With most nations closing borders or introducing strict restrictions on who can enter their country, the movement of people around the world has greatly diminished.
Businesses in the Visa & Immigration industry who traditionally assist people in moving from one country to another have seen this side of their business virtually been put on hold until borders open and movement can once again commence.
Speaking to our Visa and Immigration E-Team members around the world has unearthed some interesting situations. They shared with us how their businesses have had to shift their focus, how their industries have changed and some very unique client situations.
What’s happening in…
We spoke to our Visa and Immigration E-Team members in Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland and Christchurch.
We’d love to hear what’s happening in your city – if you work with a Visa and Immigration provider or know of a business that would be interested in joining our network, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Australian government has closed its borders to everyone but citizens, permanent residents, their immediate family members and New Zealanders who normally live in Australia.
“Very few people can enter Australia,” commented Amanda Tinner of Visa Executive, our Visa & Immigration E-Team member in Sydney and Melbourne, “I have had some cases where expats have come to Australia in early January to commence work. They have rented a property, started working, have gone back home to collect their family and have not been able to return. They are now stuck overseas waiting for Australia to open its borders so they can come back.”
Traditionally dealing with short-term, sub 400 visas which can only be applied for by those overseas, Visa Executive has seen this side of their business halted.
“Our business has been stable in terms of demand but the work we do has changed,” explained Amanda, “we are now applying for tourist visas for those already in Australia, which we rarely did in the past. We are increasingly applying for permanent resident visas for clients who don’t want to go home anymore and providing a lot of advice for clients as their circumstances change.”
“We’ve had a lot of calls from clients who have been made redundant and cannot find another job. These clients cannot leave Australia because of flight restrictions and in some circumstances, their country of origin will not allow them to go back. They need to remain in Australia and extend their visa. For these clients, we’ve been recommending a tourist visa, which gives them time to determine what their next step will be.”
“We spend a lot of our time thinking about how we can help clients remain on a valid visa until all of this is over. We’ve had to think outside the square,” said Amanda, “the Immigration Department has been very receptive to tourist visas for those who need to remain in Australia for longer than their current visa allows.”
“There are new visa types and changes being made quite rapidly that we quickly need to understand and apply to client situations.”
Beaches are are closed around Australia to combat the spread of the virus.
Having experienced SARS almost two decades earlier, Hong Kong has been on high alert for COVID-19 from the beginning. This has largely contributed to their ability to slow the outbreak.
“Residents are very cautious in Hong Kong,” explained Jenn Tang of AIMS Immigration, “everyone wears a mask, the elevator buttons are sanitised every 2 hours, very few people leave their house unless they have to. They have been well prepared from the beginning of the virus outbreak. Government authorities announced the closure of amusement parks, schools and high-speed rail as early as January 2020.”
“The borders are open in Hong Kong and only returning residents are allowed to enter but they have to go into a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival,” commented Jenn.
“New arrivals have to wear a tag on their hand that identifies them as being in quarantine,” said Jenn, “so it is very easy to spot people who are not abiding by the rules. Locals get very upset if they see someone who is supposed to be in quarantine out in the community and promptly report them to the authorities.”
“New returning residents will either be quarantined at a self-allocated residence or in designated quarantine centres, depending on where they are arriving from and if they have arranged their own accommodation.”
“A large number of imported COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong are from residents returning from the USA, Canada and the UK,” shared Jenn.
The strict social distancing rules and residents’ cautious behaviour have seen many businesses fight to survive in Hong Kong.
“Although the government has given some relief to residents, businesses have not received any monetary support,” explained Jenn, “with tourism non-existent and locals restricting their shopping, many businesses are struggling.”
Handrails and elevator buttons are regularly sanitised in Hong Kong.
Widely praised as a nation that has largely contained the spread of the virus, Singapore has seen a resurgence in cases over the last few weeks. This has prompted the government to enforce tighter border control and strict quarantine and self-isolation rules.
“Currently, virtually no non-residents can enter Singapore,” explained Jenn, “the only Work Pass holders that can enter are those that work in healthcare and transport through submission of approval by the Singaporean government prior to arrival. Work pass holders in other industries can submit an approval request to enter the country, but it is subjected to the discretion of the Singaporean authorities whether to approve or reject the request for entry.”
