.S. workers to obtain visas.
But, as a closer look reveals, some of this seems unlikely to gain traction. With regard to NAFTA, for example, eliminating this will also eliminate the TN visa used by Canadians and some Mexicans and require Americans who live in Canada on NAFTA’s Canadian version to return to the United States.
As for minimizing the number of immigrant visas, Mr. Trump has said he will reduce the percentage to “historic levels” (the equivalent of those during World War II, when immigration to the U.S. was minimal). To accomplish this, however, legal immigration would have to be limited, which would require Congressional action. And as many on both sides of the aisle favor legal immigration, especially when it comes to supporting business, the odds of accomplishing it would seem slim.
In addition to the above, Mr. Trump has also sent mixed messages about his intentions by choosing an attorney general — Alabama senator Jeff Sessions — who has voted against almost every immigration bill in Senate.
Minimizing the impact of shifting regulations
Although some campaign promises around immigration may never materialize, others probably will, and companies should take steps sooner rather than later to minimize their impact. At the moment, the main concern is for visa and green card holders who are working and living in the United States. Many have made lives for themselves in the U.S. and uprooting them would be detrimental not only to the individual card holders, but also to their families and employers. Therefore, the following steps are advised:
Temporary Visa (H-1B, L, etc.): Those who are in the permanent resident process, or plan on going through this, will want to push forward as quickly as possible.
Permanent Residents: If a green card holder has been present in the United States for five years, he or she should apply for citizenship as soon as possible, which would then be almost impossible to revoke. The Supreme Court has ruled that although Americans can give up their citizenship, the government cannot take it away.
Permanent residents who haven’t been in the U.S. for five years should ensure they they’re always in compliance with the law and avoid doing anything to jeopardize this, as it could lead to deportation. Maintaining compliance also includes making sure they have the proper documentation when traveling outside of the U.S. for six months or more.
By Carolina Rojas Newman, President, MSI Global Immigration