As immigration policies continue to make it harder to import and naturalize foreign workers, more businesses -- from small restaurants to large multinational corporations -- are turning to lawyers for help. As a result, more law firms are expanding their immigration practices, adding immigration consulting and defense work to the more traditional range of processing applications for visas and "green cards," permanent-resident status.
Corporate immigration lawyers are particularly pervasive in the Triangle, where large foreign companies such as Royal Bank of Canada, GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer need help shipping workers to and from the corporations' home countries. Local technology firms also fuel demand as they plumb for software and biotech professionals from Europe and Asia and open foreign offices.
"Global mobility is the business trend," said Steven Smalley, a Raleigh partner with Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart of Atlanta. The company's Raleigh-based immigration practice has expanded to more than 50 lawyers and paralegals from a handful in 2001. This month, it took the practice global by partnering with Emigra Group, a Vienna, Va.-based immigration consulting firm that operates in nine countries.
I doubt many politicians running for office this November could add attracting foreign nationals to their platforms, so solutions to the knowledge capital shortage will likely stay in the private sector. When demographics force the issue, we can look to North Carolina for guidance on how to promote and manage international migration.
Regardless, any region should embrace the business trend of "global mobility." I haven't heard of any politicians discussing this. I also haven't seen many economic plans that put this trend at the core of their vision. Meanwhile, the talent to manage immigration is pooling in the Piedmont.