Digital Nomadism: New Option for Employees

December 3, 2021 | xpath.global

Digital nomad visa laws and the remote working policies have changed the landscape for all employees. There are currently over 30 countries offering this option (or what is very similar with a digital nomad visa) around the world and many more coming, and we are going to take a closer look on how these visas can be used within Global Mobility policy, as well as talent acquisition and retention strategies.

The specialists who tackled the subject:

Diana Buzoianu / The Legislator Perspective – Diana Buzoianu is a Member of the Chamber of Deputies in the Parliament of Romania. She is a member of the standing Committee for Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection and the standing Committee for Information, Technologies and Communication. Diana is dedicated to the fight for digitalization and is currently working on various initiatives that will institutionalize digital practices, both in the public and private sector. She is invested in bridging the gap between citizens and the public administration by developing digital infrastructures and advancing solutions.

Matthew Hellrung | The Immigration compliance perspective  – Matthew is a Corporate Immigration Attorney, Managing Partner, and Co-Founder at Meltzer Hellrung. Meltzer Hellrung LLC is a US-based full-service corporate immigration law firm providing comprehensive solutions for businesses, from entrepreneurs and investors to multi-national corporations. They’re always working with their clients to create innovative solutions for the employment of foreign nationals, providing end-to-end processing to ensure clients are prepared for all phases of the immigration process, as well as facilitating visa applications to other countries, if needed.

Tanya Mariottini | HR and global mobility leader perspective – Tanya Mariotini, GMS-T, is the Director of Global Mobility at Twilio. She has over 15 years of Global Talent Mobility experience working in diverse industries, including over 10 years in leadership roles and international assignments in both Asia and Europe. She was recently recognised by her peers as a Global Mobility Top 100 Most Admired Corporate Professional for 2021 and she is an advocate for Move for Hunger and is an active participant in their Corporate Action Network.

Simon Ward | The Human capital management expert perspective –  As a Global Alliance Manager for Elements Global Services, Simon’s role is to help clients elevate their brand in the field of human capital management. Covering multiple business sectors and having a borderless remit, every day is different and challenging, as they happily align themselves with their clients KPI’s. Having run partner programs for 20 years, the challenges that the pandemic delivered was nothing new, and enabling organisations to be nimble and resilient for the future and preparing for the evolution of the marketplace is his daily focus. Your success is my success.

We discussed the most important driving factors for the countries offering these types of visas, the benefits to the employees seeking to use this option, as well as the implications and opportunities to employers enabling the usage of these initiatives.

Diana, who would be the ‘user persona’ for the digital nomad visa? Do they have to work in a specific sector? 

Diana Buzoianu: When I started drafting the law, I started speaking with legislators from around the European Union trying to figure out what are the main benefits. The thing that struck me the most was that they are a very diverse group of people and they come with a lot of different kinds of background. The common value for them, it’s that they value flexibility at work. They value the fact that they can actually add something extra to their extra curricular activity, let’s say because once you can work remotely I’ve met with a lot of activists I’ve met with a lot of influencers, promoters for different kinds of movements. 

They tell me that without working remotely, those missions that they find for outside working hours would not be possible unless they have this, that point that their life will not be possible would not be possible if they didn’t have this.

What triggers the implementation of such visas?

Diana Buzoianu: It’s the resources you get in your country. It’s almost always the money that you can digitally bring into your country. And the fact that most of those digital nomads will not actually go to the big cities, they will actually want to experience the gems of that country. 

The local communities will have most to win out of this. This kind of initiative also indirectly brings advantages to tourism. It’s just a moment while you advertise your country as a heaven for digital nomads. You always get even long staying tourists here in the country that you promoted this instrument for. So, it’s an added value that you can get if you market it well and if you use it well.

Matthew, did you ever have clients that maybe do hire specialists, for example in various countries without necessarily opening the branch there?

Matthew Hellrung: Yeah, I would say it’s a long term use. Is it going to be an individual employee in that country and that’s the only person that’s going to be there or are you going to set up operations, are you going to sell, are you going to bring the product to market? 

These are all considerations that we talk to our clients about when they’re looking to use these visas or finding specialists. In most cases, we see that our clients, which are primarily tech based and very evident in adopting digital practices, are looking for the best talent they can find anywhere. We recently found a top 50 World data scientists in Greece for what our clients and we will have the PEO routes assignment solution. Sometimes it will involve setting up an operation, but as I mentioned, that is usually a longer term play. That’s generally what we advise our clients on. 

