As global trade increases, so does the movement of labour between jurisdictions. This is because companies increasingly require skilled labour to support growth in both emerging and high growth markets. The rising demand for mobile labour is reflected in the rapid increase of global assignees over the past 10 years. This trend is only expected to continue in the coming years.
In the drive to expedite the movement of labour, companies often attempt to circumvent immigration and labour rules and regulations. While this may seem like a good idea when a need arises, companies can pay a heavy price for attempting to avoid immigration and related labour laws.
The recent settlement between a major technology company and the United States government is a good example of the heavy consequences that organizations can face when when they fail to comply with immigration rules and regulations.
The company has specifically agreed to pay $34 million in penalties to the United States government following an investigation into allegations that it had committed immigration fraud.
The company was specifically accused of supporting the entry of foreigners to work in the United States under the B-1 Business visa program, a category intended for individuals who are not working but rather are carrying out general tasks such as participating at global strategy meetings. The investigation examined whether the company should have instead applied for work permits for these individuals under the H1-B work permit program which is subject to strict regulations and an annual 85,000 person quota.
Both the United States’ swift response and the settlement amount demonstrate a growing determination among goverments to punish violations to the country’s immigration rules and regulations. Canada, while remarkably open to foreign labour, has also taken significant steps over the last two years to enforce rules relating to foreign labour. This includes tighter labour and immigration rules for employers wishing to hire foreigners and ongoing monitoring to ensure compliance with conditions underlying granted work permits.
Further, any individual or organization that participates, whether directly or indirectly, in misrepresentation to Immigration Canada or Human Resources and Skills Development Canada can be subjected to a wide range of sanctions including but not limited to financial penalties, a bar from hiring foreign workers, and imprisonment.
This case serves as a reminder of the importance of adhering to immigration and labour laws in recruiting and moving labour across borders. In a world of increasing cross border trade, organizations would be wise to have in place a well-organized strategy for managing global mobility. Such an approach will help to ensure that companies are able to more predictably retain and place skilled labour where it is needed.
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