Global Compact for Migration Slated for Completion This Year


Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. June 29, 2018
Global Compact for Migration Slated for Completion This Year

​Employers are making sure that their need for talent is reflected in the global compact for migration (GCM), an agreement that governments at the United Nations (U.N.) are negotiating to guide immigration policy around the world.

While the United States announced last December that it would withdraw from the proposed GCM as an intrusion on its sovereignty, "The rest of the world remains engaged, and the GCM is as relevant and necessary as ever," said Lynn Shotwell, head, global outreach and operations for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

So far, there have been five negotiating rounds of the GCM with one round held every month since February, Shotwell noted. SHRM has been at the forefront of discussions. A sixth and final round is planned for July before the U.N. is expected to adopt the GCM in December.

The GCM currently contains 23 objectives, but Shotwell said that three are of central importance to employers: Objectives 5, 6 and 18. Objective 5 deals with improving pathways for employment-based immigration. Objective 6 seeks to facilitate fair and ethical recruitment and safeguard conditions that ensure decent work. Objective 18 addresses investment in skills development and mutual recognition of qualifications.

Nonbinding Agreement

The GCM will be nonbinding but will set a policy framework that many governments will choose to follow and work to implement, Shotwell noted.

[Do you need to learn more about employment-related immigration? Looking for some recertification credits for your HR credential? See these SHRM eLearning courses on how to manage immigration in your workplace. Many SHRM eLearning programs offer professional development credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP credentials.]

Policymakers decided the GCM was needed following the 2015-16 European migrant crisis. However, the GCM takes into account regular migration, as well as refugees, explained Stéphanie Winet, head of stakeholder engagement, Global Forum on Migration and Development for the International Organisation of Employers in Geneva.

Improved Pathways for Employment-Based Immigration

Objective 5 urges governments to create and improve trusted employer programs, which provide accelerated visa processing for employers with track records of compliance.

This objective also calls on governments to:

  • Develop mechanisms to facilitate labor mobility, such as visa liberalization.
  • Review immigration policies to evaluate how they meet labor market needs.
  • Create flexibility in employment-based immigration systems for migrants of all skill levels.
  • Reduce processing times.
  • Allow accompanying family to work.

Fair and Ethical Recruitment

Objective 6 promotes:

  • The human and labor rights of migrant workers at all skill levels, including migrant domestic workers.
  • Processes that let migrants change their employers and lengthen their stay with minimal administrative burden.
  • The adoption of measures to prevent and remedy all forms of exploitation and abuse.

Investment in Skills Development

Objective 18 urges governments to:

  • Provide more uniform standards for the recognition of foreign qualifications.
  • Engage in partnerships that promote skills development and mobility, such as student exchange programs.
  • Offer information to migrants on how to get their skills and qualifications recognized in the job application process.

Key Challenges Facing Immigration Professionals

The GCM should help address key challenges that immigration professionals face, not least of which is the difficulty filling jobs.

At a May 21 U.N. hearing on the GCM, Ashli Aldrich, global immigration manager at Uber, which is headquartered in San Francisco, noted that the company started with 17 employees in 2010, had more than 1,000 workers by 2014 and had more than 17,000 employees last year.

"As our company size increased, the volume of [immigration] sponsorship has also naturally increased, but the ratio of foreign national hires versus nonforeign national hires has remained fairly static, indicating specific talent shortages," she stated.

Aldrich said that key challenges are:

  • Rapid change to immigration policy.
  • Overly burdensome bureaucracy and delays.
  • Restrictions on visa options for highly skilled workers.

The impacts include:

  • Disruption costing time, productivity and money in a business that relies on speed for innovation.
  • Difficulty hiring for some business areas and roles.
  • Loss of potential strong candidates due to immigration complications.
  • Moving jobs to a location where talent is available.
  • Disruption to immigrant employees, such as financial cost, emotional distress and family disconnection.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Introduction to the Global Human Resources Discipline]

Three Solutions

Aldrich suggested three solutions, including Objective 5's recommendation for trusted employer programs. She described these programs as a "win-win for member states and companies" because they:

  • Speed up the immigration process.
  • Allow for streamlined compliance.
  • Make the immigration process more stable and predictable.
  • Reduce governmental costs.

She also called on simple and clear immigration rules that allow some flexibility for rapidly growing companies.

Finally, Aldrich urged the U.N. to champion government partnerships that take a proactive approach, connect with stakeholders and share knowledge. For example, she noted that the United Kingdom (U.K.) Home Office meetings and the U.K. Migration Advisory Committee allow companies to participate in dialogue that helps shape policymaking.


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