first_imgRelated posts:No related photos. With immigration policies being tightened and visa requirements increasingthe world over, formal immigration programmes must be created to help employeesbeing sent on international assignments break through the red tape, write LanceKaplan and Don BentivoglioNavigating international immigration requirements has never been simple. Andafter the terror attacks in the US on 11 September and the current heightenedstate of alert in Europe and around the world, visa applicants and travellersare being scrutinised far more aggressively. More than ever, countries are reviewing and revising their immigration lawsand regulations to close potential loopholes for ‘undesirable’ foreignvisitors. Compounding this is the fallout from the current global recession andrising unemployment. A number of countries – specifically certain member statesof the European Economic Area – are tightening their immigration policies tobalance often conflicting requirements: being part of the global economy,protecting their own economies and workforces and ensuring the availability ofa qualified workforce. Immigration laws therefore change regularly. The challenges facing most organisations are to keep pace with the world inwhich they operate in terms of their immigration policies, procedures andpractices and to ensure an uneventful and seamless – and at the same time,compliant – flow of worldwide talent. HR professionals in global companies know the drill. Typically two weeksprior, if they are lucky, they receive notification that a key employee isabout to begin an international assignment. This usually initiates a franticsearch through paperwork, with an underlying hope that the line organisationhad the foresight to ensure the necessary work permits and visas were appliedfor – as well as received. More often than not, the response to the visaquestion is “What visa? I thought that was something that HR did.” Atthat point the race is on. Facts and information must be gathered, consulates or visa service providersmust be contacted, and in most cases a plan B must be developed because twoweeks is simply not long enough to obtain the necessary work authorisations formost international destinations. Changes in the immigration landscape But now, the immigration issue is no longer about simply getting someone avisa in time for them to catch a plane. The ramifications are far greater, andthe risks of non-compliance to employers and employees are real andsignificant. Since 11 September, immigration departments of most countries have feltpressure to be more restrictive and more accountable. Not only are the recentthreats of global terrorism driving this expectation of greater accountability,but so are the subsequent economic consequences leading to layoffs andworkforce reductions. Local communities often cannot distinguish between a foreign temporaryworker (specialist or professional) whose skills are in short supply in acountry, and a foreign-born person who acquires permanent residence in acountry through family ties or even as a refugee. “Foreigners” areoften seen as “foreigners”, with no distinction as to the potentiallevels of contribution they may make to a society. Unlike the late 1990s, many countries are not experiencing the same level ofacute skill shortages which led to relaxed immigration regulations. All signsnow confirm that in many countries, employers who bring in foreign workers canexpect greater monitoring and scrutiny and ultimately a tightening of temporaryand permanent entry programmes. This includes immigration departments monitoring of employers sponsorshipundertakings, verifying employers are paying what they say they are and notjust importing cheap labour, and requirements to scrutinise and verify anindividual’s right to work in that country. Each point leads to significant ramifications for a company from acompliance perspective, and while these concepts have existed in the US, the UKand Australia for a number of years, they are being increasingly emphasised andimplemented in more countries than before. What does this mean for HR? International assignment programmes (IAPs) tend to be very detail-orientedso little is left to chance or capriciousness. In fact, a critical objective ofhaving a formalised IAP is to minimise decision-making and enhanceadministrative consistency. While global organisations generally give significant thought to seeminglyminor elements within an IAP (for example, shipment of pets, reimbursement forcar leases, providing property management fees and so on), it can’t be saidthat the same amount of thought is generally given to immigration planning andexecution. This is significant short shrift, because none of the IAP’s otherelements will come into effect if the assignee ultimately cannot obtain theright to work within the host country. To avoid this, ensure your organisation has a formalised immigrationprocedure that is an integral component of the international HR programme. Thisis important because in addition to the standard compliance aspects (such asthe application process), an integrated immigration programme also touches onsuch HR issues as career management, assignee selection, and mobilityconsiderations – not to mention the compliance issues above. For example, while certain questions are generally not asked in the courseof ‘normal’ HR considerations (such as whether or not an individual is‘legally’ married or what their sexual orientation is), such issues may becomerelevant to the immigration process depending on the host country’s customs andlaws. Some countries will simply not allow the company to sponsor such employeesin the same manner as a more ‘traditional’ member of staff. Such situations candirectly affect assignee selection. While they are not automatic deal breakers, such situations point out thatunexpected issues can further delay an already lengthy process. It is far morepreferable to uncover relevant issues sooner rather than later and a formalimmigration programme that includes a planning element will help ensure thecompany is prepared to deal with unexpected events and circumstances. Planning and involvement Clearly, it would be advantageous to all concerned if HR were involved inthe earliest phases of assignment planning, to guarantee there is enough timeto gather the necessary information to apply for the correct work and familyauthorisations. Since this may not always be possible, the challenge to HRbecomes a question of how to inject itself into the process early rather thanwait to be invited. Line management will typically invest the proper amount oftime in