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How Internationally Trained Immigrants & Refugees Can Fight COVID-19, Re-open our Economy, and Advance Equity & Opportunity

How Internationally Trained Immigrants & Refugees Can Fight COVID-19, Re-open our Economy, and Advance Equity & Opportunity

Upwardly Global stands ready to serve as a resource to the Biden-Harris Administration as it works to realign U.S. policies to honor our tradition as a welcoming nation. That’s why we’ve drafted an in-depth policy roadmap for this new administration, outlining 15 policy recommendations, which you can read in full here.

The Biden-Harris Administration is simultaneously tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, working to safely re-open our economy, and advancing critical work on racial equity.

Upwardly Global believes that immigrants and refugees—including an estimated two million with college degrees who are currently un- or under-employed in the U.S.—will play a key role in addressing all three crises. These professionals come to the U.S. with essential skills in healthcare, STEM, and business fields; offer multilingual skills and global savvy; and add diversity to our workforce that has been shown to bolster resilience, problem-solving skills, and adaptability. With support from the federal government, these professionals could more fully contribute their skills to the U.S. workforce, especially at this critical time. 

Nearly half of immigrants who have entered the U.S. since 2010 have a bachelor’s degree, a graduate degree, or a professional degree. Despite rising levels of education and training, these immigrants are not guaranteed a smooth transition to the U.S. job market. They face a variety of barriers that keep them from working jobs appropriate to their skill level. Many instead face unemployment or underemployment, working in “survival jobs” that often keep them in poverty. Yet, because these immigrants arrive with education and training from their home countries, they are often overlooked when policies are crafted to provide immigrants with the tools they need to thrive in our economy.

Upwardly Global works with this community of immigrant and refugee job seekers. Over two decades, Upwardly Global has supported more than 18,000 immigrant and refugee professionals in translating their international training to the U.S. job market. At the same time, Upwardly Global partners with employers to support them in accessing pipelines of diverse talent and creating more equitable, inclusive hiring practices.

While we are proud of our accomplishments, much more can and must be done to advance the full inclusion of this cohort of U.S. workers. With federal support, programs like Upwardly Global can be scaled to reach more of the two million immigrant professionals sitting on the sidelines of our economy. 

In this paper, Upwardly Global makes a number of recommendations to help speed the economic inclusion of immigrant and refugee professionals. These include:

  • Greater federal coordination of immigrant inclusion via the establishment of an Office of New Americans within the Executive Office of the President. Such an office would coordinate the work of federal agencies, assist state and local governments, and share and promote best practices.
  • Review and reform of occupational licensing processes, particularly in the healthcare field, so that licensing requirements do not unnecessarily create barriers for immigrant and refugee professionals with experience in the licensed occupation. 
  • Support for legislation that has proposed solutions for various barriers faced by internationally trained professionals attempting to gain U.S. work experience. 
  • Greater funding for various workforce development programs that will help internationally trained professionals translate their experience and training to the U.S. job market.
  • Reversing regulations from the previous administration that impose barriers to immigrant and refugee self-reliance.
  • Bolster the U.S. refugee resettlement program with adequate funding to support refugees in fully contributing their education and skills to the U.S. workforce.

Upwardly Global stands ready to serve as a resource to the administration as it works to realign U.S. policies to honor our tradition as a welcoming nation.

This report is an expanded, actionable version of our 2020 policy memo, featuring clear next steps and policy asks for the new administration.

Read the full report here.

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