Immigration Reform Preparedness Remains on Recruiters? To-Do Lists for 2008

Talent acquisition leaders gained additional time to prepare for the impact from pending immigration reform in 2007, but as 2008 approaches, the clock is still ticking toward an inevitable passage of legislation in some form, so recruiters must be vigilant and prepared.

This past summer, Congress failed to agree on specifics that would produce Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation, and the Department of Homeland Security’s “No Match” program was placed on hold via a temporary injunction in October.

While all the specifics have yet to be worked out, the first drafts and early discussions around immigration reform legislation clearly point toward increased responsibility on the part of employers for validating the legal status of their workers. When passed in any form, immigration legislation causing increased employer accountability for worker documentation will undoubtedly tighten an already competitive labor market.

Some industries such as construction, hospitality, agriculture, manufacturing, and food service stand to be directly impacted by CIR and the “No Match” program, which requires employers to respond to letters from the Social Security Administration citing disparities between an employee’s personal identification records and the records maintained by the SSA.

However, it stands to reason that any legislation that affects an estimated U.S. population of 12 million illegal immigrants will have a larger reaching impact on all industries.

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Another 2007 event further highlighted the role played by immigration regulation on the talent acquisition process. Companies filed applications for twice the number of available H1-B visas on the first filing day for 2008 corporate applications. The current cap on available H1-B visas remains at 65,000 annually, with most visas going to skilled workers, often in the IT and engineering professions.

If the current visa ceiling remains, the increasing trend toward globalization of companies and workforces assures that H1-B visa demand will continue to outpace supply. While this trend forces HR to be ready to file on the first day applications are accepted, filing on time is no assurance that HR leaders will prevail in the H1-B visa war. Currently visas are awarded via a random lottery system, so it behooves corporate filers to have alternate plans for sourcing hard-to-find professionals, should their quest for H1-B visas fall short of their needs.

“While the expectation is that legal wrangling on both the ‘No Match’ and the CIR measures will continue for awhile, the implications from the ‘No Match’ program set some clear expectations about what will be required from employers under immigration reform,” says Paul Colman, director with VISANOW, an immigration service provider.

“Employers need to plan for the passage of immigration-related legislation, because indications are that the labor market will be impacted. We think this will be a hot topic as we head into the elections in 2008, so we are advising all responsible HR professionals to closely monitor the situation and have alternative plans authored and ready to go in anticipation of the impact resulting from the most likely legislative scenarios.”

Leslie Stevens writes for human capital and business publications. She was a senior manager in the staffing industry for more than 20 years and understands how talent acquisition contributes to the bottom line. She likes it when readers share their opinions, innovative ideas, and experiences about overcoming obstacles while fighting the global talent war.

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