On ‘Super Tuesday’, attorney Ashley Puscas explores the potential impact of candidates’ immigration strategies

Today is ‘Super Tuesday’, the single biggest voting day in the US presidential primary race, with 12 states casting their votes for their preferred Republican and Democratic candidates.

In this year’s race, more so than ever, immigration reform has been at the centre of candidates’ campaigns: some want to “build a wall” while others promise to create citizenship paths for undocumented immigrants. Each of these stances has ramifications for UK organisations seeking to transfer employees to the US.

The Democratic party’s candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, recognise the benefits of immigration to the US. However, Clinton’s immigration reform focuses on undocumented immigrants,  and keeping those families together. This may benefit UK nationals already living in the US who have overstayed their work visas. But it won’t affect UK employees seeking to transfer to the US, and may actually decrease the number of available jobs once an additional 11 million people are able to work in the US legally.

Sanders’ immigration plan also revolves around naturalising these 11 million people, rather than on reforming the visa procedures for foreign employees. If he instead focused on making adjustments to the current process for obtaining work visas, Sanders could increase the US’s chances of benefiting from a vast pool of foreign talent seeking to transfer there.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the leading Republican candidates are generally seeking to restrict movement of foreign nationals to the US. Donald Trump holds the most extreme point of view; he wants to build a physical wall to isolate the country from Mexico. He also wants to greatly reduce, if not stop entirely, the migration of foreign workers to the US – not just from Mexico but throughout the world.

He has also publically called for a ban on all Muslims travelling to the US, both on work visas and as tourists. If he has his way, UK businesses will likely seek to expand to other countries because it may become too difficult to transfer employees – especially those of the Muslim faith.

Fellow Republican Ted Cruz also wants to build fences, and make major reforms to the H-1B work visa. But rather than simplifying the process, or adding additional available visas, these reforms would discourage foreign hiring and encourage employers to hire US citizens. The H-1B visa is used by many UK companies to bring entry-level employees to the US, who may be forced to reevaluate their global personnel migration strategies if he wins office in November.

Marco Rubio believes that shifting the focus from a family based to a merit-based immigration system would grow the economy. His plans would allow UK organisations to transfer qualified employees, benefiting both the company and the US – making his ambitions the most likely to positively affect UK companies.

For UK firms operating in or seeking to do business with the US, this race for the White House has the potential to be the most momentous in living memory. It could shape resourcing decisions, growth plans, and ultimately the extent to which the US remains a desirable place to do business. Firms with plans to maintain and expand their business interests across the Atlantic will need to keep a close eye on the current primary race, and the final election results on 8 November.