Talking through the challenges
Alchemy has recently been exploring both the advantages and challenges to Immigration and Mobility outside of Europe. This blog focuses on the more challenging aspects, which is particularly relevant in light of the UK’s Brexit situation. To gain a broader world view I have been lucky enough to correspond with industry experts Kent O’Neil (Global Legal Analyst, Newland Chase, North Carolina) and Roberto Vale (Vice-President, Account Management Asia Pacific and Middle East at SIRVA, Singapore).
Roberto started the conversation by stating “There are three main challenges in my opinion. First, the maturity level of Mobility outsourcing in other geo-markets [outside Europe] varies significantly. For example, in Asia and Latin America, broadly speaking, regionally-based organizations only more recently started to embrace Mobility as a stand-alone HR discipline. Assumptions developed based on European practices around customer experience, data privacy and return-on-investment need to be analysed and localized to become relevant in those other regions.”
Coping with red tape
“Second, immigration policies and government bureaucracy add much complexity to calculations around talent movement around the globe. Guidelines and supporting documents are not always clearly stated in the application process, creating unpredictability and longer work permit processing timelines. We can add taxability as another challenge in this category. What is considered work (i.e. business meetings, product training) differs from country to country, which impacts, for example, whether or not one should enter with a business type visa.”
Paper vs. Technology
Kent builds on this point; “So companies may be dealing with multiple entities in one country for a single foreign employee, while in other countries a streamlined “one-stop shop” may be available… The mechanics of the processes can also vary greatly country to country. Some countries outside Europe have very user-friendly immigration systems with clear requirements and automated, predictable processes (like Singapore, for example). Others have systems that are less transparent with more unwritten rules and nuances (like China). Some are more modern and technology-enhanced, while others are more traditional and paper-dependent.”
Addressing Kent’s notion of ‘unwritten rules’, Roberto said “The third challenge relates to cultural differences. The Greco-Roman matrix is at the root of many Western societies and has largely shaped the way employment relations are expressed and codified in the Law. It is of critical importance for Mobility professionals to appreciate that the Confucian matrix – citing just one example - has also shaped these same types of relations in many parts of Asia, although with distinct contours and values. This multi-matrix approach to our discipline becomes a challenge for Mobility practitioners.”
Lack of synergy
Kent adds to this point from an immigration perspective, explaining that he believes “…it’s helpful to bear in mind that outside Europe there is less inter-country integration and cooperation. The European Union – for all its challenges, criticisms, and shortcomings – is still the “gold standard” of economic cooperation and cross-border mobility. That brings a degree of similarity to immigration processes among the member nations and a degree of regularity and normalcy to people crossing borders and living and working in countries other than that of their citizenship. Outside Europe, you’ll generally encounter much more variance in laws, immigration systems, and even in cultural attitudes and openness to immigration and foreigners.”
To sum up
To summarise, the key challenges highlighted by both Kent and Roberto include the prevalence and development of Mobility practice outside of Europe as well as significant inter-country differences regarding immigration and mobility processes. Notable variances may include different levels of international cooperation as well as varying rates of technology adoption. Cultural nuances outside of Europe may also pose problems where ‘unwritten local rules’ apply to mobility and immigration functions. These issues are added to the pressures and complications arising from uncertainty surrounding British and European immigration policies in the wake of Brexit.
Meeting the challenges
Kent reassures us that “across the world, I believe we are seeing a significant trend toward countries refining their systems to be more user-friendly and responsive to business. There has been a real push globally in the last couple years to implement more electronic and online processes, such as online applications, e-visas, business visas-on-arrival, electronic travel authorizations, and smart visas. Especially in developing economies, there is a growing recognition that skilled immigration is a vital tool of economic growth and necessary to attracting the foreign investment and talent to compete in the global economy.”
“Challenges are opportunities in disguise”
Roberto nicely rounds off our exchange with the simple statement that “Challenges are opportunities in disguise.” Using Asia and Latin America as an example, Roberto told us “The challenge / opportunity…relates to a new wave of Mobility outsourcing that mid-size, local companies are now open to engage in. Market pressures are forcing companies to broaden their consumer base beyond their home country. Singapore is a good example of a successful country where local companies are now being incentivized by the government to venture overseas.” Therefore it seems that despite various challenges, Immigration and Mobility outside of Europe continues to thrive and grow.
Written by Katie Smith - Assoc CIPD, BA Hons, Head of Special Projects - HR, Talent & Content at Alchemy Recruitment Ltd