Mind the Immigration Knowledge Gap

In today’s corporate environment, the ability to retain talent and move employees across borders quickly at minimum costs to meet client and business needs is an absolute necessity.  Many companies have global mobility programmesImage1 in place that provide an infrastructure to facilitate long and short term assignments, permanent transfers, commuters, frequent business travellers etc.  These are generally developed to help manage costs, budgets, tax and immigration from both a personal and corporate perspective, and strive to provide consistency around the treatment of both new hires and existing employees and to ensure corporate risk is managed.

The world is more collaborative now than ever before in the sharing of information across countries to formulate policy.  In the world of global mobility we see this particularly with immigration where the landscape is ever changing, often with new rules and regulations running in parallel with existing ones. The ability to recognise immigration risks and key issues that need to be managed in recruiting or moving an employee internationally is invaluable, and often global mobility professionals are expected to be able to identify and know what action may be needed.

There are immigration connected processes and procedures that need to be undertaken prior to a permanent position or secondment opportunity being offered.  Most importantly is an assessment of whether a candidate is even eligible for placement.  Companies should ensure they have considered things such as sponsorship licences and quotas, the recruitment processes, alignment of job descriptions and career development plans, entry clearances, residence permits, medical coverage and have adhered to all immigration compliance necessities.  Thought also needs to be given to immigration in respect of “impact” events such as timing of secondment start dates and travel commitments. Image2Relocation activities such as shipping of household goods, school term start dates, holidays to be taken before an assignment commences or after one finishes, and housing should also be thought through.

There are also activities that are more corporate focused, may not occur very often or are confidential in nature where immigration is a critical factor but often an afterthought. For example, a reduction in workforce programme whereby everything is highly confidential, but the group of employees under consideration may include people with work or residence visas and some may also be on assignment.  For these employees, there may be a limited amount of time that they are allowed to remain in the country without employment, or they may be close to qualifying for permanent residency.  This may also have an impact on their family (including schooling), employment of spouses/partners, property leases, subscriptions etc., where the cost or lifestyle impact to the employee and the company is far greater than it would be for a local national.  Other uncommon and sometimes unique corporate events could be the opening of new overseas offices and the management of activities around natural disasters.  Immigration services are key when looking at specific timelines around visa processing and sponsorship licences, recruitment, the placement of personnel, and allowable business trip activities. All of which may affect the ability to open new ventures on time or in providing immediate evacuation support.

There is no doubt that immigration can permeate numerous corporate activities, policies and processes. As a result there is a learning curve that comes with experience gained from being reactive as opposed to proactive.  However, to be non-compliant from an immigration perspective can have adverse effects for companies resulting in penalties, fines, imprisonment and potentially the inability to recruit foreign nationals. Non-compliance can even lead to the prohibition of business in a particular country.  The challenges therefore remain in ensuring that there is a greater awarenessImage3 around immigration and the associated risks associated with non-compliance.  This may take the form of immigration continuous education programmes for teams from global mobility, human resources, recruitment and travel desks.  A specific education programme developed for business managers and leaders may be of particular interest, with particular focus on Business Travellers. In addition, development or reviews of policies for immigration, business continuity, sabbaticals, unpaid leave etc. may also be appropriate.  Arming employees with information on immigration such as country profiles and policies on a corporate website may also be an effective avenue of communication. If a company is not sure where to start, often some form of audit may help in identifying any key areas for further exploration.

However a company chooses to approach immigration, it is a high risk area where particular attention is needed and negligence cannot be afforded.





Julie Brightley-Davies: Managing Director, Europe

+44 (0)20 7766 5013 Direct | +44 (0)79 0909 3245 Mobile


Carla Foden: Business Development Director, Europe

+44 207 766 5012 Direct |+44 7909 093247 Mobile