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Service delivery in a covid world!

Ten months into the worst pandemic in a hundred years, service providers continue to adapt, innovate and work harder than ever to stay relevant and provide value to their clients.  

Impacts of this pandemic have been varied, depending on industries and consumer demand.  Some sectors of the economy have thrived, while others suffered significant losses in business volumes and revenues.  The corporate relocation industry, unfortunately, falls into the latter.

As a Destination Services Provider (DSP), the impact of lockdowns and restrictions on corporate travel have been severe.  Almost overnight, as the world literally came to a standstill, the nature of our business and service delivery changed.  

Initiations were halted or continually deferred as we all adjusted to a new reality.  Offices were shut down and all employees tasked with working from home.  

Clients’ need for information and timely updates became paramount, as everyone was left scrambling and guessing as to what was to come next.  

And we continue to adapt and alter our modus operandi as most countries, including Canada, continue to see an unprecedented surge during the second wave of this crippling pandemic.  There is now a new variant that is cause for renewed alarm, with the threat of looming lockdown extensions as well as possible curfews, which only serves to increase our challenges.

Adapting to the new norm and taking on the challenge

What these past 10 months have taught us is that we possess a tremendous ability to not only deal with such adversity but to actually rise to the challenges and overcome them.  

In our sector, we have adapted and made significant changes to how we do things, some of which will continue long after this pandemic is over.  While our office staff all work from home, we have been forced to accelerate our adoption of communication platforms like Zoom and Teams in order to keep our team connected and productive. 

Similarly, our relocation specialists have turned to similar technologies like FaceTime, Whats App and Skype to not only connect with transferees and assignees, but in some cases to effectively service their needs.  

This includes conducting neighbourhood tours and orientations via video, as well as providing virtual and visual tours of rental accommodations.  Both of these “new” forms of servicing our clients are expected to continue as they offer some real efficiencies and benefits to clients, even when the need for isolation is no longer required.

The challenges in information dissemination

Our Destination Services app has also proven to be a very useful tool in advising and informing our relocating expats. 

The need for information, especially in these difficult and stressful times, has never been more crucial.  

Clients, be they mobility managers or the relocating expats, are dependent on information that we provide to ensure a relocation goes as smoothly as possible during these times.  

he types of information are varied and continually changing – impact on housing rates and other cost of living factors, country-wide as well as regional protocols in place to combat this pandemic, as well as continual and timely updates on changes to the protocols as they occur. 

At the time of this writing, one province (Quebec) has already instituted a curfew, and within days the province of Ontario is expected to implement something similar.  All of which needs to be communicated to our clients and potentially travelling expats so that as they are properly informed and can make the right decisions. 

The rise of out-of-the-normal services to cope with the health protocols

What we have also seen is the rise of services that we did not provide in the past.  In addition to the aforementioned video tours and viewings, grocery shopping and delivery has become a mainstay as expats are required to strictly quarantine for 14 days when arriving in Canada.  

Virtual assistance and video-calling support have also increased dramatically as in-person accompanied services have been impacted due to contactless and social-distancing requirements.

Keeping the doors open

Through it all, we continue to welcome transferees and assignees as they enter Canada, and ensure that they are properly and safely serviced throughout their transition. 

The duty of care that was once primarily reserved for our clients, has had to be adjusted to ensure that there are adequate safeguards for our staff and relocation specialists providing accompanied services to our clients.  Masks, PPE and cleaning and travelling protocols for vehicles have been introduced and are now the norm, and we will continue to further adjust and adapt as we collectively navigate through this pandemic. 

We have learned much in the 10 months since this nightmare began, but as things once again get a lot worse before they get better, we will have to continue learning and coming up with new and improved ways of doing things.  

While the effects of this coronavirus will be felt for years to come, one thing it did do was accelerate our progress and operational advancements in leaps and bounds.  

Necessity is the mother of invention, and a global travel and economic shutdown definitely forced every company and industry to innovate, adapt and improve in order to survive.  

And with vaccines on their way, we can hopefully all look forward to operating with these increased efficiencies and improvements as we welcome back a return to normalcy. 

