Public Policy Roundup: EU Eases Travel, Global Minimum Corporate Tax Proposal, National Interest Exception Expansion and More

From the EU easing travel restrictions for certain countries to the Group of 7 endorsing a global minimum tax rate, here are the public policy updates for workforce mobility for you to know about.

While the pandemic isn’t over, some parts of the world are seeing positive developments in the return to normal levels of movement of travel and workforce mobility. Over the past few months, we’ve seen the EU ease travel restrictions, an updated list of countries eligible for National Interest Exceptions (NIE), efforts to increase green cards, the endorsement of a global minimum tax rate by the Group of 7, and more. Here are the public policy updates for workforce mobility for you to know about:

European Union (EU) Moves to Ease Travel Restrictions

The European Union (EU) announced in May that it would ease travel restrictions on non-EU visitors that were put in place as a result of COVID-19. The 27 EU countries and their ambassadors approved a European Commission to determine “safe” countries for vaccinated travelers based on eased criteria from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. The most recent list of countries was released on 3 June, adding Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and China. While the United States is not on the list, Americans with proof of vaccination would be welcome.

Group of 7 Countries Back a 15% Global Tax on Corporations

On 5 June, the finance ministers of the Group of 7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) officially backed a U.S. proposal that would require corporations around the world to pay at least a 15% tax on earnings. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen endorsed the proposal of a global minimum corporate tax (previously 21%) which could potentially offset the effects of an increased U.S. federal tax rate that would have made the U.S.’ combined rate one of the highest of all the other Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) members. If finalized, it would represent one of the most significant developments in global taxation.

US Secretary of State Blinken Updates List of Countries Eligible for National Interest Exceptions

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently made a national interest determination for certain travelers coming to the United States from China, Iran, India, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. Travelers from these countries who are seeking to provide vital support or executive direction for critical infrastructure; those traveling to provide vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the United States; journalists; students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs; immigrants; and more may now qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE).

USCIS Reaches Cap for Additional H-2B Visa Petitions

Under the recently announced H-2B supplemental cap temporary final rule, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has received enough petitions to reach the cap for the additional 16,000 H-2B visas made available for returning workers only. USCIS began accepting petitions 25 May under the temporary final rule, increasing the cap by up to 22,000 additional H-2B nonimmigrant visas through the end of fiscal year 2021. The remaining 6,000 visas are set aside for nationals from the Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador) who are exempt from the returning worker requirement.

Legislation to Provide More Green Cards Introduced in US Congress

On 2 June, U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and John Curtis (R-UT) introduced the Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act of 2021 (H.R. 3648), a bill that would eliminate the 7% per-country limit on employment-based visas and raises the 7% per-country limit on family-sponsored visas to 15%. The bill also provides an option for individuals who have been waiting in the immigrant visa backlog for two years to file a green card application. By eliminating arbitrary per-country caps, the bill creates a first come, first served green card system “allowing American employers to focus on hiring immigrants based on their merit, not their birthplace,” according to the press release.

It will be challenging for this bill to move forward on Capitol Hill given a focus on priority items like the tax and infrastructure package. Worldwide ERC® supports the elimination of the green card per-country caps and we continue to call for more green card access as we work toward public policies that eliminates the green card backlogs.

White House Groups to Look into Easing International Travel Restrictions

International travel restrictions in the United States have remained strict, despite pressure on the Biden Administration from a coalition of major travel industry groups. Currently, most foreign nationals who have been in several European Union countries, the United Kingdom, Brazil, China, and most recently India, in the previous 14 days before travel are not permitted to enter the U.S. Now, the White House Covid-19 Response Team and the National Security Council will form working groups to help determine when to lift these international travel restrictions. The groups will include representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Transportation, as well as partners from Canada, Mexico, the European Union and the United Kingdom.

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How This Impacts Mobility

The EU’s decision to ease travel restrictions is a significant development as some countries around the world continue to achieve lower COVID-19 rates and move toward pre-pandemic levels of workforce mobility. The Group of 7 countries adopting a 15% global tax rate and the potential to prevent the U.S. from having the highest tax rate in the OECD would be a positive development.

Secretary Blinken’s expanded National Interest Exemptions (NIE) will allow employers to tap into talent from those additional countries who can significantly contribute to the U.S. economy as it continues to rebuild. And while Worldwide ERC® is supportive of a first come, first served green card system we also are working to prevent any future backlogs.

Should any member have questions regarding these updates, please reach out to our Vice President of Member Engagement and Public Policy Rebecca Peters,