The increased attention to terrorism and immigration over the last few months has given concern that these issues might herald a new era of increased regulation that may make it more difficult for companies to accomplish their goals and strategies. A few examples include increased visa restrictions, additional immigration regulations, encryption and privacy regulations and new climate change rules, to name a few. These are combined with other expected legislative updates like the revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act and international new provisions like the UK’s Modern Slavery Act and the EU General Data Protection Regulation.
This month’s Alert will look at some of these possibilities. In our country’s effort to create a safer environment for all of us, we may by necessity foreclose some opportunities that have traditionally been available to US and global businesses.
We wish to also take the opportunity to wish you all a Happy Holiday Season!
Visa and Immigration Restrictions Loom Large
The world of global business has benefitted hugely over recent decades from guest worker and visa programs. These have, for the most part been reciprocal efforts to allow workers to perform needed jobs and develop their skills. Expatriate US workers have long taken advantage of numerous opportunities to spend time working in other geographies to enhance their resumes and to help their companies. Such jobs usually require both visas and work permits issued by the host country.
In the US, visas like H1B’s and other foreign guest worker programs have long aided company profitability and innovation. They have often attracted criticism about making jobs available to non-citizens. However, in addition to stated concerns about preserving jobs for the local population, there are now additional concerns about security and safety. There is simply a fear that dangerous individuals may be able to utilize these visa programs.
As a result, there may be regulations imposed requiring additional background screening, limiting the countries eligible to participate, or eliminating programs altogether. Additionally, the normal travel patterns of executives and other workers may be interrupted as authorities invoke new rules such as duplicative background checks and waiting periods. These travel restrictions may be imposed not only by the US but by other countries as well. It may turn out that the principle of reciprocity plays an increasingly important role.
More State and Local Legislation on the Horizon
The upcoming year is expected to give rise to a higher volume of state and local laws and regulations affecting businesses. This is primarily a result of state and local activism displacing traditional federal authority. As a result businesses with activities in multiple jurisdictions may need to devote more resources to creating program that meet theses multiple approaches.
For example, we may see more state legislation affect employees, such as their wages and work rules. In addition, we may see more attempts to regulate safety and security matters.
Encryption and Privacy Regulation Expected to take Center Stage
The recent incidents of terrorism have given rise to numerous conversations about the need to balance safety and security with data privacy. This includes, most prominently, the unfettered used of encryption techniques to ensure that data and messages are absolutely secure.
The immediate problem is that encryption prevents the authorities from accessing information related to terrorist plots as well all kinds of “good” data. The Presidential debates are filled with oratory about the necessity of reaching a solution with IT companies to this dilemma—and fast.
As a result, there is bound to be legislation and regulations attempting to balance this area. This comes at the same time that the EU is taking steps to further protect privacy and to increase penalties for breaches. This balancing act will either be carefully done or will present difficult issues and risks for many businesses.
Climate Change and Sustainability Regulations Seem Here to Stay
This month, representatives of 195 countries met in Paris and inked an agreement that will impact the amount of permissible emissions and pollution that can be released into the atmosphere. While this remains hotly debated in some circles in the US, it is now a widely accepted conclusion in most countries that the atmosphere must be protected and steps must be taken now to preserve the viability of the planet.
Businesses can expect to be confronted with additional restrictions on emissions as well as energy usage. Also, there is undoubtedly going to be more emphasis on recycling and use of biodegradable materials. There will be continued pressure on prohibiting items like plastic bags.
It will certainly be another profitable year for lobbyists as these and similar issues are debated and contested. Nevertheless, with so many countries agreeing to the overall concept, multi-national companies are bound to meet some new restrictions in this area.
Conclusions and Recommendations
2016 will undoubtedly be another year of change for businesses—particularly global businesses. World events will keep us riveted to the Internet, the television, and other modes of communication.
Businesses should be particularly attuned to changes in laws and regulations around the world that will flow from these events. At Black Belt Compliance, we will be highlighting some of these changes each month in our Alert.
Our Wish to You for the Holidays
It has been our privilege this year to work with some of you and to communicate with all of you through this Alert. We look forward to staying in touch with you during 2016 as well. Thank you for this opportunity!
We wish each of you and your families a happy and blessed holiday season. We hope you will join us in reflecting on all the ways we are so blessed, and ways we might make the world a better place for everyone.