planning for their own staffing needs, but their planning is generallyfocused and tactical and often doesn’t include HR. One way to ensure early HR involvement would be to ask for it through formalpolicy. Additionally, HR should continue to demonstrate to line management theadded value that planning and professional management brings to the process(for example, time efficiency, cost savings, and operational effectiveness). This can prevent situations such as delayed or missed assignments,additional family trips to the home country to apply for the right documents,heightened frustration for assignees and their families. This can beaccomplished through periodic communication that highlights successes and challenges.An opportunity for professional management Most international assignment policies provide the assignee with access toprofessional service providers as well as reimbursement for related expenses.However, ultimate responsibility for visa acquisition generally lies with theinternational assignee, while the HR department remains on the sidelinesprepared to help. Unfortunately, by the time HR finds out that the assignee needs help, it isoften too late to effectively resolve the issue quickly. If your organisation’sapproach to immigration issues follows this model, then it might be time toconduct an audit of the current programme and formalise a process in which theprogramme is managed professionally. It is not a good use of a key employee’s time to be making phone calls,queuing, photocopying documents and wondering if they are applying for thedocuments they actually need. Having a service provider undertake theseactivities saves time and money. Second, if your service provider has multinationalcapabilities and presence, the process can be streamlined simply because it mayhave a better grasp of local nuances in expediting the application andunderstanding processing times. Even if it doesn’t have a physical presence inmultiple international locations, it is still a safe bet that it has moreexperience with undertaking these activities. Finally, there are just too many examples of assignees applying for andreceiving all of the documentation they think – or have been told – they need,but upon arrival at a consular office, or even a foreign airport, they findthey are missing a required family document or a local police document. You want the assignee to arrive in the host country ready to work, not beheld up by bureaucratic barriers. By having a professional services providerinvolved early in the process and responsible for the final results, it ensuresthere are no delays or surprises and it frees up the assignee to focus on otheraspects of the assignment for which they are better equipped to handle. Additionally, a professional manager provides a single point of contact thatcan be accessed by immigration authorities, assignees and their families, linemanagement, and the HR department in order to facilitate the flow ofinformation and to determine application status. Getting there is only part of the equation Management of the immigration process shouldn’t end once the assignee is ontheir way to the host location, but must continue throughout the assignment. Depending on the country and type of visa or work permit, certainrequirements must often be “tracked” throughout to ensure theassignee doesn’t violate permit requirements in terms of how long they mayremain outside the country, renewal dates for the assignee and their family,and the type of work the assignee may or may not undertake. If there is one,two, or a very small handful of assignees, it may be possible to track theassignment-related issues internally. When the international pool grows (bothinbound and outbound) the process gets more complex and requirement trackingcan consume considerable time. In the ‘old days’, many organisations had theluxury of maintaining a staff of internal immigration specialists that lookedafter such concerns. Today’s headcount-sensitive environment doesn’t allowthis, however. In considering the range of possibilities regarding the outsourcing ofnon-core responsibilities, international assignment management is a logicalchoice to turn over to a service provider that can provide professional turnkeyimmigration services and free international HR professionals to focus on morestrategic issues. Conclusion Compliance with immigration requirements is difficult and time consuming,and it isn’t going to get easier. Being part of the solution as opposed tobeing a passive and generally reactive participant can make your job a loteasier, greatly reduce the stress for the assignees and their families, and canultimately add value to the organisation. Donald R. Bentivoglio is a senior manager – IHR Consulting in Deloitte& Touche’s New York International Assignment Services practice. With more than 20 years experience in the international HRfield, he has consulted with profit and non-profit organisations of all sizeson international, expatriate, and local and national HR strategy and policyissues.Throughout his consulting career, Don has conducted onsiteproject work in over 20 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, SouthAmerica, North America, and Asia. E-mail  [email protected] Kaplan is the global partner for the Deloitte Global Visa Solutionspractice of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. He is responsible for formulating the strategic direction ofthe 52+ worldwide immigration practices, including integrating cross borderliaison and services between country practices, formulating and implementingprocesses and procedures, quality assurance programs, building client serviceteam capabilities in specific locations, developing proprietary softwarespecific to the practice, and more. E-mail [email protected] are a few suggestions for upgrading your immigration programme’squality and effectiveness:– Institutionalise HR involvementearly by revising policies to make immigration planning an integral part of theinternational assignment process– Periodically reinforce theimportance and necessity of immigration planning from assignment inception torepatriation– Place the tactical responsibilityfor visa issues in the hands of professionals and hold them accountable for theresults. Retain strategic responsibility for yourself. Work with the providerto figure out how to improve on it– Manage the overall immigrationprocess rather than being managed by it Comments are closed. Breaking throughOn 1 Mar 2002 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Articlelast_img

Breaking through

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