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Embrace the Opportunity from Skilled Legal Immigrants

Immigrants have flocked to the United States since its founding, attracted to its economic opportunities, family reunifications, and/or refuge from conflict. During these 242 years, the US has become a global powerhouse and a melting pot of innovation, talent, and culture.

While the United States is often known as the land of opportunity, for many skilled legal immigrants (SLIs) this promise is not realized. As the US looks to improve productivity and fill the talent loss from 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day (Pew Research Center), it is critically important for companies to tap into the expertise of SLIs.

Our new report surveys over 400 US employers and SLIs, and interviews hiring managers, diversity experts, Chief HR Officers, and SLIs, to better understand the challenges SLIs face in entering the workforce and to find realistic corporate hiring strategies and solutions. We worked in partnership with Upwardly Global, a nonprofit organization focused on helping immigrants and refugees find employment and rebuild their professional careers in the United States.

In our increasingly global workforce, skilled immigrants and refugees are an incredibly strong—yet often misunderstood—source of talent and innovation. They bring a wealth of language and cross-cultural skills, as well as the ability to fill talent gaps across industries.
Nikki Cicerani, President and CEO of Upwardly Global

An Untapped Talent Market

While SLIs have been an important factor in the success of the US economy, many struggle to find employment, despite their high education and skillset, and are at least 50% more likely to be unemployed or underemployed than their US-born counterparts (Migration Policy Institute). Their lack of a professional network and knowledge of job search norms in the US presents an untapped talent opportunity that offers employers the possibility of filling in key skills or regional gaps.

Today, there are 8.5 million skilled legal immigrants in the US who are college educated, hold either permanent resident status or US citizenship, and were born outside of the United States.

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Our research identified three key areas for employers to focus their efforts to actively level the playing field and build strong teams. These best practices are applicable to recruiting a diverse workforce more broadly, and SLIs in particular. We summarize these in the exhibit below.

Workforce of the Future

SLIs are untapped potential employees at a time when companies are struggling with having the right people in place in a rapidly changing workforce. Oliver Wyman and our sister company, Mercer recently launched Workforce for the Future , which will help organizations prepare their workforces for the digital era , and provide insight on how companies need to transform the way they think about their staff, strategy, business models and HR in order to remain competitive.

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