The Shifting Landscape of Global Immigration Policies

Alexa Schlosser - Feb 26 2024
Published in: Public Policy
| Updated Feb 26 2024

The conversation around immigration reform has sparked debates, shaped policies, and impacted businesses and individuals seeking immigration services.

In recent years, discussions surrounding immigration policies have dominated political agendas worldwide. From Washington, D.C., to London, the conversation around immigration reform has sparked debates, shaped policies, and impacted businesses and individuals seeking immigration services. As the global landscape continues to evolve, understanding these shifts is crucial for navigating the complexities of international talent mobility.

Comparing Global Trends

Across the globe, nations are grappling with similar issues, driving the need for immigration reform. 
“The catalyst for many national immigration discussions is similar around the world: jobs, skills, housing, education, and crime,” says Elizabeth Kumbhari, vice president of client management for Americas immigration at Newland Chase and WERC board member. 

From the United States to Australia and the United Kingdom, governments are tightening regulations on certain immigration pathways while loosening others, reflecting the diverse challenges faced by different countries and the varied perceptions held by each country’s citizens. 

“There is a resource scarcity narrative that often gets conflated with the immigration debate, in particular around regular, highly skilled migration as opposed to irregular migration patterns,” says Jurga McCluskey, partner and head of immigration at Deloitte UK and past chair of WERC’s Immigration Policy Forum. “The narrative always rotates around there being insufficient housing and insufficient schooling, etc. But it’s just perception; it’s not true.” 

In the United States, for example, there has been a notable surge in discussions about immigration, with over 200 immigration-related bills introduced by state legislatures in January 2024 alone. This surge reflects a broader desire for change and mirrors discussions seen in other countries around the world. It also highlights that the inability to gain traction on immigration reform in Congress has resulted in agencies doing what they can through regulatory changes and states attempting to do what they can within areas of their jurisdiction. These regulatory changes have been the primary avenue of focus in recent years and continues to be primary driver of change for employment-based immigration.


Similarly, in October 2023, President Biden issued an Executive Order emphasizing the need for new immigration pathways to recruit experts in artificial intelligence. This move aligns with global trends where countries are recognizing the importance of attracting skilled workers in emerging fields to drive innovation and economic growth.

Impact on Businesses and Talent Acquisition

For businesses, the ability to attract and retain international talent is essential for growth and innovation. In the United States, renowned for its entrepreneurial opportunities and cutting-edge projects, the demand for skilled employees remains high. However, as immigration policies evolve, companies must adapt their talent acquisition strategies to remain competitive while ensuring compliance with regulatory frameworks.

In the U.K., recent changes in immigration policies have raised concerns among businesses and universities alike. Increases in salary requirements and restrictions on dependents accompanying foreign students have impacted the ability of businesses and educational institutions to attract top talent from overseas. The implications extend beyond economic considerations, affecting sectors such as health care and technology, where talent mobility is crucial for driving innovation and growth.

“It is up to global mobility and immigration professionals to educate … companies about best practices in global workforce management and to create systems, assessment tools, technologies, and processes that allow companies to grow competitively while remaining compliant,” Kumbhari says.

Challenges and Opportunities

The tightening of immigration rules presents challenges for businesses and industries heavily reliant on skilled workers from overseas. In addition to increased salary requirements and restrictions on dependents, changes in visa rules for international students have affected the ability of universities to attract foreign talent. For example, from January 2024, the U.K. government will no longer allow dependents to travel with foreign students, potentially reducing the appeal of studying in the UK for many prospective students.

“The idea is this will reduce the intake of students to the U.K. because they will not want to leave their family behind,” says Marcia Longdon, partner at Kingsley Napley. “The government is also reviewing the graduate visa route, which allows a student who has graduated to remain in the U.K. for two years, three if completing a doctoral degree. The universities are frustrated by these proposals because there is a huge financial reliance on income from foreign students.”

Furthermore, changes in immigration policies can have far-reaching consequences for businesses and the overall economy. In the U.K., where the government announced its intentions to reduce legal migration by 300,000 in December 2023, businesses may face difficulties in filling skilled positions, leading to talent shortages and hindered economic growth. Additionally, industries such as tech and health care, which rely heavily on skilled migrants, may experience disruptions in operations and innovation.

Navigating the Way Forward

In navigating the evolving landscape of immigration policies, businesses and individuals must stay informed and proactive. Engaging with external immigration partners can provide invaluable expertise and strategic guidance, helping stakeholders navigate complex regulatory frameworks and mitigate risks. Moreover, maintaining a network of professional contacts, staying updated on policy developments, and embracing creative solutions are essential for adapting to changing circumstances.

For businesses, staying ahead of immigration policy changes involves not only understanding current regulations but also anticipating future trends. 

“U.S. businesses and individuals should watch these trends closely and recognize that today’s regulations may change, so they must be fluid in their plans and open to acting quickly to leverage opportunities created by regulatory changes,” Kumbhari says.

By collaborating with immigration professionals and leveraging technology, businesses can streamline their immigration processes and ensure compliance with evolving requirements. Similarly, individuals seeking immigration services should seek out reputable immigration companies that stay abreast of the latest policy developments and offer tailored solutions to meet their needs.

Looking Ahead

As we peer into the future, the trajectory of immigration policies remains uncertain. However, amid the turbulence, there is hope for pragmatic approaches that prioritize the contributions of migrants to economies and societies worldwide. Whether in the United States, the United Kingdom, or beyond, the conversation around immigration reform will continue to shape the global landscape, underscoring the need for adaptive strategies and collaborative efforts to navigate the complexities of international mobility.

“In such a busy year politically, we will have to wait until we know more about the results of various elections. Then we will start seeing a more real picture of what the shape of the future will look like,” McCluskey says. “But we have to first get through this year.”

Longdon agrees: “The future is dependent on the political landscape and who comes into power in the U.K. and U.S. On a global level the world needs to respect and embrace the contribution that migrants add to the countries.”