Moving abroad as an employee: What are your options?

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Written by Asaël Häzaq on 24 June, 2024
Moving abroad as an employee offers many advantages. This means you can keep your job while enjoying an immersion in a foreign country. But what are your options to make this project a reality? Can your employer refuse your request? Let's find out.

Working remotely from abroad

Remote work has transformed work organizations, and this trend is here to stay. More and more companies are implementing remote work from abroad to retain their employees. This is one of the primary options for moving abroad while keeping your job. Multinational companies are leading this change by redefining the concept of the "office." Remote work aligns with the "workation" trend, which is gaining popularity. Since the pandemic, employers have increasingly considered their employees' mental health. This idea is also gaining traction among medium-sized companies and startups. However, an employer can refuse a request to work remotely from abroad, even if they offer this option. In such cases, they must provide a reason for their refusal.

Securing a secondment assignment

A secondment assignment is another option for moving abroad while staying employed. Employees remain connected to their employer and enjoy job security. They keep benefiting from health coverage in their home country. The assignment is predefined and typically short-term, lasting a few months to one or two years. Although large companies often have more offers, don't overlook small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Companies specializing in a specific field (such as manufacturing components for a foreign industrial site) can find secondment missions a valuable opportunity to strengthen their presence abroad.

Requesting an international transfer

This option is only feasible if the company has offices abroad. Professionals on transfer change their workplace while staying employed by the same company. The employee can request the transfer, or the employer can propose it. Generally, the motivations differ depending on who initiates the request. Employees often seek a transfer to advance their careers or for personal reasons (e.g., to follow their spouse). Employers might request a transfer to help an employee advance or for economic reasons. For employer-initiated transfers, the employee's consent is necessary.

Negotiating an expatriation contract

Do you want to work under a local contract while maintaining a connection with your company? Although lucrative expatriation contracts with "golden packages" are no longer trending, expatriation contracts remain a good option for employees seeking new experiences. It's important to remember that an expatriation contract is negotiable. The employee should take time to review it and propose options based on their situation and potential income loss (e.g. if the cost of living abroad is higher). Throughout the expatriation contract, the employee works under a local contract and is covered by local health insurance. Upon returning to their home country, they reintegrate into the company. Note that expatriation, in the strict sense, suspends the original contract but does not terminate it.

Joining an internal international mobility program

Does your company have an internal international mobility program? Large groups often have such programs, but smaller companies might as well. It's more about the company's core activities and objectives than its size. An SME with a significant portion of its revenue from foreign clients has a vested interest in reinforcing its presence in those countries. If there's no existing mobility program, the employee can propose it to the employer. Such a program could benefit the company's growth and market expansion. However, the employer has the final say in accepting or rejecting the proposal.

Requesting a transfer abroad

Another possibility is to initiate your move, ensuring you have a job in the host country. The position might be the same or different, depending on the company's arrangements. This type of transfer requires that the company has a foreign subsidiary or relations with a foreign company. Note that this involves terminating the original contract. The employee will still be employed, but by the foreign company, making it a permanent transfer rather than strict expatriation. The company may assist with visa formalities and settling into the new country.

Important considerations for moving abroad while remaining employed

It's crucial to understand the labor laws of both the home country and the host country. Employee protection and employer obligations can differ significantly.

An employer sending employees on an overseas assignment remains responsible for their stay, as the trip is work-related. They must inform the employees about the country's situation, including potential risks (epidemics, health risks, insecurity, etc.). However, the employer is not obligated to handle formalities during the stay (taxi rentals, accommodation, etc.). They may choose to offer these services but must reimburse expenses incurred due to the foreign assignment (accommodation, meals, transportation, etc.).