Bilanz and Le Temps Names a&o kreston As A Top Accounting & Tax Firms of Switzerland

Our Tax & Accounting  E-Team member a&o kreston has been named as one of the top accounting & tax firms of Switzerland by the renowned business journals of Bilanz and Le Temps.

Statista, an independent market research institute in Switzerland, went to great lengths to find out the country’s best accounting and tax advisors. Several thousand members of the industry and customers in the field of accounting and tax services took part in Statista’s research with a&o kreston coming on top. 

“We are very pleased to be recognised by these renowned business journals,” commented Rouven Williman of a&o Kreston, Group Leader of our Zurich E-Team, “especially in a year like this with so much uncertainty, providing surety to our clients with their tax affairs gives them peace of mind.”

 

Update on Australia’s Travel Restrictions

The global pandemic has affected workers from all over the world. Australia, like other nations, have implemented strict regulations on the travel of foreign nationals into their country.

Exemptions on Australia’s Travel Ban

In the latest amendment in Australia’s travel ban, the Border Force Commissioner has been given authority to approve travel in compelling and compassionate situations.

If your client’s work involves critical infrastructure projects, and health and essential services, then there is a chance that they would be approved to travel to Australia. Other exceptions include split families or if your client is a temporary visa holder with a prior established residence in Australia and was caught offshore by the travel restrictions.

The list of exemptions has been gradually expanded since the initial lockdown in March. The current list of exemptions includes:

  • travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response
  • providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations, and delivering critical medical supplies
  • person with critical skills or working in a critical sector in Australia
  • person sponsored by an employer to work in Australia in an occupation on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL).
  • entry would otherwise be in the national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority
  • military personnel, including those who form part of the Status of Forces Agreement, Commonwealth Armed Forces, Asia Pacific Forces and Status of Armed Forces Agreement
  • a student completing year 11 and 12, with support from the relevant Australian State or Territory government health authority and education department
  • travelling for compassionate and compelling reasons.

Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List

The Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List categorizes the 17 occupations that provide the critical skills needed to help the recovery of Australia’s economy from the COVID-19 impact. Here are the occupations and ANZSCO code included in the PMSOL list:

  • Chief Executive or Managing Director
  • Construction Project Manager
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • General Practitioner
  • Resident Medical Officer
  • Psychiatrist
  • Medical Practitioner nec
  • Midwife
  • Registered Nurse
  • Developer Programmer
  • Software Engineer
  • Maintenance Planner

Visa applications for other occupations will still be processed but those that fall under the PMSOL list will be given priority. Under continuous monitoring of the labour market and the development of required skill to recover from the COVID-19 impact, the Government and National Skills Commission may change and update the list.

What is a critical skill?

If your client’s skillset covers the following, then it is considered as a critical skill:

  • travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response
  • providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations, and delivering critical medical supplies
  • with critical skills required to maintain the supply of essential goods and services (such as in medical technology, critical infrastructure, telecommunications, engineering and mining, supply chain logistics, aged care, agriculture, primary industry, food production, and the maritime industry)
  • delivering services in sectors critical to Australia’s economic recovery (such as financial technology, large scale manufacturing, film, media and television production and emerging technology), where no Australian worker is available
  • providing critical skills in religious or theology fields
  • sponsored by your employer to work in Australia in an occupation on the PMSOL whose entry would otherwise be in Australia’s national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority.

If your client does not qualify for any of these exemptions, they can request for an exemption through the Commissioner’s Discretion – their request must be accompanied by the following:

  • Passenger details: name, DOB, visa type and number, passport number, Australian residential address, Australian telephone number)
  • Case information: why this case should be considered for Commissioner discretion/exemption
  • Supporting statement: the request should be accompanied by a statement and evidence of how they meet one of the grounds for an exemption or excise of the Commissioner’s discretion listed above.

One important thing to take note of is that all travellers are required to provide evidence to immigration that they meet one of the exemptions mentioned before travelling.

How businesses are affected by the travel ban

Business owners who are running their company in Australia and are planning to hire a foreign employee should make sure that their employee has a valid Australian visa and an approved waiver of the travel ban.

