With businesses becoming increasingly global, it is more important than ever for a company’s workforce to be kept mobile. Here, immigration specialist Newland Chase explains the importance of an immigration strategy for international assignments, and gives its tips for implementing successful strategies when mobilising assignees.
Open any broadsheet on any given day of the week and you are likely to find at least one proclamation that business is more globalised than ever; that companies need to look to secure talent on a global basis to be able to continue to compete in the worldwide arena; and that failure to do so will jeopardise not only the future of individual businesses, but also the ability of the UK as a whole to maintain its position alongside the other major global players.
It is no surprise, therefore, that companies continue to place huge emphasis on keeping their workforce mobile, whether that be through the use of so-called ‘flexpatriate’ assignments or the development of a more typical global mobility policy based on short- or long-term assignments. Either way, there are common issues that we, as immigration advisers, see arising on an alarmingly regular basis.
This article seeks to highlight these pitfalls and offers three key components for your immigration strategy which should ensure that managing overseas moves becomes a less stressful, risk-free process for all concerned.
“I need him here yesterday!”
If you’ve spent any length of time in global mobility, you will have heard this phrase on more than one occasion, and it will no doubt fill you with dread. Undoubtedly it is crucial to take into account the needs of the business when it comes to mobilising assignees, but the downsides of not having sufficient lead-in time are manifold and can ultimately lead to additional expense and non-compliance on the part of the worker and the company.
There are very few occasions, if any, where a migrant can undertake substantive work in a location as a business visitor, yet often companies will take this option in order to get the worker on the ground, rather than suffer any delay to the start of an assignment or project. This creates additional expense and disruption for the business in often having to bring the migrant back to their home country to obtain the correct visa at a later date. This unfortunately also creates significant risk for both the entity in the host country and the migrant themselves if they are working illegally, even for only a short period of time.
“It’s what you know … ”
There is, therefore, nothing more valuable than educating your business on particular aspects of the immigration process for the countries that they regularly move people into, including typical lead-in times, the stages in the immigration process and penalties for falling foul of that process. Quite often you will discover that decisions to send an employee on assignment aren’t as last-minute as they seem; that the business has been talking about it for several weeks and, with a little bit of knowledge, they can be encouraged to put the global mobility team on note at the beginning of those discussions, rather than at the end.
Considering the bigger picture
Taking the UK as an example, recent changes in immigration law have left us in a situation whereby decisions made at the beginning of an assignment are proving to be fundamental further down the road. The Government’s manifesto promise to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands has prompted a raft of rule changes that include maximum periods of stay on intra-company assignees and Tier 2 general visa holders, restricting the rights to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK and the imposition of cooling-off periods to ensure that migrants are unable to tag one assignment after another.
The implications of all these changes are often not considered at the beginning of an assignment, but it is becoming increasingly important to do so, as there is little scope to change tactics at a later date (and even where there is scope, it is not without significant expense and upheaval).
Follow three simple rules to a successful immigration strategy:
- Education – For yourself and the business, so that decisions are made taking into account all necessary factors and risks and with the ‘bigger picture’ in mind.
- Timing – Sufficient lead-in time is crucial. However, the business is only likely to buy into this if you have already educated them about the risks of not obtaining the correct visas at the outset for your assignees.
- Compliance – You cannot put a price on a spotless reputation with the immigration authorities in whatever country you are operating. With appropriate education and timing, risks should reduce and compliance increase. It’s a no-brainer!
If you’re interested in understanding more about implementing a UK immigration strategy, register for Newland Chase’s free seminar on 7 March in London.
Don’t miss our special focus on managing global people, in the Spring 2013 issue of Re:locate magazine (out March). With companies increasingly looking to overseas markets for growth, we examine the challenges facing global organisations, covering a range of topics, from talent shortages to the ‘Beyond Budgeting’ model and developing women as leaders.