Are you managing human resources or global mobility for your company and facing immigration challenges? You may need to evaluate your options when sending employees or contractors on assignment to a foreign location, depending on a few important factors.
A quick business trip is covered by a business visa that is available in most countries. The low cost and simple application process makes this an attractive option if your employees are just going to meetings, attending conferences or marketing. But the business visa wont work in every situation.
As you know, every country has its own immigration rules for business travel, and they do enforce those laws. If your company makes frequent use of business visas in other countries, you should be aware of the risks of breaking immigration rules, because their activity might require a work permit.
Purpose of the Business Trip
Business visas can be used for brief trips or exploratory work, but this can easily evolve into longer stays beyond the original purpose.
You need to know that if your worker’s assignment involves any type of management or other business tasks, there can be a risk of non-compliance. What that means it that the work is not permitted with a simple visa, and would be seen as activity that required a work permit.
A few examples of potential risk areas include:
- Employees viewing a country pre-assignment: If your employee wants to visit a country before their assignment, those trips could also include work-related activity, or a turn into an extended stay.
- Meetings and conferences: A traditional use of business visas is to attend conferences or meetings, but this can often wash over into additional tasks or projects that are beyond the original purpose.
- Training sessions: Training and orientations are permitted within the scope of most visas, as long as the stay is not extended or the training does not become something more project related.
Payroll Location in the Home Country
Maybe your company thinks as long as they pay the worker at home, there is no need for a work permit. The truth is the fact that an employee is on the home country payroll has absolutely no effect on the host country immigration rules.
Your employees on short term assignments can use business visas for stays of 60-90 days, and still continue to be paid in the home country. But, depending on the type of activity, their work could qualify as local employment, requiring a work permit rather than a business visa.
Length of Assignment / Duration of Stay
The term ‘extended business travel’ is often heard when discussing the business visa vs. work permit dilemma.
Because it is much simpler to obtain a business visa, many companies elect to use this as a method for short term foreign assignments. But, your employee that enters a country multiple times on a business visa could be questioned about their specific work in the country.
Even if the work is done in short trips, your employee that spends enough time in a country could be flagged. As soon as an employee engages in employment type activity in the country over an extended period, a work permit could be required.
Tax Residency And Immigration
Also, there is the issue of tax residency for extended business visits, exposing your employee to potential double taxation.
The obvious strategy of exiting and re-entry will not solve this issue, since many countries are using a method of cumulative days in the country to establish tax residency.
Tax residency leads to the need for local payroll, which requires that the employee obtain a work permit.
The GEO Solution
You may wonder if there is a simple way to overcome these issues, and the answer is the use of an International PEO (Professional Employment Organisation) or Global Employment Organizations.
The GEO, as a local employer for your worker, will handle all immigration and employment requirements, including obtaining the correct work permit. This saves your company time and expense, and prevents breaking any immigration rules.