There is no guarantee that the application to travel will be approved as the decision is subjective and there are approximately 20,000-25,000 applications each week. The chances of approval are very minimal so it is advisable to seek out a person who can work remotely rather than having to apply to travel to Australia.

Propertybuyer Wins Buyers’ Agency of the Year 2020 Award

Our Property E-team member from our Sydney E-Team , Propertybuyer, was named as the Buyers’ Agency of the Year 2020 in this year’s REINSW Awards for Excellence.

“We are very proud to have won this award,” stated Rich Harvey, CEO & Founder of Propertybuyer.

Propertybuyer stood out among this year’s finalists as a provider to best represent property investors in purchasing residential and commercial real estate.

“Buyers’ Agents are rapidly growing in popularity as more buyers realise the benefits of independent and professional representation,” Rich said.

Alongside the Buyers’ Agency of the Year category, Propertybuyer was also a finalist for the Operational Support of the Year 2020.

Having a buyer’s agent on your side who can guide you throughout the entire buying process is what Propertybuyer does best. They offer quality advice on a property purchase to a range of clients including professional executives, first time home buyers, experienced investors, commercial buyers or even developers.

“It gives our clients the reassurance that they are making the right choice when looking for a property,” commented Rich.

Clients have praised Propertybuyer for the work they do and the services they offer. Buyers have commended how Rich and his team have helped them with their best interest at heart and their genuine interest in finding the most suitable property.

Update on Australia’s Travel Restrictions

The global pandemic has affected workers from all over the world. Australia, like other nations, have implemented strict regulations on the travel of foreign nationals into their country. 

Exemptions on Australia’s Travel Ban 

In the latest amendment in Australia’s travel ban, the Border Force Commissioner has been given authority to approve travel in compelling and compassionate situations. 

If your work involves critical infrastructure projects, and health and essential services, then there is a chance that you would be approved to travel to Australia. 

If you have a split family or if you’re a temporary visa holder with a prior established residence in Australia and was caught offshore by the travel restrictions You may be included in the travel ban exemptions.

The list of exemptions has been gradually expanded since the initial lockdown in March. The current list of exemptions includes:

  • travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response
  • providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations, and delivering critical medical supplies
  • person with critical skills or working in a critical sector in Australia
  • person sponsored by an employer to work in Australia in an occupation on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL).  
  • entry would otherwise be in the national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority
  • military personnel, including those who form part of the Status of Forces Agreement, Commonwealth Armed Forces, Asia Pacific Forces and Status of Armed Forces Agreement
  • a student completing year 11 and 12, with support from the relevant Australian State or Territory government health authority and education department
  • travelling for compassionate and compelling reasons.

Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List

The Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List categorizes the 17 occupations that provide the critical skills needed to help the recovery of Australia’s economy from the COVID-19 impact. Here are the occupations included in the PMSOL list:

  • Chief Executive or Managing Director 
  • Construction Project Manager 
  • Mechanical Engineer 
  •  General Practitioner
  •  Resident Medical Officer 
  • Psychiatrist 
  •  Medical Practitioner nec 
  • Midwife
  • Registered Nurse
  • Developer Programmer 
  • Software Engineer 
  • Maintenance Planner

Visa applications for other occupations will still be processed but those that fall under the PMSOL list will be given priority. Under continuous monitoring of the labour market and the development of required skill to recover from the COVID-19 impact, the Government and National Skills Commission may change and update the list.

What is a critical skill?

If your skillset covers the following, then it is considered as a critical skill:

  • travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response
  • providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations, and delivering critical medical supplies
  • with critical skills required to maintain the supply of essential goods and services (such as in medical technology, critical infrastructure, telecommunications, engineering and mining, supply chain logistics, aged care, agriculture, primary industry, food production, and the maritime industry)
  • delivering services in sectors critical to Australia’s economic recovery (such as financial technology, large scale manufacturing, film, media and television production and emerging technology), where no Australian worker is available
  • providing critical skills in religious or theology fields
  • sponsored by your employer to work in Australia in an occupation on the PMSOL
  • whose entry would otherwise be in Australia’s national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority.