Work Pass holders who are granted access to enter Singapore will have to serve a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
Singapore has among the toughest enforcement practices of the mandatory quarantine and self-isolation rules.
“The government is very tough on quarantine and self-isolation,” commented Jenn, “they spot check on a daily basis by requesting location links, random calls, sms or home visits and those caught breaking quarantine or self-isolation are faced with heavy penalties.”
“Citizens are stripped of their passports, and permanent residency is revoked for those that do not abide by the rules.”
“Work Pass holders that breach the requirements, have their passes revoked and are permanently banned from working in Singapore. Their employer’s work pass privileges are also suspended for between one to three years, ” shared Jenn.
Singapore has released a care package to assist local residents and businesses through the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
“Businesses and residents are feeling the retraction of business activities especially after the announcement made by the Singaporean Government to close all non-essential businesses from operating on-site,” said Jenn.
“Singapore’s total confirmed cases continue to rise with new clusters identified in the past week.”
“To combat the spread, the Singaporean Government imposed a mandatory rule on 15th April 2020 that requires anyone who leaves their residence to wear a mask or face a fine of S$300 for the first offence and S$1,000 for repeat offenders,” concluded Jenn.
People are discouraged from sitting on public benches in Singapore.
“The recent rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia is believed to have been a result of an organised religious mass gathering in the capital,” shared Jenn.
“The gathering of more than 13,000 people from Malaysia, as well as neighbouring countries, included participants who were carrying the virus undiagnosed.”
As of 18th March 2020, The Malaysian Government has activated the Movement Control Order (MCO) measure in a hope to control the widespread epidemic within the nation. This MCO is still in place and has been scheduled to be lifted on 28th April 2020 if authorities decide no further extension is required.
“Malaysia is in complete lockdown until April 28, and no one knows if it will be extended again,” explained Jenn, “At this point, only Malaysians and Malaysian permanent residents are allowed to return to Malaysia but they are required to be in mandatory quarantine for 14 days.”
“Among the restrictions, motor-vehicles on the road are required to have only one person except in emergency cases, and they are not allowed to travel more than 10km from their registered residential address.”
“Thanks to the increased efforts of the Malaysian Health Board to contain the spread, certain Malaysian states have seen effectively no new cases in recent days” said Jenn.
“The Malaysian immigration authorities have been closed during the lockdown,” Jenn continued, “there could potentially be a large backlog of visa approvals required once the country lifts the MCO which would cause big delays once they reopen for processing.”
New Zealand has been in a state of civil emergency where level 4 lockdown restrictions have been in force since 25th March 2020. The borders have been closed to everyone apart from citizens, Residence Visa Holders, essential foreign workers and those who meet the government’s threshold of exceptional circumstance. The population can only leave their homes for essentials and only essential workers are permitted to work outside their home.
“Inbound migration has essentially stopped,” commented Lukas Sousa from Malcolm Pacific Immigration, our Visa & Immigration E-Team member in Auckland, “that side of our business has seen a downturn, but we also work with corporate immigration – those companies that highly depend on a skilled migrant workforce who are already in New Zealand.”
“When the lockdown first happened we were inundated with calls from our clients with questions about how they can maintain their foreign workers during and after the lockdown,” explained Lukas, “we have been working with them on strategies on how they can keep their employees or how wider business decisions, reduction in pay, reduction in hours or redundancies, may affect the visa holder.”
“While visas can still be lodged electronically, New Zealand Immigration has effectively shut down and only visas for essential workers are being processed,” said Lukas, “there is a lot of uncertainty for both employers and migrant employees at this time.”
“From an employee perspective, the biggest issue is for those employees who are employed on a ‘employer specific visa’ which states they can perform a role for a specified employer. If that employer makes them redundant, then they would have to find another job and employer willing to support them through the immigration process” explained Lukas.
“The other consideration after the lockdown ends, unemployment rates are expected to increase meaning employers will need to ensure they have made genuine efforts to recruit locals before considering migrant workers,” continued Lukas, “so even if a foreign worker presents the exact skill set required to perform a role, an employer would need to advertise and build a compelling case to demonstrate they cannot recruit these skills in New Zealand.”
