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Logistics of International Assignments

29 October, 2015 - 09:11

As you learned earlier, providing training for the expatriate is an important part of a successful assignment. However, many of the day-to-day aspects of living are important, too.

One of the most important logistical aspects is to make sure the employee can legally work in the country where you will be sending him or her, and ensuring his or her family has appropriate documentation as well. A visa is permission from the host country to visit, live, or work in that country. Obtaining visas is normally the job of an HR professional. For example, the US Department of State and the majority of countries require that all US citizens have a valid passport to travel to a foreign country. This is the first step to ensuring your host-country national or third-country national can travel and work in that country.

Next, understanding the different types of visas is a component to this process. For example, the United States offers a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that allows some nationals of thirty-six participating countries to travel to the United States for stays of less than ninety days. Iceland, Singapore, and France are examples of countries that participate in this program. For most host-national assignments, however, this type of visa may not be long enough, which then requires research of the individual country. It is important to mention that most countries have several types of visas, such as the following:

  1. Visas for crew members working on ships or airlines
  2. Tourist visas
  3. Student visas
  4. Employment visas for long-term employment at a foreign company
  5. Business visas

The visa process and time line can vary greatly depending on the country for which the visa is required. For example, obtaining a visa to work in China may take six months or longer. The best place to research this topic is on the country’s embassy website.

Besides ensuring the expatriate can legally work in the country, other considerations are worth mentioning as well:

  1. Housing. Where will I live is one of the most important questions that an expatriate may ask. The HR professional can help this process by outsourcing a leasing or rental company in the city where the expatriate will live to find a rental that meets the expectations of the expatriate. Choosing a place to live ahead of time can reduce stress (one of the causes of failure for assignments) for the expatriate and his or her family. Allowances may be made for housing costs, as discussed in the compensation section.
  2. Moving belongings. Determination of how belongings left behind will be stored at home or if those items will be brought to the host country is another logistical consideration. If items will be brought, beyond what can be carried in a suitcase, the HR professional may want to consider hiring a moving logistics company that specializes in expatriate moves to help with this process.
  3. The possibility of return trips home. As part of the initial discussion, the option of offering return trips home can make repatriation and performance reviews with home-country managers easier. This also gives the expatriate and his or her family the opportunity to visit with family and friends, reducing reverse culture shock upon return.
  4. Schooling. Some organizations may want to provide information on the schooling system to the expatriate, if he or she has children. Schools begin at different times of the year, and this information can make the registration process for school easier on the family.
  5. Spousal job. We know already from earlier in this chapter that one of the biggest challenges facing expatriates (and reasons for failure) is unhappiness of the spouse. He or she may have had a career at home and given that up while the spouse takes an assignment. HR professionals might consider offering job search services as part of the allowance discussed earlier in this chapter. Lockheed Martin, for example, offers job search services to spouses moving overseas. 1
  6. In any situation, support from the HR professional will help make the assignment a success, which shows that HRM practices should be aligned with company goals.

How Would You Handle This?

Visa Blues

Your manager has just notified you that one of your marketing managers has taken an assignment in China to work for one year. You tell your manager you will begin the visa process for employment. She disagrees and tells you it will be quicker to just get a tourist visa. You mention this is illegal and could get the employee and company in trouble, but she insists on your getting a tourist visa so the employee can leave within the month. How would you handle this?

How Would You Handle This?

The author discusses the How Would You Handle This situation in this chapter at:

Key Takeaways

  • Personality traits are a key component to determining whether someone is a good fit for an overseas assignment. Since 73 percent of overseas assignments fail, ensuring the right match up front is important.
  • The ideal expatriate is able to deal with change, is flexible, and has the support of his or her family. Ideal expatriates are also organized, take risks, and are good at asking for help.
  • The adjustment period an expatriate goes through depends on his or her initial preparation. Blakeney said there are two levels of adjustment: psychological adjustment and sociocultural adjustment. Although the psychological may take less time, it is the sociocultural adjustment that will allow the assignment to be successful.
  • Training is a key component in the HRM global plan, whether expatriates or host-country nationals are to be hired. Both will require a different type of training. Training can reduce culture shock and stress.
  • Consideration of the expatriate’s family and their ability to adjust can make a more successful overseas assignment
  • Compensation is another consideration of a global business. The balance sheet approach pays the expatriate extra allowances, such as living expenses, for taking an international assignment.
  • Other considerations such as vacation days, health-care benefits, and profit-sharing programs are important as well.
  • Laws of each country should be carefully evaluated from an HRM strategic perspective. Laws relating to disabilities, pregnancy, and safety, for example, should be understood before doing business overseas.
  • Labor unions have different levels of involvement in different parts of the world. For example, Germany has codetermination, a policy that requires companies to have employees sit on various boards.
  • The United States has treaties with forty-two countries to share information about expatriates. The United States offers foreign tax credits to help expatriates avoid double taxation. However, US citizens must file taxes every year, even if they have not lived in the United States during that year.
  • Logistical help can be important to ensuring the success of an overseas assignment. Help with finding a place to live, finding a job for a spouse, and moving can make the difference between a successful assignment and an unsuccessful one.
  • The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a program in which nationals of thirty-six countries can enter the United States for up to a ninety-day period. This type of visa may not work well for expatriates, so it is important to research the type of visa needed from a particular country by using that country’s embassy website.


  1. Research the country of your choice. Discuss at least five of the aspects you should know as an HRM professional about doing business in that country.