As we slowly manoeuvre out from the depths of the pandemic, we asked some of our team members what the last two years has taught them…

Levelling the playing field!

For many years, the practice of immigration law has been centred on transactional efficiency and ease.

That changed dramatically during the pandemic when Governments (the world over) utilized policy changes and arbitrary mandates to implement emergency measures with the purported goal of reducing the spread of COVID-19.

In Australia, the Federal Government took relatively swift action to close the gates by implementing a strict border closure which (not only) impacted foreign nationals but Australian citizens and permanent residents.

Accordingly, the tightening of the border via mandate and public health orders introduced a new and complex regime administered by the Australian Border Force (as well as the relevant State Health body) instead of the Department of Immigration.  The relatively sparse policy documents (around who could enter and leave) meant that the decision making had very little precedent and so helping clients return home or leave Australia was untested.

And this was precisely the shake-up that the immigration industry needed!

The border closure seemingly levelled the playing field and those of us bold enough to test those waters were able to stay afloat during the inevitable economic decline.

I vividly recall having a conference with a global mobility leader of one of the world’s largest combat sports promotions and the panic in her voice as she indicated that we had but four days to deliver an outbound travel exemption for one of their athletes to compete at an upcoming event.  The Gilton Valeo team rallied together with all hands on deck – involving negotiations with NSW Health, the ABF and various sports ministers and health officials as we worked together to align on what the new policy entailed.

At the time, it seemed that no one really knew what to do and after (what seemed like) hours of negotiating with various parties, and with the support of our client, we successfully obtained a travel exemption approval that created a precedent from which all parties could move forward.

In the few months following the border closure, we had created a streamlined and efficient process for outbound travel exemptions and managed several hundred requests in a short period of time.

This changed my view on the direction of the immigration industry.

This demonstrated the fundamental nature of immigration to business and most importantly to our way of life.

After two decades of practising immigration law, it feels that our profession has earned its seat on the proverbial table.

How to manage a crisis!

The pandemic was and still is the biggest concern, especially when it comes to immigration.  A lot has been inhibited, which affected the economy, tourism, and immigration – all of which supposedly help the country grow.

During the pandemic, every industry has its varying response on how to continue its operations facing the status quo.  Many had done their fair share of ending their operations, and others have started switching and adapting to the new norm.

According to Hilborne (2021), Immigration and Civil Litigation were the legal practices that have been severely affected during the rise of the said pandemic.  Demand for immigration work has declined by an average of 47%, resulting in a loss for this field.

However, contrary to this data.  Researchers had presented a shred of evidence that these fields are already recovering and will return to their stable growth in early 2021.

This data may show the vast decline of this legal practice, but there will always be a silver lining we can always look up.

Concerning this, Law firms should always have Crisis Teams that can monitor the firm and let it stay afloat in this sudden change of environment.

Having a Culture Club allows the firm to have different plans that can satisfy the firm’s needs whenever a crisis arises.

As a Culture Club Leader, I anticipated this job to be strenuous since it forces us to adapt and grow for our firm to thrive during these trying times.  It is difficult to adjust to this newly imposed system since people tend to excel more when exposed to a working environment that allows them to collaborate and express their plans in a very convenient way.

Nevertheless, it made me sway otherwise.

Forming a Culture Club in an Immigration Law firm was one of the best moves the firm has created.  It has helped a lot of employees and the firm itself to have a more enjoyable working environment.

Moreover, this club made me realize that working at a distance is not a hindrance to the firm’s growth, especially between Australia and the Philippines, since we have been able to form the best teams in both Cebu and Sydney.

To sum it all up, we may have doubted this newly imposed system, which forced our firm to grow in a way that we have opposite views on, but on a brighter note, it enables us to connect and be competitive towards this pandemic.