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.
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
- Medical Practitioner nec
- 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.
An essential service for expats, the foreign exchange industry hasn’t been spared by the pandemic and fluctuations in stock markets.
In this article, we speak to Vanna Kadir of XE, our Foreign Exchange E-Team member in Sydney, to get an insight into the movement of money around the world.
The pandemic hits
“At the start of the pandemic, as the lockdowns started around the world, we did see a drop in international money transfers,” explained Vanna.
“Many clients were holding their liquidity close, due to increased volatility and uncertainty,” she continued, “planned purchases abroad were put on hold. Business orders were either cancelled or postponed, especially around the early months where we saw COVID-19 hit its peak in China and as a result, affecting importers in the APAC region.”
However, funds transfers continued for ‘essential services.’
Vanna commented, “whilst the pandemic has affected all business in some way, shape or form, a small portion of businesses have actually grown as a result of the pandemic such as the food, tech and healthcare industries.”
“On the individual front, payments being sent home to support families by expats have continued.”
“During increased volatility, we did see shifts in where money was being transferred to and being transferred from,” explained Vanna.
Start of the recovery
As parts of the world have started to recover whilst other parts are battling a second wave, currency markets have regained momentum.
“The AUD has remained elevated over the last month as markets have tried to price in a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This is despite a renewed outbreak in Australia, albeit only relatively minor compared with the USA,” commented Vanna.
“As we head towards the end of the year, there are clouds on the horizon as case numbers keep creeping up and US / China relations look like they are set to deteriorate as the US heads towards their Presidential Election on November 3rd.”
Vanna continued, “overall, we see current levels as attractive for expats.”
“Expats should be looking at ways to mitigate their risk against currency fluctuations and speaking to their FX broker prior to the transfer, especially in this current environment where there are still many uncertainties in the local and wider economy. Risk management is paramount and will often leave you with more money,” recommended Vanna.
The ongoing effect of COVID19
“We have been operating as normal,” concluded Vanna. “The global banking system seems to be coping very well and we expect this to continue.”
Whether you are thinking of moving home to the UK now or at some point in the future, there are certain things you need to consider and plan for.
Join our London E-Team members where they outline what UK expats need to consider when moving back home, including:
- Carefully planning your tax position to ensure you don’t receive an unexpected tax bill
- Favorably structuring your financial position to protect your assets and wealth
- Timing of education enrollment for your children
- Restrictions and obligations if you are moving back with your pet
If you are a UK expat living abroad you need to attend this webinar.
Details of the webinar:
Date: Wednesday 2nd September
Time: 10am – 11am (London local time)
One of the sectors at the forefront of expat movement, Relocations Providers, have been heavily hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With countries closing borders, flights being grounded and expat moves being cancelled or postponed, the demand for their services has virtually dropped overnight.
In this article, we speak to a group of our Relocations providers to see how their businesses are coping, how they have adapted to the new normal and what they see in the future for the industry.
As borders closed
As the virus began to spread around the world, countries quickly moved to close borders. Initially to travellers from affected areas and then eventually to everyone apart from their citizens, permanent residents and some exceptions.
One of the first countries that borders were closed to was South Korea.
“At the beginning of COVID-19, South Korea was regarded as an unsafe country due to aggressive mass testing and case numbers,” explained Jay Yoon of High Relocation Worldwide, our Group Leader in Seoul.
“Some multinational companies made all their expats repatriate to the US where their HQ is located,” continued Jay. “Initially it was a “Freeze” on any new assignment to South Korea, which affected our business a lot.”
In other countries where the spread of the virus was still emerging the situation was a little different.
“We had situations where some expats tried to fly in, have their needs met, and then fly back to their home country. These were halted by their employers as well as increasing restrictions being placed on international travel and regional directives,” shared Nitin Badhwar of Welcomehome Relocations, our Toronto Group Leader.
“One major impact on some of our clients is that they were in the process of their relocation, came to Canada, secured housing and schooling for themselves and their families, and then returned to their home city to close out their affairs before permanently moving. They got caught in the travel bans and border closures and are now responsible for housing costs in their new destination cities, while also having similar financial burdens in their current location. Security deposits are being lost, and in some cases, they are bound by the terms of the rental agreements and are required to make payments even though they are not living in their new homes,” explained Nitin.
The month of May should be the build up towards summer moving in Singapore, but it has been the quietest month due to the lockdowns.
Charlie Scott of SIR Move Services, our Group Leader in Singapore explains, “Individuals and companies have put a hold on most moves unless it is urgent. Even if they wanted to move, they have had to reschedule due to the various versions of lockdowns in governments around the world and their definition of essential services.”
“In Singapore, most people are asking landlords to extend their lease for a few months until they can move. Viewing of houses is not essential, therefore real estate agents cannot physically show houses for lease. While e-viewing is an option, people would rather wait,” said Charlie.
Steve Wilding from Nuss Removals, our Group Leader in Sydney shares his experience, “at the start, when there was talk of borders closing, we were inundated with calls from corporate and private clients. Many corporate clients were moving their move forward so they could beat the border restrictions. Clients who had planned to move in June or July were now moving in March.”
“We had to work very quickly and often had everything booked in within 24 hours,” continued Steve. “Some private clients were quite desperate to move to be with their families and were finding it difficult to find a provider as many were either fully booked or had stopped international shipping entirely.”
“Interestingly, we are still shipping a small number of people out of Australia even now,” commented Steve.
“The inbound business, those moving to Australia, eventually slowed right down when the borders closed,” provided Steve. “We still have some shipments arriving from customers that left their origin country earlier and their shipments were already on their way, but I expect the numbers to reduce further in the coming months.”
“The fortunate thing for us is that we do local and interstate moves and with Australia reopening slowly, that side of the business should see some demand,” said Steve.
