2020 LOOK AHEAD: Global Business Immigration and Mobility Trends (Part 2 of 4)

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 2 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. In this week's installment... North and South America 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.


The three largest countries of North America – the United States, Canada, and Mexico – are somewhat of a mixed bag when it comes to business immigration and mobility. If the region were a traffic light – the U.S. would be on red, Canada on green, and Mexico on yellow/amber.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will finally be ratified and replace NAFTA in 2020. Even once finalized, provisions regarding business immigration and travel will remain essentially the same as current.

In the United States, the approach to immigration under the President Donald Trump administration continues on “red”. Through administrative actions and subtle changes in practice, the immigration environment has clearly tightened for businesses seeking to recruit and hire foreign talent. H-1B visas and green cards remain challenging to obtain. A sign of the continuing trend, President Trump recently stated that he intends to further extend his controversial “travel ban” to incorporate seven more nations.

It’s an election year in the U.S.; so expect the President to maintain and strengthen his nationalistic stance that led to his election in 2016. The current impeachment proceedings will end in an acquittal, but will further divide the country. The polarized Congress will also entrench their positions, and little significant legislative action will likely take place.

Immigration, both illegal and legal, will feature prominently in the campaigns. A win for Democrats would signal a shift in immigration policy, but not until 2021. As for prospects of a second Trump term, the strong economy and seemingly divided Democratic Party give him a better than even chance of reelection; but the vote is still ten months away, and the President’s style unpredictable.

Canada, on the other hand, held its general election last year, with immigration being one of the central issues. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau survived a tight reelection fight. A new Immigration Minister was part of a cabinet reshuffling for the new year. Nevertheless, it appears that Canada is open for international business and is continuing along its solidly immigration-friendly path.

Canada will continue to present a “green light” to the U.S.’s “red light” when it comes to immigration. Canada’s long-term strategy appears to employ a welcoming immigration policy as an element of economic development. Look for its Global Skills Strategy and Global Talent Stream to only increase in popularity, and Canada to further attract operations of multinational technology companies looking for a North American alternative to the United States.

Mexico is slightly harder to characterize regarding inbound visa and immigration policy and perhaps in a “yellow light” status. Mexico is still solidly an open and easily navigable immigration option in North America for foreign talent, but the economic stagnation of last year appears continuing into 2020, particularly in industrial activity.

Last year was the first full year in office for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Some of his necessary fiscal discipline moves, labeled “republican austerity”, have added to the stagnation. Viewed as possibly more nationalistic than his predecessor, Obrador has not brought any significant changes in direction to visa and immigration policy. New fees for various visa and immigration processes took effect January 1, but we expect no major changes in processes and requirements over the coming year.  

Panama will likely maintain its position as the fastest growing economy in North America in 2020. With this year being the first full year under new President Laurentino Cortizo, who holds a governing coalition in the Congress, there should be some progress on his pro-business, anti-corruption, and income equality agenda. A round of pre-Cortizo immigration changes in May 2019 balanced local labor protection and foreign investment interests, and there is no indication Cortizo intends to depart from that trend in 2020. Panama remains a stable and attractive LatAm business hub.


Slow economic growth, social unrest, growing populist movements, and political regime changes make the visas and immigration environment in South America somewhat hard to assess – and a region to watch closely in 2020. While there are no major changes in laws and processes yet on the horizon, the fluid political environment puts the potential for significant changes on our radar.

Brazil is South America’s largest economy and the most likely economic bright spot in the region this year. The first year of President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration seems to have been predominantly successful from a business environment standpoint – with needed action on pension reform, taxes, and other business-friendly policies. Brazil underwent a major restructuring of its immigration system in 2017-18, with continual fine-tuning over the time since then. We expect immigration policy in Brazil to stay the course, with the periodic minor improvements in the administrative process.

TOMORROW - Regional Trends: Europe and Africa

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.