July 29, 2022
The following blog post is a condensed version of an article written by Dan Morris of Newland Chase for Mobility Magazine.
To read the full article, click here. The article begins on p. 37.
More and more employees want to work remotely in overseas destinations, but how effective are remote work policies and how can companies stay compliant while supporting these new employee experiences?
Unquestionably, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced employers to adapt to the “new normal”, in which employees work remotely in overseas destinations, including destinations where the employer does not have of legal person or legal presence. Nearly two years into the pandemic, mobility managers have adapted and evolved their policies to take into account the challenges that COVID-19 still presents.
But how effective are these new policies? It is important that we assess:
- how we started
- What we learned from the challenges
- What we did to make it work
- How the future of remote work will be handled
From home office to digital nomad
Not too long ago, the idea of walking into an office and working a standard eight-hour workday was the norm. From there, and with the evolution of technology and the Internet, we have seen companies take advantage of the capabilities of high-speed Internet, Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP), and video conferencing to offer employees the opportunity to work outside the office. Fast forward to the evolution of the home office, where these offsite opportunities have become permanent and, in some cases, even cross borders. Those employees who do cross-border remote work have come to be colloquially referred to as “digital nomads.”
The term “digital nomads” represents employees or individuals who “walk around” without a real fixed residence, without other professional or financial constraints due to the evolution of the working methods of employees using today’s advanced technologies.
Two major challenges posed to employers by digital nomads have their origins in mobility policy and immigration compliance (as well as several others, such as tax implications). For years, employers have tried to align goals from a business, recruitment and employee retention perspective. Creating or adjusting mobility policies to accommodate digital nomads seems to have done just that, until COVID-19 hit our doorstep.
The massive disruption of COVID-19 in expatriate assignments
There is no doubt that the rapid onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has left nearly everyone in the mobility industry frantically trying to figure out what options remain for current overseas assignees, future assignees preparing to relocate and business travelers who weren’t able to return home due to the sudden border closures. For those “stranded” abroad, many had no choice but to work from laptops in their hotel rooms.
Not surprisingly, many employers had no policies regarding international remote work. In the absence of such policies, those expats and business travelers caught in the crosshairs of sudden, stringent global regulatory measures have not had the ideal expat experience generally envisioned. Two years ago, for many employers, the only option for expats was repatriation (sending someone back to their home country). Throughout the following year, strict immigration precautions were put in place by the international community, ranging from complete border closures – Australia, for example – to PCR requirements before departure or antigen testing followed by quarantine after arrival. Many preparing for an international assignment would no longer have the opportunity, from an immigration perspective.
For the lucky employees now able to live and work as digital nomads in 2022, there are still several issues in play when it comes to determining whether international remote work complies with local immigration regulations. Essentially, the employer must prove that the vacancy cannot be sourced from the local labor market in the host destination and, therefore, the employer must hire a foreign assignee for the position. Countries like Spain, Portugal, and Thailand are in the process of implementing visas for digital nomads in their immigration legislative framework. Although not an impossible measure to overcome, employers have faced several difficulties in obtaining work permits when the duties of the position do not require the employee to be on site in an office. local or at a client, which makes it a bit difficult to acquire a digital nomad visa. complex.
Employer response to unforeseen red tape
At least one company CIBT works with, a large research and development company based in San Francisco, has completely abandoned its previous international remote work policy and opted for an approach that would allow “any employee to work from anywhere”. where for up to eight hours”. weeks.” In order to be eligible for international remote work under their company’s new policy, the company required visibility into these employees, as well as immigration compliance and tax assessments.
Ultimately, the company left those decisions to the respective business units where the employee worked. This approach achieves the primary goal of protecting the business, but it potentially shifts the obligation of compliance to just the employee, from a support and advice perspective. Regardless of whether the employee bears this responsibility alone, employers should be aware that there may be legal consequences if they do not undertake their own due diligence in these situations.
For example: Suppose an employee under this policy wishes to live and work remotely in France, returns to their employer and states: “Yes we are immigration ok. As an American national, I do not need a nomad visa for a stay of less than 90 days.“If the employer doesn’t do their own due diligence here, they might be surprised to learn that France has no remote working visa options and a US national is not allowed under any circumstances. to work without a work permit An employer can be exposed to major risks in this situation.
Digital nomad visas seem like the dream scenario for any employee looking to take advantage of a “work from anywhere” policy. These visas:
- Does not require any local entity for visa sponsorship
- What we learned from the challenges
- Have short processing times, typically three weeks to three months
- Allow stays of up to 12 months and are renewable in some destinations
Employers are continually advised to undertake their own immigration and employment legal due diligence as some destinations will not allow employees to work on a digital nomad visa where the visa holder’s employer has already a legal or commercial presence in the country. The general policy is to prohibit employers from using the digital nomad visa as a means of circumventing standard work permit processing for other reasons of non-compliance.
Waiting for 2023
Next year will likely see several more countries embrace international remote work by offering digital nomad visas. In line with this trend, employers then have excellent recruitment and retention opportunities if their mobility policies evolve in step with these new opportunities. The pandemic has demonstrated over the past two years that employees not only want the ability to work remotely, but many continue to succeed professionally in this capacity.
Now is the time for employers to review outdated mobility policies, collaborate with assignees on improving policies, and seek opportunities to showcase the company’s versatility to adapt to the many challenges that still exist. presented by the global regulatory environment. Next year will likely see some exciting developments in which unsponsored global international remote work remains in the spotlight.
For more information on obtaining visas for digital nomads, contact your Customer Service Manager today. You do not have any ? Contact us. We are here to help you make your trip hassle-free.