You can request for an exemption through the Commissioner’s Discretion – your request must be accompanied by the following:

  • Passenger details: name, DOB, visa type and number, passport number, Australian residential address, Australian telephone number)
  • Case information: why this case should be considered for Commissioner discretion/exemption
  • Supporting statement: the request should be accompanied by a statement and evidence of how you meet one of the grounds for an exemption or excise of the Commissioner’s discretion listed above.

One important thing that you should take note of is that all travellers are required to provide evidence to immigration that you meet one of the exemptions mentioned before travelling. 

How businesses are affected by the travel ban

If you are running a business in Australia and want to employ an expat, they must have a valid Australian visa and an approved waiver of the travel ban. But there is no guarantee that the application to travel will be approved as the decision is subjective and there are approximately 20,000-25,000 applications each week. The chances of approval are very minimal so it is advisable to seek out a person who can work remotely rather than having to apply to travel to Australia. 

Why Expats Should Invest in Australian Property Now

Earlier this month, Westpac, St George, and Macquarie banks reduced the serviceability floor rate for home loans from 5.35% p.a. to 5.05% p.a., meaning an increase of borrowing capacity and an opportunity for expat investors and home buyers.

The decrease to serviceability floor rates comes off the back of announcements made by Philip Lowe of the Royal Bank of Australia (RBA) in May this year and an ongoing trend toward reduction amid growing recession and pandemic woes.

In Gareth Hutchens’ article, published on 28 May, by ABC news online, Lowe claimed that interest rates would likely remain at 0.25 percent for years – until the unemployment rate was back to around 4.5 percent.

‘We’re not going to be raising interest rates until full employment is in, and we’re sustainably within the 2-3 percent target range for inflation,’ he said. ‘I think it’s reasonable to expect that that will not be for some years.’

By dropping their floor rate to 5.05%, the Westpac group reflects the low rate environment we are currently in and proves to customers that they want their business, so they borrow more.

Thus, the other big banks will likely follow this trend (Westpac’s new 5.05% rate comes in below ANZ’s 5.25%, CBA’s 5.40%, and NAB’s 5.50%), and if they do, borderline customers across major lenders will have more chance of loan approval and help the economic downturn shift back.

What this means for expat investors

Reductions to rates are good for Australian-based home buyers but are even better for international purchases and the expat community.

When you apply for a home loan, the lender assesses all your loans, new and existing, at rates much higher than the actual rate you pay. Government regulator, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), requires banks to ensure their customers can repay loans at 2.5% more than current interest rates, or the ‘floor’ rate set by the bank, whichever is higher. They call this the earthquake test, and it is there to ensure that if interest rates rise, you can still service your loans.

Over the last few years, interest rates have decreased, but the serviceability floor rate had not moved. Given the pandemic and unexpected recession-era we are now facing, rates will not increase soon. The government wants people to borrow money to buy properties and help prop up the economy.  Last year, floor rates dropped to 7%, meaning customers could borrow more based on cashflow and mortgage repayments; however, they couldn’t borrow more money on paper even though their real-life affordability had improved.

Because expats have additional borrowing capacity restrictions, banks will assess 60% to 80% of actual income to account for foreign exchange risk. The benefits of investing now in a recession-like market are paramount, as the decrease to 5.05% means for some Australian expats (permanent residents living overseas), the borrowing capacity increases by up to 15-20%.

And if you are only borrowing 60% of the property value, some banks will give you a very low-interest rate; for example, Macquarie Bank’s current variable investor rate is 2.69% p.a.

While we expect this trend to last some time, the rate reduction is excellent news for Australians living overseas who’d like to invest now. As the Expatland mortgage partner, Stoneturn is well placed to assist you with enquiries about the changes.

If you are an Australian expat who would like to review a current loan or explore new mortgage options, please get in touch with Stoneturn today.

Key Things You Need To Know When Doing Business In The UK

There are many things you need to consider when doing business in the UK, may it be starting a new company or expanding your current business.