You can probably get away with a nomad visa for a year or two, but if you’re really going to have any significant work or operations set up, the PEO solution is probably the best play in the short term with potentially graduating to an operating entity in the long term. And that’s what we’re counseling most of our clients on right now. The risk involved that process and using partners like Simon’s organization.

Tanya, let’s say you find a great specialist somewhere in New Zealand. Do you use this EOR set-up in those countries or do you get registered with a branch, or register the company for the purpose of social security and income tax. What is the model and route you are embracing?

Tanya Mariottini: I think it depends on what role they’re in. You know, marketing sales depends on whether we are planning to continue a business expansion like there is other great talent. We want to set up an entity. I think it’s one of those things where that has not one right answer. There are different ways to solve that but we are continuing to grow globally as an organization and in setting up new entities. I think you’ll see more and more companies move in that direction as well. Matthew said it really well. We follow exactly that process.

Simon, do you see any changes in using the EOR set-up compared to 3 years ago? Did the remote working trend change anything? Are there more companies choosing this option than before?

Simon Ward: The awareness of the EOR model has become more mainstream now. It wasn’t a choice before or perhaps he went down a route that probably wasn’t compliant, or had a few question marks over it. And now, because we were more of a litigious society, it’s made companies look at this a lot more closely now. And when they realize they can do something quick, compliant, and get up to speed and tick every single box that they need to bet they embrace what we do. And as we were touched on earlier, Matthew and Tanya, we provide a roadmap from setting first first steps into a country all the way up to setting your entity up and everything in between. But the most important thing about setting up in any country, as anyone will say on the column chart is the talent. And I mean access to that global talent and making it borderless is an incredible opportunity that lots of companies are embracing.

Tanya, the employer has legal obligations which involve costs. How did you accommodate these costs regarding compliance with employees working remotely?

Tanya Mariottini: So I think it’s just part of the cost of how we operate our business. I guess we just absorb those costs and we make the business aware. But I think back to the other comments that the panelists made, and we if you’ve got great talent, those costs are minimal, and they’re going to pay for themselves in the long run. I think it’s part of, again, the culture that we create as a company.

Matthew, what would be the main risks in case of integration or compliance from your perspective related to remote working, and if these risks are covering only the employer or also the individual and if you can just share with us a few examples?

Matthew Hellrung:

Sure. There is significant risk and being out of compliance for immigration purposes. The property of labor in the United States can come get you. You can pay attack wages, you can have your visas revoked, you can have your entire program put under the microscope after enough violations. Internationally, it depends country by country, certainly on the compliance requirements. And it’s sort of an individual issue, but I think the most common thing we see is individuals moving and not telling their employer that they’ve moved abroad or to another country. And having to sort of backtrack and figure out well, we’re already out of compliance right now.

What can we do to get back into compliance as quickly as possible? What can we do to establish good faith efforts to try to comply with the law given that the pandemic and work from anywhere is really taken over a lot of businesses and I think all of us on the compliance and HR legal are trying to catch up with either tools or processes or training or policies with organizations to try to prevent that. 

I wouldn’t expect over the next few years as more governments pass these laws. And there’s more resources available that clients would continue to be a priority as the pandemic subsides. So, right now, is there a great risk? I would say probably not for most of the visas, but in the next few years, for sure. In the US? Absolutely. There are definitely risks and being out of compliance. We try to keep most of our clients out of that situation. Despite our best efforts, it happens.

Simon, can you make a comparison between what employees wanted to receive three years ago and what they want now in terms of benefits? Did the pandemic change the paradigm? Would you say the nomads are the digital nomads, the gig workers with care for the same type of benefits or do they want something else?

Simon Ward: It seems to be on the table with every discussion and we’re lucky because we partner with most healthcare providers. If organizations have already got their own health care in place, we can implement that to their EMR contractors and expand overseas so when they make that transition, it’s much easier for them. But it was occasionally on the table. Now, it’s always on the table. And I think there’s hesitancy certainly with the COVID situation, because – Heaven forbid – any contraction or disease, or any new bearing that comes out. Could you send me complications, health wise, when you’re in a foreign country, and that’s exacerbated by being in a foreign territory, not an ephemeral family and friends around. It’s a worry, certainly. So they address it by making sure they’re covered. And that exportation clauses in there, so that they can be repatriated home, in the event of any serious complications with health.

Thank you Diana, Tanya, Simon and Matthew for your valuable contributions as speakers. We hope you enjoyed sharing your insights on our platform.

Thank you Worldwide ERC for partnering with us on this event.

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