In business immigration, technology is of paramount importance to providing real-time updates, transparency, efficient processing, and forecasting abilities. But for employees who are in limbo with their visa status or have a challenging case, online visibility and case tracking isn’t the only consideration.
Consider the hypothetical case of an employee stranded overseas for longer than expected due to travel bans, or the common situation of an employee simply seeking to extend an existing visa status. The entire family is in the U.S., going about their routine – yet all of them live with the possibility that they may need to uproot their lives if the employee’s work visa isn’t renewed.
That type of uncertainty creates anxiety that is layered on top of the already intense scenarios brought about by the pandemic. During this time, the importance of human capital – prioritizing employee health and safety – has risen to the top.
As Harvard Business Review noted, “Employees want reassurance that their companies will put their people first whenever possible, especially in difficult times. Most employers receive good marks from their people for the way they’ve responded to the pandemic thus far. Large majorities in [Weber Shandick/KRC Research] survey said that their employer is putting safety above profits (72%) and taking care of employees as best they can (74%) and that their employers’ response is “exactly what it should be” (72%).”
Companies that are committed to a supportive employee environment should bear in mind three realities for workers awaiting their visa status:
1. There’s comfort in expertise
Knowing that a visa is still in line to be processed doesn’t quell anxiety – employees want to know the real timeframe, the reasons for any complications, and what alternatives they have to protect their status. Providing direct access to attorneys who are familiar with the case and the company allows employees to ask hard questions, get real answers, and take comfort in the caliber of expertise that’s on their side.
2. Policy gets personal
The Trump Administration has proposed changes to visa policy on an incredibly aggressive basis. It can be difficult for employees to stay up-to-date on changes that might affect their status. We believe this is an intentional side effect of the Administration’s anti-immigration tactics: if employees lose track of the rules, they are more likely to fall out of compliance.
Employee anxiety can be eased with real-time updates on policy changes and guidance on how to interpret them.
3. Being human goes a long way
In addition to legal expertise, practicing compassion is key. Having access to an ally who understands the threats they face reminds employees that they are more than a statistic in the company’s annual report. Once again, technology is critical to provide access and transparency, but such personal situations also require a human touch.
This is especially important if a case is trending in the wrong direction: don’t let bad news be delivered by an automated update.
We have long believed that immigration law is a deeply personal discipline. 2020 has thrust into the spotlight “softer” benefits such as mental health support, an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion, and access to expanded services specific to the remote culture of the pandemic.
For companies with nonimmigrant workers, the goal should always be to guide them through their case with expertise, information, and compassion.