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Third-Country Nationals

29 October, 2015 - 09:53

One of the best examples of third-country nationals is the US military. The US military has more than seventy thousand third-country nationals working for the military in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, a recruitment firm hired by the US military called Meridian Services Agency recruits hairstylists, construction workers, and electricians from all over the world to fill positions on military bases.  1 Most companies who utilize third-country national labor are not new to multinational businesses. The majority of companies who use third-country national staffing have many operations already overseas. One example is a multinational company based in the United States that also has operations in Spain and transfers a Spanish manager to set up new operations in Argentina. This would be opposed to the company in the United States sending an American (expatriate) manager to Argentina. In this case, the third-country national approach might be the better approach because of the language aspect (both Spain and Argentina speak Spanish), which can create fewer costs in the long run. In fact, many American companies are seeing the value in hiring third-country nationals for overseas assignments. In an International Assignments Survey, 2 61 percent of United States–based companies surveyed increased the use of third-country nationals by 61 percent, and of that number, 35 percent have increased the use of third-country nationals to 50 percent of their workforce. The main reason why companies use third-country nationals as a staffing strategy is the ability of a candidate to represent the company’s interests and transfer corporate technology and competencies. Sometimes the best person to do this isn’t based in the United States or in the host country.

Key Takeaways

  • There are three types of staffing strategies for an international business. First, in the home-country national strategy, people are employed from the home country to live and work in the country. These individuals are called expatriates. One advantage of this type of strategy is easier application of business objectives, although an expatriate may not be culturally versed or well accepted by the host-country employees.
  • In a host-country strategy, workers are employed within that country to manage the operations of the business. Visas and language barriers are advantages of this type of hiring strategy.
  • A third-country national staffing strategy means someone from a country, different from home or host country, will be employed to work overseas. There can be visa advantages to using this staffing strategy, although a disadvantage might be morale lost by host-country employees.


  1. Choose a country you would enjoy working in, and visit that country’s embassy page. Discuss the requirements to obtain a work visa in that country.
  2. How would you personally prepare an expatriate for an international assignment? Perform additional research if necessary and outline a plan.