“From an employer perspective, the government is providing wage subsidies so employers can retain as many employees as possible during and for weeks following the lockdown,” commented Lukas, “we are largely working with these employers to ensure they can retain their employees, get through the lockdown and resume trading.”
For Heartland Immigration, our Visa & Immigration E-Team member in Christchurch the experience has been a little different.
Mary Noonan explained, “the lockdown has had a considerable effect on our business, but it won’t last forever.”
“We are still working with clients who are preparing to move to New Zealand once the restrictions are eased” stated Mary.
“We work with skilled migrants mostly, and after the lockdown we don’t expect the demand for employers to find qualified skilled staff to drop.”
“The criteria to enter New Zealand is likely to become tighter and more complicated – this is where our services will be needed to secure the visas,” continued Mary.
“I think at the moment everyone is at a standstill waiting to see what happens,” added Mary, “our prediction is that the demand to move permanently to New Zealand will increase after this crisis, particularly as migrants see how we have handled the situation.”
A deserted Auckland during the level 4 lockdown restrictions.
What does the future hold…
There is no denying that COVID-19 has created a lot of confusion and uncertainty around the world.
“The last few months have become interesting times,” commented John Marcarian, Founder of the Expatland Global Network, “we’ve seen unprecedented shutdowns of nations around the world.”
“But COVID-19 will pass and although expat movement may be subdued for some time and the expat destinations change, movement of expats will resume.”
John continued, “our focus during this time, as nations battle the virus and the world recovers from COVID-19, will be to support our E-Team members and grow our capabilities so we are ready as a network when the movement of migrants resumes.”
“Many of these expats, like in the past, will have limited support in moving and settling into their new home cities,” stated John, “they will have to find service providers to assist them quickly without knowing their capabilities or reputation.”
“Our E-Teams are perfectly positioned to provide the support and expertise they will need” concluded John.
Expanding our network
We are always looking for proactive businesses who work with expats to join our network. If you work with such a business or know a business that would be interested in joining our network, please let us know at email@example.com.
One of the key points coming out over the recent weeks about COVID-19 is the unintended impact it has had on the movement of global expats.
While many global expats are naturally focused on the potential health effect of the virus on themselves and their families – other more costly negative impacts are lying in wait to cause major issues.
Please read on and be careful COVID-19 does not hit you in ways you don’t expect.
Rushing to become an expat
Our evidence is that many companies and businesses are speeding up the deployment of expat executives to beat border shutdowns which are anticipated to come into effect.
While this is understandable from an employer perspective – making an employee move sooner than they plan – can negatively impact them in the areas of:-
- tax management,
- insurance planning for both life and property,
- investment and pension management,
and more generally across the spectrum of their lives.
People need ‘time to plan’ in the above areas to make sure they get it right.
Leaving your home country sooner than you intend can trigger a tax disposal of your worldwide assets for tax purposes in some countries like Australia and Canada. Thus, being sure of the market value of some assets and being clear about what assets you are ‘taking’ into the new host country is important.
If you are speeding up your departure – things will slip through the cracks.
These mistakes can be challenging to recover from.
For example, you may arrive in your new country – uninsured medically (you or your family) and then suffer a health incident – COVID-19 or non COVID-19.
Wittingly or unwittingly there can be serious problems caused by failing to plan.
A recent case of a client moving to the US is illustrative.
The client left their home country and their family home empty as they planned to rent it.
This dragged on for a couple of months and they failed to notify their insurer of their move overseas or that the house was empty.
Following a storm and some rain damage – quite normal – the insurer denied the claim for water damage on the basis that the home roof leak would have been noticed earlier in the ordinary course of events (if they were living there as per their insurance coverage) and the excess water damage was greatly exacerbated by them being absent from the home.
Simple issues like this can be avoided by planning and working through our Expatland checklist.
Beware of hurrying home
Likewise – expats scurrying home can leave a host of other issues unresolved.