Some of the things you have to consider include:

  • Visa & Immigration – options available to you in obtaining a visa for yourself and any employees you may want to relocate to the UK
  • Relocations – what you need to consider when relocating yourself and/or your employees
  • Tax Planning – to understand the UK tax system and what you need to do before and after you commence doing business in the UK.

Join industry experts from our London E-team in this webinar where they explain the important points you must consider when doing business in the UK.

Watch the recording of the webinar now.

 

UK Roadshow – Job Opportunities Abroad

Expatland E-Team member Canstaff and Heartland Immigration, a global recruitment and staffing service providers are running a roadshow to assist UK residents looking for work abroad.

The roadshow will run throughout the UK in 6 key locations and will provide information and assistance regarding immigration, property search, foreign exchange and expat insurance in addition to job placement.

The Roadshow location and dates are as follows.

Oct 28,2019 – Glasgow

Oct 29, 2019 – Middlesbrough

Oct 30, 2019 – Sheffield

Oct 31,2019 – Birmingham

Nov 2, 2019 – Swindon

Nov 3, 2019 – London

For more information visit the website.

Harmony Relocation Network

Harmony Relocation Network and Expatland Global Network form Worldwide Agreement

Harmony Relocation Network, a global cooperative network of locally owned relocation companies and Expatland Global Network have today formed a worldwide agreement.

Harmony Relocation Network members that hold FIDI’s FAIM certification have the opportunity to co-lead Expatland’s E-Teams to develop their businesses and help global expats heading to Expatland.

FIDI is the global alliance of professional international moving and relocation companies. The FAIM certification plays a key role in maintaining standards within the international moving and relocation industry.

Harmony Relocation Network was founded in 1992 and consists of over 140 members in 60 countries, serving 180 countries across six continents, providing the same high level of high quality services, local expertise and personal commitment.

The Expatland Global Network is made up of E-Teams. Operating at city level, they have essential local knowledge and insight. They cut through complexity and drill down to the issues that are relevant to specific locations.

John Marcarian, founder of the Expatland Global Network, says, ‘We are very pleased that Harmony Relocation Network members will co-lead our E-Teams. We take comfort in knowing that these companies are highly qualified and globally recognised. We are very pleased to work with Harmony Relocation Network to ensure our members are moved by the best.”

Paul Bernardt, Managing Director, Harmony Relocation Network, comments: “The Expatland Global Network is a true innovation developed by John Marcarian. We believe that the Expatland Global Network offers an excellent integrated platform to assist global expats on the move. We are very pleased that our members now have the opportunity to lead Expatland’s E-Teams across this dynamic and growing network.”

 

‘Expatland’ origins

Expatland began as a book, written in 2015 by John Marcarian, as a result of John’s personal expat journey. Its focus was to help expats plan their move overseas.

 

E-Teams around the globe

The Expatland book was just the start. To solve the problem of lack of support for would-be expats, John launched the Expatland Global Network in 2018.

The Network is expanding rapidly. There are now E-Teams in more than 20 cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Prague, Budapest, Hong Kong, London and Singapore. With best-in-practice members recognising the importance of this service, many more will follow.

Businesses interested in joining an E-Team in their city can get in touch with Expatland: http://www.expatland.com/contact/

 

About Harmony Relocation Networkhttps://www.harmonyrelo.com/

Relocation is more than just moving people. It’s about moving people’s lives. That’s why, whatever we do, we do it with our heart and soul, striving to surpass the expectations of the people we work and care for.

Our global network was founded in 1992 with a focus on Europe and the USA. In the late nineties, the global expansion began, mainly because our customer base was also expanding. The network first expanded to Australia and Asia. Middle East, Latin America and Africa quickly followed suit.

 

 

International Association of Movers Conference

Our Founder, John Marcarian, will be attending the 57th Annual Meeting & Expo of International Association of Movers (IAM) to be held on 3rd October 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.

We invite Harmony Relocation Network members with FAIM certification to book a meeting with John to discuss the opportunities of joining an E-Team in our network

To book a meeting please email concierge@expatland.com