2020 LOOK AHEAD: Global Business Immigration and Mobility Trends (Part 3 of 4)

February 6, 2020

By Jason Rogers, J.D., VP & Global Immigration Counsel, and Kent O’Neil, J.D.

We often note the passing of years – and particularly decades – with fanfare and a bit of introspection. In a greater sense, the flip of the calendar from 2019 to 2020 is more an artificial demarcation. When it comes to the international business environment, 2020 will present us with much of the same opportunities and challenges that 2019 did. Nevertheless, it is always prudent to periodically assess where we stand and where we’re going.

In preparing for the year ahead, we at Newland Chase did our annual look back at the significant changes in business immigration and mobility for 2019. If you missed it, take a look online here or download it in e-book format here. This week, looking ahead at 2020, here is how we view this year in global business immigration and mobility.

As always, please continue to monitor our blog and subscribe to our weekly newsletter – designed to keep international HR and mobility managers up-to-date and equipped with the latest changes and information for the year ahead. (Sign up on our home page here.)

This is part 3 in a four part look ahead at the global business immigration and mobility trends and developments to watch for in 2020. If you missed part 1 on global trends, you can find it here. Part 2 on North and South America is here. In this week's installment… Europe and Africa regional trends and developments. Readers who would like the information in a single, savable and printable format to share with their teams are encouraged to download the complimentary 2020 LOOK AHEAD eBook coming soon here.


In general, business immigration and mobility within Europe is the best developed and connected regionally anywhere in the world. Setting aside the issues of mobility across the English Channel for a moment – the European Union remains the gold standard in mobility. The major story to watch on the global mobility front in Europe this year can be summed up in one word: Brexit.

The United Kingdom officially splits from the European Union on January 31, but the ramifications of that event for business in the UK and Europe will unfold and sort out over coming years. The negotiations on the future trade and mobility relationship between the UK and EU will likely begin in earnest in March.

Throughout 2020, much of the current relationship will be maintained in a “transition period”, where the present visa and immigration rules remain in place. The significant date to watch now is December 31, 2020 – the current expected end of the transition period. If negotiations throughout this year fail to yield sufficient agreement, we could still be back to a “no-deal” situation come 2021. Businesses operating in Europe will need to continue to monitor the situation and prepare for all possible outcomes. For in-depth analysis and our ongoing guidance, visit our Brexit and Immigration: What You Need to Know resource site.

In the European Union – the exit of the UK, new leadership after last year’s EU elections, and more strained relationships with both the U.S. and China will motivate efforts toward creating a more cohesive and independent union of the remaining 27 member states. However, this will be no easy task with nationalistic movements continuing to grow in some member states.

On the EU visas and immigration front, expect essentially business as usual. Changes to the Schengen visa code approved last year will take effect in February this year – with more flexible application procedures and moderately higher fees. Applicants will be able to sign and submit their applications electronically; applications will be able to be lodged six months in advance of travel; and frequent travelers with positive visa history will have greater access to multiple-entry visas. In all, these will be positive improvement for business travelers to Europe.

The numerous technical reforms to the Posted Worker Rules mandated by the Directive of June 28, 2018, are due to be implemented by all member states by the end of July this year. Look for a flurry of activity this year on local posted work rules as some member states attempt to meet their deadline. The key for employers to watch for will be potential changes to the posted worker notification processes and ensure compliance with guarantees of equal pay and working conditions for posted workers.

While not due to debut until sometime in 2021, this year will see the investment and attention toward getting ready the new ETIAS travel authorization system. Applicable across the Schengen Area, the new system will function similarly to the U.S.’s ESTA program and Canada’s eTA program. Visa exempt travelers will be required to obtain online electronic travel authorizations linked to their passports before arriving in their Schengen area destination. We have been watching this development for several years now and will continue to keep clients apprised with the latest as we near implementation. 

In the EU’s largest economy of Germany, a new skilled immigration law enacted last year will take effect on March 1, 2020. The new law should expand opportunities for skilled non-EU nationals to be employed in Germany and assist employers in filling unmet labor needs. It will also create a “one-stop-shop” fast-track application process for some skilled workers. More details should be released in the early months of this new year.

France is seemingly taking the contrary approach. The EU’s second largest economy bears some close monitoring this year on the immigration front. In apparent response to internal social and labor unrest, President Emmanuel Macron announced in November last year that the government would “take back control” of immigration policy – including cracking down on illegal immigration and setting quotas for foreign workers. While the government insists it is still going to be responsive to employers’ needs for foreign labor, it does signal a potential major shift in immigration policy. Early indications are that any significant changes are likely to come in mid-2020; so we’ll be watching closely for details to emerge over the coming months.


As a region, economic growth in Africa should be slightly higher in 2020 than in 2019. In business immigration and mobility within the continent, the long-term trend of recent years has been toward greater openness, and this will continue into 2020. While progress toward a “borderless Africa” has been slow to moderate, there are positive signs of that progress. Trading under the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is slated to begin in July of this year – with 54 of the 55 African Union (AU) member countries as signatories.

In Africa’s largest economy of Nigeria, the political and economic policy in 2020 is likely the same as that for 2019 with the reelection of the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari last year. In December of last year, Buhari announced that Nigeria will begin granting visas-on-arrival to all African travelers in 2020. One “wild card” of concern presently for Nigerian businesspersons is the United States. Nigeria is one of the additional seven countries President Trump is considering adding to his controversial “travel ban”.

The second major economy, South Africa is set to publish a new “critical skills list” of occupations eligible for visas – likely in March 2020. The new list is said to be less restrictive than previous drafts and should be more favorable to companies experiencing skills shortages in the country. South Africa also has a new e-visa system introduced in pilot phase late in 2019. We should see moves to more fully roll out and expand its use in 2020.

TOMORROWRegional Trends: Asia-Pacific and Middle East

Need Expert Guidance?

Immigration laws and processes change every day. Some changes dominate global headlines, while other less publicized changes subtly but dramatically change the global business environment. To be successful in this climate, companies must quickly adapt and take action.

Newland Chase is uniquely positioned to quickly respond with guidance and strategic advice for our clients. Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation about your business immigration needs and how having Newland Chase as your trusted business adviser can help you succeed in the face of this challenging global business environment.



Newland Chase, a wholly owned subsidiary of CIBT, is the leading global provider of immigration and visa services for corporations and individuals with over 1,700 expert immigration and visa professionals, attorneys and qualified migration consultants located in over 70 offices in 25 countries.

Jason L. Rogers, J.D. is Newland Chase’s Vice President and Senior Global Immigration Counsel. He is responsible for overseeing client immigration programs and providing high-level consultation responses for many of the world’s largest international companies. Jason has been practicing law since 2001 and has spent the past 12 years concentrating in the area of global immigration and corporate compliance. Jason received his Juris Doctor from Seton Hall University of Law and a Bachelor in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This publication is not intended as a substitute for legal advice.  Readers are reminded that immigration laws are subject to change. We are not responsible for any loss arising from reliance on this publication. Please contact Newland Chase should you require any additional clarification or case-specific advice.