The economic, social, and political aspects of immigration have caused controversy regarding ethnicity, economic benefits, jobs for nonimmigrants, settlement patterns, impact on upward social mobility, crime, and voting behavior.
IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) conducted a survey of senior finance professionals in September 2016 to find out how U.S. companies are dealing with immigration issues. Specifically, we examined their immigration policies and practices.
Three-fourths of the respondents feel the presence of illegal immigrants in the United States contributes to employment challenges for the domestic U.S. workforce. Of the 140 survey respondents:
- 19% said “to a great extent”
- 56% said “to some extent”
- 24% said “not at all”
Those who said illegal immigrants affect the U.S. workforce to a great extent were more likely than other respondents to have no policy regarding hiring non-U.S. citizens (22% vs. 8%). Those who said it doesn’t affect the U.S. workforce to a great extent were more likely to describe their company policy as “We find the best candidate regardless of citizenship status” (36% vs. 15%).
Regarding legal immigrants, more than half of the respondents’ firms have 10% or less of their workforce composed of non-U.S. citizens. Overall, the most common descriptions of respondent companies’ employment policy regarding hiring non-U.S. citizens were:
- We find the best candidate, regardless of citizenship status. (32%)
- With regard to citizenship status, we hire on an ad hoc basis. (17%)
- We don’t have a policy regarding the hiring of non-U.S. citizens. (17%)
A representative comment was “We staff strategically, looking for the best candidate we can afford with the skills needed for the position. We will hire regardless of citizenship but absolutely require that an applicant have the legal status to work in the U.S.”
The biggest challenge regarding the hiring of foreign nationals, mentioned by 36% of the respondents, is work visa issues. The next three most frequent challenges include:
- Paying for immigration costs (22%)
- Cultural differences (22%)
- S. immigration policies (18%)
Most people associate foreign labor with less-skilled positions. Scientific, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), however, were by far more common types of positions utilizing legal foreign nationals than less-skilled positions (50% vs. 16%, respectively). According to a Pew Research Center study, U.S. students rank around the middle of the pack in STEM behind many other advanced industrial nations. Of those who don’t hire foreign nationals, the number one reason given is they can find the skills they need in the U.S. Our finding is consistent with the fact that the number one source of immigrants to the U.S. last year was India, followed by China. Mexican immigration to the U.S., much in the news lately, actually only ranks third.
There is a lot of attention in U.S. politics these days about the impact of illegal immigration. In this survey, we found more than three-fourths of respondents feel that illegal immigrants in the U.S. cause challenges for U.S. workers. Yet despite this concern, the respondents to this survey consistently indicated that the foreign workers they hired were authorized to work in the U.S. legally.
The biggest challenges companies face regarding employing non-U.S. citizens are issues with work visas, paying for immigration costs, and cultural differences. The biggest skills in demand for legal immigrants relate to STEM positions, which require a skill set that companies are having trouble finding in the U.S. The most common way companies are filling these positions is to recruit the best candidates, regardless of citizenship status, while requiring foreign workers to have a valid work visa.