U.S. employers face major obstacles hiring foreign nationals

VISANOW survey reveals strong demand, but immigration system making it increasingly difficult to obtain talent beyond US borders.

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Employers are placing substantial value on the role of foreign nationals within their organizations — investing considerable time and money — but are experiencing increasing difficulty navigating the current U.S. immigration system.

This is according to the VISANOW Immigration Trends 2016 survey, which reflects the insights of more than 400 employers across the United States.

“The results of our survey indicate that it’s crucial for employers to be able to hire and retain key foreign national employees,” said Dick Burke, president and chief executive officer of VISANOW. “Seemingly, employers are concerned that what they perceive to be an increasingly difficult application process, citing an uptick in Requests for Evidence, slow processing times and lack of transparency, is threatening their ability to hire the highly skilled individuals they require to achieve long-term success.”


The survey, conducted online by Harris Poll, finds that immigrants play an important role in meeting the needs of employers. More than 40% say sourcing foreign nationals is very/extremely important to their hiring strategy. More than one-third of employers say they expect their company’s foreign national headcount to increase during the next year. Only one in 10 expects a decrease. Seven in 10 employers cite filling a skills gap as very/extremely important in the decision to hire a foreign national, with global competitiveness a close second (65%).

In addition, companies are apparently willing to invest in candidates who best meet their demands for talent. A majority of companies (63%) have sponsored a foreign national for a green card and, of those, 31% start the green card process immediately. Forty percent start the green card process when an employee has completed one year of service. Housing is the most popular perk that employers offer foreign national employees, followed by family sponsorship and transportation.


Employers find it increasingly challenging to hire talented, highly skilled people from other countries to work in the United States. A majority of employers (63%) believe the current U.S. immigration system is broken. Almost half of employers (46%) say their company’s visa application process has become more difficult in the past five years, citing most often that applying for a green card has become more difficult. From the time a company identifies a candidate to that employee’s first day of work, about 60% of employers say it can take anywhere between two and seven months to onboard a new foreign national. Requests for Evidence (RFEs) receives the most mentions (39%) for why employers think their company’s application process has become more difficult. Nearly half (45%) of employers say their RFEs have increased in the past five years.

Employers are divided on what will be most important for making the visa application process easier for their company in the next five years. Half of employers (49%) believe that in the next five years, technology-powered platforms/services will be the most important source for making the application process easier, followed by internal legal team (40%), external law firm (35%) and desktop software application (34%). Interestingly, Hillary Clinton (27%) and Donald Trump (24%) are the top picks overall for best presidential candidate to reform the current immigration system. Employers believe that quicker processing times and increasing transparency are very/extremely important to fixing the immigration system.

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of VISANOW among 412 HR professionals and hiring managers ages 21 and older (employed full-time) between Nov. 20 and Dec. 4, 2015.

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