Many employees have stock options or other share plans. Not considering the consequence of arriving home with these share plans means – no time to plan and tax liabilities being triggered when they might otherwise have been managed.
Coming home earlier than you plan might mean that the cost base of assets you bring into a country, like shares, happens when the share price is much lower than what you bought the shares for.
Australia, for example, would give a deemed cost to a returning Australian expat based on the market value of the shares at the date they resumed Australian tax residency.
As global stock markets have been in ‘free fall’ many expats will be return home with their international share portfolios – in loss territory.
A year or two from now these shares may be back up to what they originally cost.
However, that is a ‘capital gain’ in the eyes of the Australian Tax Office.
Selling the shares ‘at cost’ would yield a capital gain.
Apart from tax, a returning expat has to deal with cancelling leases or leaving behind financial obligations in their host country. This might be a long-term saving plan contract – which requires you to make a monthly payment – which is no longer something you want to do when you leave the country and return home.
There may be penalties if you stop making contributions to some savings plans.
Hurrying up to get home – can be just as fraught with financial risk management issues as leaving for Expatland.
Our advice is for you to think carefully through any move and to realise that the Expatland Global Network is here to help you.
Our E-Teams are full of experienced professionals who know what to do in most situations. They can very quickly provide you with the advice and guidance you need to ensure you are fully aware of the consequences of your move. Once you know understand the risks, you can make more informed decisions.
For more info on how to cope with these and other issues please contact us and we’ll be happy to connect you with an E-Team member that can assist.
Enjoy the journey and keep safe!
Expatland is a country based on the idea that people have freedom to move around the world in search of certain benefits. Studies show that one of the main reasons for relocation is to improve one’s financial position.
So what is the situation in Expandland during the unprecedented COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak? At a time when finances are at risk, and worry for family and loved ones at home are high – what choice will expats make – to stay in their host country during the crisis or to return home? How will the current situation affect expats’ life?
Capability of the host country
The actions that expats take and the decision to stay or to return varies based on how the host country deals with the crisis. The countries of Southeast Asia that experienced SARS several years ago, in general, were more prepared and acted faster; quick response, joint efforts, high social responsibility of the population gave viable results and has contributed, to date, to getting a handle on the spread of the virus.
Expats in Southeast Asia
According to expats in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, South Korea and China – the governments’ approach to coping with the pandemic gave them confidence in their own security. High consciousness of the population, which followed the simple rules of social distancing and disinfection, brought order into initial chaotic moods.
Needless to say that countries with high migrant rates were most vulnerable to the fast spread of the virus – intense human flows in and out added up to the total number of registered cases. However, this negative effect was offset by the high levels of public trust in the government: most countries of South-East Asia have trust levels higher than the world average.
Expats in Africa
Unlike the South-East Asian region, where there was no mass exodus of expats – in the African countries the situation is quite different. Many expats made decisions to flee the countries, despite the fact that governments in that region have made efforts to follow and implement WHO guidelines. The core problem there is that the number of locally transmitted cases of coronavirus is equal to almost zero, while the majority of cases were “imported” by Europeans, coming from the epidemic sites.
The above, combined with a weak healthcare system, which would not be able to survive the mass outbreak of infection, provoked manifestations of discontent towards expats by the local population.
Many expats chose to leave their host countries and return home, at least for a while, although some do not exclude the possibility that in the future the local population attitude towards foreigners will continue to have a negative effect, people will see them as a potential threat to their own health.
Expats in Europe
Expats, who live in Europe, mostly decided to stay, according to the information from the Chambers of Commerce in some countries. Some expats have indicated employment policies (in relation to sick leave) and the healthcare conditions are better in the host countries than in their home countries; many of them are married to locals and, those working in executive positions, considered that in hard times they should stay with their employees.
Looking at the positives
The aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic are still unclear. However, some positives in a time of uncertainty, could be that many expats locked down in their homes may come up with new ways of doing-business, reasonably adapting their work processes to the new realities and employing more capabilities of modern technologies.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer will unveil the new Government’s first budget on 11th March 2020.
Our London E-Team Co-Group Leader, James Cowper Kreston, are hosting 2 seminars and a webinar at which they will cover the main changes that have been announced and how these will impact you and your business.
