Stories

Foreign workers: in demand, and anxious

Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty

At a time of a federal crackdown on immigration, American companies say they need more foreign skilled workers to fill open positions, and that they are offering generous perks to attract them. But workers abroad are increasingly anxious about the environment in the U.S., and are pushing back, according to a new survey.

Quick take: Last year, half the companies surveyed by Harris for Envoy, an immigration services firm, said they expect to increase their foreign hires. This year, the number is 59%. But a third of their candidates are so anxious over U.S. immigration policy that they either refuse to accept, or won't start work until their visa is approved.

According to Envoy CEO Dick Burke, 42% of the companies surveyed report that foreign hires are anxious about getting through the immigration process, and 35% say individual visa cases are in fact becoming more difficult.

  • As a result, a number of workers are just staying home, he said. "They say, 'My own country is modernizing. I will just stay home because it's not worth the anxiety whether I'll get back into the country,'" Burke said.
  • The candidates saying this are primarily from China, India and the Philippines.
  • Impact on work: 26% of companies are delaying projects because of uncertainty in immigration.

"The talent gap is real. We need to check but not to throttle innovation in the United States," Burke said.