Tips for Relocating Employees Overseas

Moving an employee to another country comes with several additional considerations beyond what’s expected with a domestic relocation. Whether geopolitical events, compliance issues around taxes and finances, language barriers or the distance these all can make an international move seem daunting to some individuals and families. However, with the right resources and preparation, it can be a smooth and productive process for everyone involved.

Here are a few considerations to make when moving an employee overseas to ensure a successful transition.

Challenges of moving overseas

Global events and concerning destinations

Events like Brexit and the recent travel advisories for U.S. citizens in Venezuela, which recommend temporary and long-term U.S. residents leave the country, are just two examples of global events that have caused an element of instability for those working abroad.

Other regions once thought too dangerous or underdeveloped are now considered in-demand emerging markets. Countries like Ghana and Uganda are quickly developing as tech hubs, renowned for their artificial intelligence capabilities. In many cases, the demand for talent in these countries is outpacing employees’ receptiveness to relocate there, despite the abundant opportunities.

These overseas moves in particular can be intimidating and even scary to an employee and their families. If your employee does express hesitation – or outright opposition – be sure to first find out why they’re concerned. Depending on their reasoning, it could be a very simple fix. But at the end of the day, providing resources like those detailed later in this article will allow your employee and their family members to quickly adjust to the country they’ll soon call home.

Immigration challenges in top international countries for relocating

According to Forbes, the top destinations for expats are Singapore, Switzerland and the Netherlands. As mentioned above, Africa is quickly becoming another popular destination for new ventures and opportunities. Even with these countries and regions being recognized as top destinations for expats, each has their own immigration requirements that need to be reviewed well in advance of your employee’s relocation.

  • Africa: The process for obtaining a visa varies from country to country and can become tedious and complex. For example, in South Africa, there are eight types of temporary residence visas and permits, all only valid for between one and five years. In Uganda, an expat must apply for a multiple-entry visa if their stay is expected to last beyond three months.
  • Switzerland: One of the leading business destinations worldwide, known for its advanced free-market economy, the world’s highest per-capita GDP and a highly skilled labor force, Switzerland is very selective on who can obtain a work and residency visa. The country allows only 8,500 long-term and short-term permits each year.
  • The Netherlands: A U.S. transferee will need to apply for and receive both a residence and work permit before moving here. Should you have employees who are citizens of the European Union, Iceland, Lichtenstein or Norway, their process is considerably simpler.
  • Singapore: An employer must submit an application for an Employment Pass on behalf of its employee, a process that can take more than three weeks. If an expat plans to start a new business there, Singapore offers what is called an EntrePass, which can take up to eight weeks to process.

Tips for moving overseas

Offer cross-cultural training to employees

Adjusting to a new city can be tough. Adjusting to a new city anda new country with an entirely different culture and language is often much more difficult. Offering educational resources and support will not only help an employee transition into his or her personal life quicker, but it will also allow them to more easily focus on their new job. Here are a few key resources your company should consider offering:

  • Language training. There are several approaches that can be taken regarding language training for international transferees. If your employee is moving to a country where being fluent in its language is necessary to carry out a successful assignment, hire an instructor to offer classroom-style language courses or offer to pay for a local course. On a smaller scale, there are several apps, like Duolingo, and online tools designed to quickly teach new languages. Rosetta Stone offers an affordable subscription for its online language courses.
  • Business etiquette. Social and cultural norms will determine appropriate etiquette in the workplace, like how to pick up on social queues or engage with coworkers on a personal level. Consider working with HR professionals in the respective country to create educational materials of the local business etiquette to share with your employees.
  • Local training. It’s also important your employees get out and enjoy their new city. Work with staff already in the area to curate information about neighborhoods, where to eat and shop, nearby attractions and things to do, as well as traffic tips – anything that will help them adjust to their new home.

Support family members

Extending cultural training, resources and support to an assignee’s family members is essential for ensuring your employee has a smooth transition into his or her new role. In many cases, it isn’t an employee’s poor performance that leads to a failed assignment, it’s because his or her family couldn’t adjust to the destination.

Financial preparation

There are a lot of legalities to learn and follow when moving overseas. For example, the International Revenue Service (IRS) can be quite particular about U.S. residents living and working abroad, and there are dozens of international tax codes and requirements.

In order to comply with the IRS, be sure your employee is aware of the following:

  • Unless banking with an international bank, your employee will likely need to open a new, foreign bank account, which the IRS requires to be reported.
  • If an expat has a financial interest in another country or signature authority over at least one foreign financial account that exceeds $10,000 in a calendar month, they must file a FBAR disclosure by April 15 each year.
  • Your employee likely will need to pay taxes in the country in which they will be living, as well as U.S. taxes. However, after one year of working overseas, U.S. expats are eligible to receive Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE). There are two ways to be approved for the FEIE: The Bona Fide Residence Test or The Physical Presence Test.

Addressing challenges like those mentioned in this article, creating a robust international relocation package and offering any and all services to accommodate an employee’s needs during an overseas move can be time consuming and expensive, but the return (e.g. attracting top talent and ensuring a successful assignment) is well worth the investment.

If you have any additional questions about relocating an employee overseas, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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