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The Immigration Considerations to Attract and Retain Remote Staff Working Abroad


The meaning of “mobility” has evolved significantly since it was first conceived. According to some sources, the term first appeared in Old French in the 14th century, an adaption of the Latin term mobilis, used to define things, persons, and objects that were “easy to move,” and figuratively, “nimble”, “quick”, and “changeable”. The term inspires – then and now – many of the same ideals that its ancestors sought to encapsulate. The flexible working arrangements that the pandemic brought on have hyper-charged many of these desires. Whether that means working from a distant, tropical paradise or simply being close to family in a foreign country, people are hungry for mobility.

For employers recognizing that establishing robust global mobility policies is key to their international competitiveness, the idea that mobility is “easy” is far removed from what the term originally meant. Surely, the benefits of supporting a mobile workforce are obvious and easily acceptable: happy employees tend to be more productive; employers can cast a wider net when attracting talent; and, overall, remote work can result in greater levels of retention. But implementing a policy that on the one hand, satisfies the needs and desires of employees – and on the other, complies with the regulations from which the employees seek to work is nuanced.

The issue is not limited simply to assuring the employee is work-authorized in the desired country (i.e., the immigration issues), but also international taxation, employment law, and workplace safety. Global Immigration and Mobility Team is actively collaborating with multinational employers to fill the gap between employer and employee needs. Recognizing the increasing apparentness to develop a global remote work policy, we summarize below the top issues that employers should consider—to achieve employee flexibility where possible while ensuring corporate compliance:

I. Immigration and Global Mobility Considerations

A. Employer-Sponsored Visas

Employers sponsor employment-based immigration processes for their employees for a host of reasons, whether to retain a valued employee who may have run out of options for work-authorized status in the original country of employment, provide career development of advancement opportunities as part of a global rotation program, or to meet increasing requests for flexibility from employees. In some countries, employers may consider immigration options that do not require sponsorship, such as allowing the employee to work remotely from their country of citizenship or allowing the employee to pursue a digital nomad visa (discussed in greater detail below). In other countries, companies may need to support employer-sponsored immigration options to facilitate these types of career or personal goals.

For example, a U.S. employer may seek to sponsor an employee for an L-1 visa as an intracompany transferee, an O-1 visa as an employee possessing extraordinary abilities in his or her field, or an H-1B visa for employees working in a specialty occupation. In most cases, these employer-sponsored visas require that the sponsoring employer be established and doing business in the target country, making these types of visas most beneficial to large, multinational corporations with affiliates or branch locations posted around the world. In other cases, such as the Posted Workers Directive in the European Union, companies may sponsor an employee’s visa and work authorization in a third-party country, even if the sponsoring employer is not established as doing business in the target country.

Application processes and visa requirements vary depending on the target country, though in most cases employers should expect to be able to provide:

  • Proof of the job offer—including a description of the role, salary, and any other remuneration or benefits offered.
  • Proof of the employee’s qualifications for the role—many employer-sponsored visa types will be limited to beneficiaries who have attained a certain level of education and who are qualified for the offered employment by virtue of their academic credentials.
  • Proof of salary and other means by which the company will financially support the employee during their assignment—this may include health insurance, housing stipends, and the like. 

It’s important that employers seeking to establish broader global mobility strategies engage immigration experts who can review the company and employee’s specific circumstances and requirements to identify the most viable immigration strategy. An experienced immigration attorney can help employers identify target countries with relevant visa availability and can advise on costs and procedures for any given target country.

B. Digital Nomads

Entrepreneurs and rank-and-file employees, motivated by an array of professional and personal reasons, are increasingly leaving their countries of origin to open shop abroad, both on a temporary and permanent basis. Many countries around the world, hungry to attract entrepreneurship and talent in in-demand fields,  as well as create jobs and generate tax revenue, have seized on this nascent phenomenon by adopting visa programs designed to attract digital nomads. In countries where a “digital nomad” visa has not been created, existing schemes on the books (i.e., tourist visas) have been loosened and adapted to accommodate the changing needs of employers and their talent. These employees are changing the landscape of work arrangements, and countries are acting quickly to pivot, adopting visa programs with varying degrees of conditions, terms of which can be summarized as falling into four general categories.

