Compliance Guidelines for Companies that Hire Expats
When your company’s operations span the globe, sending representatives abroad is a necessity if you want to remain competitive. Yet now more than ever, the process of preparing expat employees and helping them get established in foreign jurisdictions is riddled with challenges. In addition to the global pandemic that imposes travel restrictions and causes widespread political and economic instability, you have to make sure that your company and your workforce are in compliance with local rules and regulations.
Challenges Faced by Expat Employees
Working abroad is not everyone’s cup of tea, and it takes a special type of employee to accept the challenges of an international assignment. For the special few who fit the bill, working in a foreign city offers intangible rewards in terms of culture, experience and personal growth.
But even the most qualified and avid candidate is bound to face some challenges, and it is important for your company to equip them to cope before you throw them to the wolves.
Obstacles often faced by expat workers include:
- Language barriers. If your candidate does not speak the local language, begin language training early on, and set up a buddy system in the destination country with a local employee who can help the new candidate acclimatize. Be sure to forewarn local employees that the individual you are sending will need some help with language.
- Culture shock. Provide your expat employee with as much information as you can about the local culture. If possible, put them in touch with a veteran who has lived in the country and can offer some helpful information on navigating the local culture.
- Personal health and safety issues. Medical care and hygiene standards vary from country to country, so it is important to take the health of your employee into consideration. A candidate with a chronic medical condition that needs to be monitored or managed with medications may be a high risk. Expats also make attractive targets for criminals. Be sure to thoroughly advise your employee on safety risks and how to avoid them. An expat employee can quickly become overwhelmed in a foreign environment if they are not properly prepared, and their job performance will suffer. It is imperative for your company to equip expat workers to face obstacles and challenges, and to keep them safe while they live and work abroad.
- Immigration procedure. Start early on, especially if you need to relocate the expat with their family and/or dependents. Check the documents required as well as the timelines to get a visa. Think carefully of how you will onboard and pay the person in the target country if a long-term assignment is at stake. Leaving workers on payroll in your home country is only justified in case of short-term projects for 3 months or less. If you are sending expats overseas long-term, you need to think how to arrange local payroll for them compliantly. If it is not viable for you to open your own entities and hire directly, make sure you partner with a reliable third-party employment or global PEO company. Mind that having a single work visa sponsor and local employer that would onboard expats post-immigration would significantly raise your chances to get a visa. It is fine if you have an entity in a foreign country and will apply for a visa directly. However, if you don’t have your own entity or at all don’t plan to incorporate in the target country, a global PEO can apply for a visa on your behalf in addition to arranging local payroll for your employees. Employee termination at the end of contract or visa prolongation can also be done by a global PEO partner.
Preparing Your Employees for Work Overseas
To successfully send a talented employee to work for your company abroad, it is important to provide them with a well-designed relocation package that includes cultural and language training, as well as detailed information on safety and health concerns.
In addition, it is important to assign key sponsors, both at the home office and at the host office, to keep the employee informed and provide support when needed. A sponsor who has worked in the host country can be an invaluable asset for helping the employee transition smoothly to their new home and job.
Frequent open communication with the home office is key to successful job performance, so be sure to keep your expat in the loop throughout the assignment period, and have a plan in place to bring them back into the home fold, once the overseas assignment is over.
Costs of Expatriation
In addition to preparing your staff to live and work overseas, it is important to calculate the cost of retaining a foreign workforce. In general, the expense of sending a worker overseas is calculated at three times their salary, so you want to be sure you’re getting plenty of bang for your buck.
Once you find the most qualified and reliable candidate for an overseas position, you need to crunch some numbers to be sure the assignment is financially feasible:
- Living accommodations and expenses
- Travel expenses
- Taxes and benefits
- Work permit expenses
Careful planning is key to successfully establishing an expat workforce abroad that is able to adapt to new environments and still maintain high levels of productivity. To successfully launch an expat employee, you should collaborate with your HR, accounting, operations, and other team members. With such a large investment at stake, the last thing you need is a steady turnover of failed assignments.
Getting Work Permits for Expat Workers
It is essential to provide your expat with the proper documentation for working in the host country. While short-term assignments often need only a visa, extended assignments that entail substantial business activities will likely require an official work permit.
Depending on the host country, obtaining a work permit can be a costly and lengthy process. Many countries are closely scrutinizing the applications of foreign companies who want to send workers abroad. Some companies try to skip this step by obtaining visas under false pretenses, but the consequences of doing so can be severe for both the employee and the company.
Acumen International for Global Workforce Solutions
Obtaining visas and work permits for your overseas workforce can be complicated. That’s why Acumen International developed our tailored solution for Expats Foreign Employment. We help companies like yours overcome the obstacles of obtaining work permits in over 190 countries and legally onboarding expats after they have received work permits. We can advise you on the documentation you’ll need, the procedures to be followed, and the nuances of working in your host country. Acumen’s solution can save you the hassle of mounds of paperwork and bureaucratic red tape, so you can focus on getting your employee ready to successfully live and work abroad.
Contact us today or Request a Quote here.