Obtaining immigration permissions is a critical factor to consider in any international relocation process. For businesses, identifying and coming to grips with immigration-related issues early in the process can save time and money, as well as minimizing disruption to the business, the assignee and his or her family.

Practicalities to consider

Governments globally are increasingly interested in managing migration and finding ways to stop their immigration systems being abused. Businesses moving personnel internationally should recognize immigration compliance as a business risk and plan for it accordingly by ensuring that adequate resources are dedicated to understanding and complying with the immigration systems of destination countries.

For many countries there may be more than one immigration route available, and a proper assessment of these is necessary to determine what route/s will best achieve the aims of all parties concerned.

Some of the factors to take into account when formulating an immigration strategy include:

  • The global structure of the business
  • The qualifications and experience of the assignee
  • The business purpose of the assignment
  • Whether the duties the assignee intends to undertake could reasonably be fulfilled by a local hire
  • Whether the assignee has dependants and what activities they wish to undertake in the destination country (for example work or study)
  • Whether the assignee wishes to bring domestic workers such as a nanny or housekeeper
  • The nationality and family background of the assignee and any dependants and/or domestic workers
  • Tax implications of alternative immigration statuses and lengths of permission
  • Whether any of the individuals relocating have a criminal history, health condition or adverse immigration history
  • Process length, criteria and entitlements relating to the available immigration routes
  • Comparative cost of the available immigration routes
  • Coordination of other relocation elements such as employment contract, shipping, accommodation and school selection

Pitfalls to avoid

There are a number of immigration problems that can cause a relocation to be delayed or to fail.

Some of the most common problems include:

  • Failure of the business to meet the immigration requirements of the destination country (for example where the business does not hold a required licence or does not complete labour market testing or certification procedures in accordance with immigration requirements)
  • Failure of the assignee (or a dependant or domestic worker) to meet the immigration requirements of the destination country
  • Lack of clear and timely communication between the business, the assignee, the decision making authority and any third party service provider
  • Lack of understanding of the timeframes and costs associated with immigration processes
  • Inconsistency of information/documentation provided for the application process
  • Unsigned or incomplete forms
  • Incomplete or incorrectly formatted supporting documentation (noting that some decision makers may require documentation to be original, translated and/or apostilled)
  • Incorrect filing fees

Immigration systems differ from country to country, can be complex and subject to frequent revision. Timely access to correct information, a robust approach to immigration compliance and good communication and document management practices are all essential for ensuring that the immigration aspect of relocation is managed effectively.