We’re thrilled to welcome to our team our new Global Mobility Lead, Killu Vantsi. Killu has a deep understanding of immigration policy and process in Estonia and experience across the European Union.
During the Estonian EU Presidency, she was the Head of Council of the EU Visa Working Party and the Deputy Head of the Council of the EU Legal migration Working Party. She is basically the person who has been writing the migration laws in Estonia and negotiating the conditions with other ministries.
Here’s a little interview so you can get to know Killu a bit better.
Question: How did you get into the field of immigration law?
There are two avenues that led to my inspiration to join the field of immigration law: personal and professional.
On a personal level, I’ve had experience studying in various different countries, including places like Finland, France, Cyprus, and India. My journey working and travelling there also gave me first hand experience into what it’s like being on the other side of immigration, having to apply for visas and work permits. I remember when I was applying for a work permit in France I got really frustrated with how many times I had to go to the Police Department to complete the process. There is no people-centered approach to immigration.
Professionally, I worked for a long time in the export field in the private sector, when I returned from working and living abroad for a few years. I had an opportunity to work with a consulate in Belgium, and then moved on to the Ministry of Interior and became the legal immigration expert, drafting policy documents, analyzing what needs to be changed and the best ways to do so, all while keeping in mind the goals of the state: attracting who we want to attract and how.
How have you seen global mobility and employee relocation change over the last 5 years? How has it changed since COVID?
The biggest change we’ve seen is that countries were very actively focused on attracting highly skilled migrants, which led to the global race for talent from countries all over the world. The time before COVID was the peak of migration, with people relocating for many reasons including employment purposes. COVID changed this dramatically, basically stopping it in its tracks, going from the peak of mobility to complete immobility. Some have even referred to this as a crisis of immobility. COVID has shown that policy makers were focused on attracting highly-skilled workers, now we see that we need low and mid level skilled workers as well, since countries can’t function properly without a variety of skill sets. Generally speaking, about 13-15% of those low-to-mid-level skilled workers are foreign workforce. Post-covid, lots of countries will be analyzing their labor mobility policies, analyzing which categories of employees they actually want to attract, as they depend on a variety of these roles for economic sustainability and growth.
Beyond COVID, global mobility will continue to see changes. Who knows when and to what proportion the employee needs will come back, as right now there is an important decline in requests for employees. The number of visas and residence permits they’re issued have declined, and now companies see that remote work is a possibility. We also are seeing the limitations of remote work, and when it’s not a possibility and that people want to work together. This is the time when employees and foreign workforce need the most support, the increase in restrictions put in place has created a divide when it comes to understanding global mobility. Companies need an in-person workforce for benefits to both the business and workers.
What excites you most about joining Jobbatical?
Since I’ve had the opportunity to change immigration from a policy maker viewpoint, now I’m excited about being able to help people with global mobility from the point of view of people. Employers and workers see my impact through their own point of view. Together, we see how we can break down barriers and walls between countries.
What is your top advice you’d give to companies hiring internationally during COVID? What would you say to talent currently going through relocations?
Relocation during COVID is so much more complex and time consuming than under normal circumstances. First, if a company found talent that they want to help relocate and it's not possible, verify what the current possibilities are, is it possible to apply for visas or residence permits? Is it possible to bring family members along? This may make or break the possibility of the talent relocating in the first place. If at all possible seek guidance from immigration experts, specialists, or companies who are familiar with and know the laws. The information out there is very vague and very difficult to understand and important points might be missed regarding isolation rules, etc. This can make the process much lengthier and more costly. I would also advise you to be patient, as the length of the process currently is much longer than it was before. Be patient, we have seen last-minute flight cancellations, be prepared for any last minute changes that happen.
If you weren’t an Immigration lawyer, what would you be doing?
I would probably be still working in the export field, public sector, or hospitality, as my education has prepared me for this. I like learning new things and doing different things. People learn throughout their entire life and always are doing different things. I’ve learned I need excitement about things and differences in my jobs.
What is a fun fact about you?
When I was working in Cyprus, and I had to travel back to Estonia I called a flight company to book a flight ticket, and they asked my name: Killu. It took me about five minutes to convince them that I didn't want to kill them. Having a unique name can be difficult!
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