At the recent NEI Global Partner Alliance Summit, Marti Briney, NEI SVP of International Services, had the opportunity talk with Andrea Elliott of Pro-Link GLOBAL to discuss the challenges companies are facing as they move around the globe.
Andrea indicated that one of the biggest challenges was “not knowing the specific location requirements” and planning accordingly. “For example,” she continued, “if you were going to Finland, you would need to do something called a registration at the police station and that is by appointment only. So we would need to know if you are going to a main city like Helsinki, where appointments are booked two to three months out right now or if you are going to a lesser known city where you can get an immediate appointment. Location is critical!”
About the Fair Labor Framework in Singapore
Andrea was asked about the recent changes to the Singapore immigration laws as a result of the introduction of The Fair Labor Framework.
“The changes only apply to the Employment Pass (EP) category of work authorization because the other two common categories of work authorization—the Work Permit (WP) and the “S” pass—already have ratios and proportionality built right into them,” she explained. “The change essentially is what is called The Fair Labor Framework and what it means is that you have to do market testing. So you can no longer bring in anybody and say they can start work on Monday from the previous Thursday because there are now things that are required. Companies submitting Employment Pass (EP) applications—including for EP holders who are changing employers—are required to advertise their job vacancies on the Jobs Bank.”
Andrea further explained that you cannot hire anyone on an Employment Pass (EP) until you have advertised the job vacancy for 14 days. After the advertising period, the company can hire the most qualified candidate, regardless of nationality.
However, she indicated that there are some exceptions that would make a company exempt from this requirement—such as if the company:
had less than 25 people;
would pay the individual less than twelve thousand Singapore dollars;
was hiring someone as a result of an intra-corporate transfer within Singapore, which falls under the World Trade Organization General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS).
Andrea indicated that the above information is provided as a guideline because there are specifics under each option that you have to look for to know whether one would qualify for that particular exemption.
The Ebola Factor and Its Impact on Immigration
“Ebola is a hot topic, today,” said Marti. “Is it impacting immigration?”
“Absolutely,” said Andrea. “And in ways you might not expect. For example, Saudi Arabia put out a notice on October 10th that they are no longer accepting passport holders from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. So if you are that nationality and you are returning to Saudi Arabia for work purposes, the Saudi Arabians are not interested in having you return.”
She continued to explain that those who are already in-country and are one of those nationalities are required to go for an ancillary medical evaluation—even if they have not left the country.
Because Ebola has already reached southern Africa, Andrea indicated that neighboring countries are already implementing body temperature scans at the airports.
The Importance of Compliance
“Compliance is absolutely critical,” Andrea said when asked what other topics were important to discuss. “And by compliance I mean, making sure that you are aware of things like worksite enforcement.”
She continued to say that flying in under the radar as a business traveler because they are too busy or haven’t planned well enough is becoming more risky because governments are aware that it is happening and are stepping up enforcement by doing unannounced raids.
“We’ve had a few clients in the past few weeks caught in unannounced raids on worksites in all sorts of countries—Indonesia, Ghana, Cameroon, France—countries that you wouldn’t necessarily think are busy doing enforcement, but are absolutely doing enforcement” she stated. "Make sure that you are compliant. When you measure the cost of getting the correct work authorization in advance versus the potential imprisonment or deportation of the employee, reputational harm to the company, financial cost of fines or shut-down for the risk of using a business visa—the benefits clearly out-weigh the advantage.”
When asked if she had any clients who faced severe penalties, Andrea indicated that at a previous firm, she had clients in Malaysia and Russia who were forced to shut down operations due to compliance issues. In some cases, those shut downs were estimated to cost the companies a million dollars a day.
She closed by saying, “No matter what you do…immigration trumps everything and you have to be compliant from the get-go, otherwise you spend a fortune trying to fix it on the backend.”