2020 LOOK AHEAD: Global Business Immigration and Mobility Trends (Part 1 of 4)

February 4, 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 the 2019 in Review eBook 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.)

Editor: Due to its length, this extensive 2020 LOOK AHEAD will appear in this blog in in four installments over the next four days. 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.


Familiar global macro trends will continue to drive change in both business and legal environments across the world – bringing long-term shifts in the way international employee assignments and business travel are structured. Here are our top global trends for 2020.

Moderate Economic Growth: Consensus appears to be that 2020 will see moderate growth in the world economy similar to what we saw in 2019. Though it is important to note, more economists see a chance of the beginning of a global recession this year than did so in 2019.

As in 2019, that growth will not be shared equally across all countries. Developed economies will continue to experience slow growth, with some notable developing nations experiencing more rapid growth as increasing populations and an expanding middle class fuel consumer spending. Significant opportunities for international business will continue to be found in these developing markets, but those opportunities come with challenges as nations struggle to deal with resulting strains on infrastructure and institutions.

Potential downside risks to global growth to watch out for include the tenuous trade relationship between the United States and China, geopolitical tensions in the Middle East involving Iran, and a general latent social unrest in many countries as income/wealth gaps widen.

In the world of business immigration and mobility, the moderate growth will continue to keep market competition and company budgets tight. The emphasis in the global visas and immigration market will be on strategic talent immigration solutions that maximize return on investment and minimize spend.    

Globalism vs. Nationalism: Economics and technology will continue to drive the world economy to globalize. Economic advantages available in growing foreign markets and foreign talent will continue to favor companies embracing the increasingly global nature of business.

On the other hand, the continuing and increasing political nationalistic trend will continue to influence government policy, sometimes to the detriment of long-term economic growth. Watch for continuing protectionism in developed countries on immigration and access to local markets. While countries are quick to criticize the nationalistic tendencies in other nations, they seem more than comfortable with embracing it in their own.

Technology: Technology will continue to drive globalization with increased productivity, automation, and communication – allowing companies to operate more easily across international boundaries.

Technology will also be further employed by governments to increase the utility and security of immigration and border entry processes. In 2020, the trend will continue toward greater prevalence of electronic visas, biometric collection and registration, automated background checks, technology enhanced vetting of visa applications, electronic tracking of both local and foreign residents through electronic ID systems, and monitoring legal compliance through linking immigration and tax databases.  

Talent Competition: Competition for top talent will continue to be keen – especially in science and technology fields. The war for talent will be fought on both a company scale and a national scale. Companies will increasingly use international work assignments and business travel opportunities as a means of attracting young, highly skilled workers who expect international experience as part of their career development. Many forward-thinking governments will embrace immigration-friendly policies as a tool of economic growth and means of attracting foreign talent – providing strategic opportunities for international companies with an eye toward the trends.

Short Term over Long Term: In 2020, cost concerns and immigration restrictions in some countries will cause many companies to increasingly restructure international assignments from the traditional long-term expat assignments into more frequent short-term business travel and remote working arrangements. Expect both demand and supply of business visas to increase as more long-term residence and permanent residence opportunities are restricted in some countries.

Polarizing Global Business Environment: The rift between the United States and China will continue to produce ripple effects in the world economy and define the global business environment. The recent trade agreements between the two nations are more of the nature of a standstill than a long-term resolution.

Increasingly, countries and multinational companies will be forced to polarize around either of the two largest economies as each uses “carrots and sticks” to exert its influence. This is perhaps most apparent in the technology fields where economic and national security interests merge. Supply chains, market access, finance, data security, and talent mobility will all be effected as the U.S. and China tenuously chart their future economic and political relationship between two dominant powers with widely divergent political and economic philosophies. Critical to success will be how companies navigate this changing environment and whether they can maintain feet in both spheres of influence.

TOMORROWRegional Trends: North and South America (now available here).

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.