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Moving From One Border to the Next 04.16.2019 | Jennifer Connell

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you might notice that there have been a lot of changes to immigration policies and recent government events, and it’s not slowing down.

The impact of national protectionism is felt by organizations around in the world as it becomes more difficult for companies to secure work permits in certain countries, delaying (and sometimes derailing) their long-term talent strategy.

Challenges in moving employees across borders are fueled by stricter rules and increased nationalism.

We’ve seen this in the U.S. with increased delays and challenges for assignees entering the country, in obtaining both initial visas and extensions (Indian nationals and Chinese nationals most recently impacted). Companies are advised to plan for delays in processing immigration.

The challenges are felt by organizations with cross-border activity. This has been a surprise for employees accustomed to travelling across borders with relative ease. There seems to be a number of stories lately about seasoned travelers being delayed at borders and minor infractions being met with removal of their expedited travel status, or worse.

When we debuted the results of our International Extended Business Travel survey, many companies reported having trouble getting their business travelers into the U.S. from Canada due to more stringent screening around immigration. If this continues, companies may want to examine alternatives, such as discouraging commuter arrangements and looking at formal long term assignment or one-way transfers for cross border employees.

There’s no doubt that immigration challenges will make travel and transfers costlier, more time-consuming and increasingly complicated as companies look for more comprehensive immigration guidance from their providers. Companies with flexibility are fortunate to consider alternative assignment types or locations, or even the possibility of delaying assignments, however all these options rely on having numerous locations and a robust pipeline of assignee candidates.

Mobility managers are advised to keep communication open with stakeholders who may not realize they’re creating compliance risks. It’s common to find out from a manager with good intentions that their employee is conducting numerous extended business trips, not realizing that they’re exceeding the number of days allowed under their work permit. Or the employee’s role on assignment began by supporting an office opening and then subsequently expanded to support clients with a new title that suggests leadership responsibilities. Provide ongoing education with managers so that they can identify potential risks and are prepared to address situations as they come up.

Finally, uphold the employee experience through education and meaningful discussions. Companies will take the lead on immigration assistance, however employees also have a responsibility in maintaining compliance. When employees are engaged in the process and have reliable access to information, there are fewer instances of unintended violations or lapses in immigration.

Employees should be aware that even minor changes to their assignment will need to be addressed and immigration rules can change over the course of the assignment, requiring their immediate input. Tools developed for tracking, such as Weichert’s WeGO, actively tracks employees but also helps to identify employees that may trigger immigration and tax obligations.

Companies have to be nimble and ready to transfer their talent as developments unfold. A contingent workforce may be required as immigration rules evolve.

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Written by Jennifer Connell

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Jennifer Connell, SCRP, SGMS-T, is a Practice Leader with Weichert’s Advisory Services group. She has over 25 years of experience in the workforce mobility and employee benefits industries and received Worldwide ERC’s Distinguished Service Award in 2017. She has also spoken on workforce mobility topics at industry conferences throughout North America.

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