The first is “people”-related restrictions. Pointedly, people can be restricted from accessing digital nomad programs for a myriad of reasons, including based on their nationality, education, and socioeconomic background. Many countries, such as Ecuador, set nationality restrictions on who may request a digital nomad visa, while others, like Ireland, provide preferential treatment to countries of certain nationalities, the latter of which permits the nationals of 87 countries, including the United States, Canada, and Mexico, to work for up to 90 days visa-free. In addition to nationality, digital nomad programs are tailored to attract workers of varying education levels. For example, Italy makes its digital program available only to those performing “highly professional and digital” tasks. And yet other countries require digital nomads who meet certain income requirements, Malaysia itself setting an income threshold of $24,000 USD, making it an increasingly popular destination for nomads due to its relatively low-income threshold requirements.

In addition to considering an individual’s background, employers are permissible under local law, for example, has a strict requirement that its digital nomads be employed abroad by a foreign company for more than one year and that their activities be dissociated entirely from the Korean economy. ’s program (rolled out in March 2024) has similar market protectionist measures in place, requiring that digital nomads have “a sales contract or non-provision contract…with a public or private company in a foreign country” in order to perform services.

The third set of restrictions to consider is time limitations. Self-proprietors who move to Armenia to start a business, for example, may remain there for as long as five years on a temporary residence card. Other countries are not as generous – Uruguay granting only six months, with the possibility of up to twelve.

Last, but certainly not least, are health insurance requirements. Most, if not all, of the above referenced jurisdictions mentioned in this section, require their digital nomads to carry personal health insurance. The coverage amounts will vary and must be studied on a case-by-case basis to ensure that digital nomads comply with local law and are adequately protected while abroad.

II. Tax Implications

The tax implications associated with remote work are numerous. Setting aside the taxes associated with entering and exiting a country, such as those applicable in Bali, there is a question of where employers/employees, self-proprietors, and independent contractors pay taxes.  

Some jurisdictions utilize the concept of “tax residency” (i.e., 183-day rule) to determine where employment taxes are due (e.g., Canada). Other jurisdictions have adopted special tax regimes for foreign nationals living temporarily in the territory (e.g., Spain’s “Beckham” law). Others exempt remote workers from local taxes altogether under certain conditions, including Costa Rica. And still others are subject to taxation on worldwide income regardless of location, including the United States, save, of course, for the existence of a bilateral totalization agreement. Related is the issue of where remote workers make social contributions for retirement, healthcare, and other benefits.

All of these issues require careful planning, in consultation with appropriate tax law counsel. To this end, connecting with a global mobility and immigration counsel with a robust network of local and international tax experts is critical to implementing a successful global remote program.

III. Labor and Employment Law Implications

Any organization with employees located around the globe should be mindful of the different employment and labor laws on the books in the target country and seek counsel to understand exactly how the organization will be subject to those rules. In the case of the Posted Workers Directive in the EU, the sponsoring company must comply with the host country’s labor law provisions, including those that mandate minimum wage, maximum working time, and leave requirements. Depending on where the employer is based, these labor regulations may be different from the applicable regulations in the organization’s home country and, by extension, different from the company’s standard benefits package. We encourage companies to assess applicable labor laws before proceeding with a global mobility strategy, as these regulations may have significant cost considerations for a company to include in its available staffing budget, depending on the role and location.

There are other areas where there is an intersection of immigration and labor regulations, such as requirements for the company to make a good-faith effort to hire a local employee without success before they will be eligible to sponsor a foreign national for the same role. Where these regulations are in place, employers are likely to find that options for immigration sponsorship are limited to those roles requiring certain skill sets that are hard to obtain and underrepresented in the local workforce—unless waivers of such labor market tests can be achieved, including, for example, in Canada.

IV. Conclusion

As advancements in technology and immigration policies worldwide continue to provide more opportunities for employers to seek out and retain highly skilled members of the global workforce, companies will find that one key strategy for remaining competitive is to develop robust global mobility policies to support their employees around the globe. A well-developed global mobility policy will allow employers to provide the flexibility their employees demand and can be used as a critical employee retention tool where options for immigration sponsorship in the original country of employment have been exhausted.

These policies do come with some level of risk, however, as employers must ensure compliance not only with the applicable immigration regulations but also with the relevant tax and labor provisions that may apply. Employers are encouraged to work with experts to identify target countries and develop the best possible global mobility strategy in line with their business objectives and cost considerations.

The material contained in this alert does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only. An attorney-client relationship is not presumed or intended by receipt or review of this presentation. The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.

© 2024 Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP. All rights reserved. Information may not be reproduced, displayed, modified, or distributed without the express prior written permission of Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP. For permission, contact

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