During the events particular attention will be given to any changes in:
- Tax efficient profit extraction
- R&D tax relief
- Capital allowances
- Tax planning opportunities
- VAT & Customs Duty
- Tax allowances
- Inheritance tax
- Capital gains tax
Date: Thursday 12 March 2020
Locations and time:
Newbury Racecourse, Newbury, 8.00am -10.30am (local time)
Solent Conference Centre, Southampton, 12.15pm -2.30pm (local time)
Webinar, your desk, 1.00pm -1.45pm (local time)
Please email Lizzie Uzzell stating which event you would like to attend.
Please click here to register for the webinar.
Often inbound expats are seen as imposing a cost for the government of the host country.
There are a number of reasons for this , including funding its immigration system to deal with issuing work visas and naturalization procedures. In some cases there are legal expenses of deporting people who overstay their visas.
Then there are a range of other costs including public infrastructure costs, healthcare and education costs.
While dealing with expats can be an initial economic burden, it is clear that at the same time an inflow of expats brings positive effects to the economy, providing a positive impact on GDP.
Expats contribute to a country’s wealth
A recent study on world wealth shows some interesting figures: the leader in the overall wealth ranking is the US with $60.7 trillion in assets owned by individuals (property, cash, equities, business interests) minus liabilities.
It is not coincidental that the US (as the wealthiest country in the world) is also the world leader in the total number of migrants, outnumbering the second wealthiest country on the list, Saudi Arabia, by 37 million people.
The US is on the top 10 list of rankings based on wealth per capita, while China, Japan and India with inflow of expats of less than 0.2% (while following closely following the United States in the overall wealth list) are way down the list in terms of per capita findings.
Expats bring new skills to host countries
Countries with the highest percentages of expats among the total population – more than 70% – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE are not surprisingly among the top 5 destinations, voted by expats as having the best opportunities for personal financial growth.
The oil sector is one example of an industry where expat workers earn more than local workers. Taking the UAE as an example, the average expat Oil and Gas worker earns $USD127K per annum, while the average income for locals in the Oil and Gas sector is just $USD46K.
It is worth mentioning that according to the HSBC report, UAE has the highest percentage of working expats – 92%, with the top industries being finance and engineering.
Continuing down the list of the countries with the highest migration rates, next comes Monaco and Lichtenstein (more than 45% of total population); wealth per capita in Monaco reaches astonishing $2,144,000, Lichtenstein follows with $786,000. The expats contribution to these numbers is undeniable: while the Gulf countries attract mostly global employees, European countries attract more entrepreneurs than employees.
Expats not only bring their knowledge to the new communities, but these 3% of the world population, who live “on the move”, contribute to the prosperity of their host countries by relocating their financial wealth and spending it in Expatland.
The Finder celebrated the Expatpreneur Awardees with a lunch at mezza9 at the Grand Hyatt in Singapore on 31st May 2019.
Our founder, John Marcarian (pictured above), as the Longevity Award winner joined the other awardees to celebrate this year’s winners.
See more of the event on The Finder website.
Our Founder, John Marcarian, has won the prestigious Longevity Award in The Finder’s Expatpreneuer Awards 2019.
The Expatpreneur Awards honour foreign-born entrepreneurs running successful expat-owned businesses in or from Singapore.
Members of our Singapore E-Team took part in HWA’s annual Wheel Walk or Jog and Family Carnival.
Held on 27th April at the Esplanade Park, the event includes a family carnival followed by a walk or jog with HWA wheelchair-bound members along a scenic route not more than 3.5km.
Volunteers are paired with HWA wheelchair-bound members and assist them throughout the day.
A big thank you to all the E-Team volunteers. A great day was had by all.
We will be at the Houten Emigration Expo on 9-10 February 2019.If you are going to the Expo come to our stand and meet our team.
Hear from our Founder, John Marcarian, as he explains what our E-Teams do and how they can help you move and settle in to your destination city.
Download our e-Book in preparation for your move.
If you’d like the personal touch, an Expatland Concierge can contact you and introduce you to reputable service providers in the city you are moving to – just complete our departure questionnaire.