Not so in Nairobi as Cosmas Kamuyu from Nellions Moving & Relocations, our E-Team member in Nairobi explained, “we have partial lockdowns in 4 major areas of Kenya including Nairobi meaning that we cannot freely offer relocation services even within Kenya.”
“Many expats are in evacuation mode, waiting to see what happens next in Kenya while monitoring situations in their own countries,” continued Cosmos. “As a result, our international moving business is down 80%.”
High Relocation, Group Leader of our South Korea E-Team, adapting to the new norms of living with COVID19.
Finding innovative new ways to operate
“Since the curve of confirmed cases has flattened and our government starts to re-open the economy, some multinational companies are starting to recommence movement of employees,” commented Jay, Group Leader of our Seoul E-Team.
“Although we don’t have the panic buying here, we have seen the toilet paper shortage in some countries, so when we are providing an international move service for Americans we provide some freshly bought toilet paper as a courtesy which they find amusing and express gratitude,” provided Jay.
Although the pandemic has had a dramatic effect on the Relocations sector, there have been some positives as Nitin, Group Leader of our Toronto E-Team explains, “a great deal of innovation in service delivery under very unique circumstances have been created as a result of the pandemic. With the growing restrictions, servicing our clients in the traditional fashion has become almost impossible.”
Nitin continued, “we are looking at and instituting innovative ways to keep our expats and clients informed, and wherever possible, serviced. Technology is playing an even greater role now than before, and we expect it to be instrumental in how we provide services going forward.”
“One significant technology that has become a lifeline is video chats and meetings. In a very short time, we have become so dependent on technologies like Zoom and Microsoft Meetings, and it has become clear that these are very effective tools that are not only helping us stay connected and working during this crisis, but will become part of the new normal when we do get back to business as usual,” commented Nitin, “and, it may only be a foreteller of how we may “have” to adopt other technologies to help us adapt to the ongoing challenges and realities resulting from this pandemic.”
Common practices are also changing in Singapore.
“Most customers have chosen not to be present during a move and have communicated with us via WHATSAPP with instructions,” explained Charlie, Group Leader of our Singapore E-Team.
“We have had to change the way we operate to ensure we are abiding by the restrictions that have been set out by the government and to give confidence to our clients. For example, our crew take their temperature twice a day and record it so we can show clients.” Charlie continued. “The reduction of people that can be permitted on job sites means jobs can take longer and become more expensive, but we need to remain competitive and therefore look at ways to be more efficient.”
Cosmas, of our Nairobi E-Team, agrees, “Efficiency is higher because we are now getting used to doing more work within less time.”
This is echoed by Steve, Group Leader of our Sydney E-Team, “the changes such as working from home has shown companies that we can operate more efficiently.
House inspections have moved online to give expats a feel for the accommodation options.
“We anticipate a surge of demand (at least initially) once the world recovers from this both for inbound and outbound moves,” predicted Steve. “Not only from those who put their move on hold but also from expats that have been away from their families during the crisis and who haven’t been able to freely get on a flight and see their friends and family.”
Steve continued, “I think a lot of expats will re-evaluate whether they want to live away from family and friends, particularly in times of crisis. I think you may see many expats return to their home country. Then there’s the flip side of people who are in their home country who have been thinking of moving elsewhere. They may have been sitting in their home country and watching how their government has dealt with the crisis. It might be a trigger for them to actually make the move, particularly if they are considering a country that gets through this fairly well.”
Nitin anticipates a change to the industry, “our industry will be changed immeasurably, and the way we all interact will be very different. If there is one thing this pandemic has taught us, it is that we can very effectively work from home. This will shape the future dynamic of how a lot of companies might opt to operate, and may provide industries like ours with new challenges but perhaps opportunities as well.”
Cosmas expects that some changes will transcend the pandemic, “virtual/video surveys will be more preferred to physical inspections before house moving. Moving companies will get more innovative and bring in other services that could shield them better from such disruptions. Companies will require less office space. There will be a whole process of brand re-definition in terms of services and how they are provided.”
Jay sees it as a permanent marker in history, “we will face a new norm that we would previously not have imagined. There will be the world BC (before corona) and AC (after corona).”
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.
Steve Wilding of Nuss Removals receiving the award from John Marcarian, Founder of Expatland Global Network and Geraldine Chapman, General Manager of Expatland Global Network.
The Expatland Member of the Year is Nuss Removals from our Sydney E-Team.
“Nuss Removals is a founding member of the Expatland Global Network,” commented John Marcarian, Founder of the Expatland Global Network.
“They have provided instrumental assistance with the global agreement between Harmony Relocation Network and our Expatland Global Network which has seen our network grow and the opportunities for our E-Team members increase,” John continued.
The global agreement with the Harmony Relocation Network gives members that hold FAIM certification the opportunity to co-lead E-Teams around the world.
A member of the Harmony Relocation Network themselves, Nuss Removals is a co-group leader of our Sydney E-Team.
Nuss Removals have been helping expats move for over 120 years. From shipping and storage to school and property search, they provide the essential initial services expats need when making their move.
They even maintain a removal truck from 1924 at their Lane Cove facility which was first used in the 1920s and is still roadworthy to this day.
“The Expatland Global Network has enabled us to connect our clients to service providers they need when arriving into Australia that we are unable to help them with,” explained Steve Wilding of Nuss Removals and Co-Group Leader of our Sydney E-Team.
“For our outgoing clients, we are able to introduce them to a team of people that can assist once they move to their new city,” Steve continued.
“It’s an additional value add for our customers who are increasingly demanding more from a relocations company.”
The Expatland Member of the Year award, voted by their peers, recognises the member that has shown outstanding contribution throughout the year.
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.