Tips for issuing work permits and visa
A work permit is a legal and formal permit from the authorities to stay and work in the destination country. Obtaining a permit is a necessary stage in planning and implementation of the relocation. Issuing a work visa will determine whether the employee can go on a mission or not.
An Israeli company turned to us for help issuing a work visa to a European country for a senior executive recently hired. This is an ordinary everyday matter. However, as it turned out, the employee and his family were in an advanced stage of preparing to move overseas. The employee’s wife had resigned from her job, the children had said goodbye to their friends and even held a farewell party, their home contents were sent and were expected to reach their destination within a few weeks. But the work visa was denied …
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. We were able to help that company and its employee and issued the visa on time. You can imagine what would have happened if we could not get a work permit for him..
Issuing permits and visa involves bureaucratic processes which are naturally in contrast to flexibility, creativity, impatience and shortcuts (all of which we, as Israelis, take pride in )
We will try to cover a number of rules to be considered in getting a work visa anywhere in the world. Of course, such a list is general but the principles can be applied in every country and every site.
A business trip or a work trip
Many companies send employees on short business trips. The line that separates a business trip from a work trip (which requires a work permit) is not always clear. In most countries the “routine work” test is the standard criterion that distinguishes between a business trip and work: does the employee fit into the routine of local operations? Does he participate in routine staff meetings? Does he sign the travel reports of local workers? Does he perform tasks overlapping those of a local employee?
Obviously that is a gray area with no definitive answers. Nevertheless, in most cases whether it’s a business trip or work can be determined by using common sense.
An immigration officer or an immigration clerk usually makes the distinction between the two. Once such a distinction is made it would be difficult to change the decree, even if you have contacts in very high places. In most cases it is too late …
Here are some points of reference that can be used in determining the distinction between a business trip and work:
Time – How long the employee stays in the country. Short visits are better than long visits. Visits with long intervals between them are better than frequent visits.
Nature of the trip – whether an employee holds meetings, undergoes training or works in the company’s facility
Type of trip – whether the employee travels frequently and meets with clients and investors or comes to the office or factory in the morning and stays there until the evening.
External signs – is there a dedicated room / desk for the employee? Is there a dedicated phone line for the worker? Does his name appear in the organizational structure of the local organization? Is he a member of the local union?
Housing – Is the employee residing in a hotel or in an apartment?
You should start the process as soon as possible (usually four to five months before the actual date of transition). It is usually not possible to expedite or shorten permit processes and you cannot ask for “favors” to save time.
Proper preparation will allow you to explore the possibilities and choose the most appropriate visa type for the company, the employee and his family, and will, in addition, give you time to collect the required documents for the specific visa.
Visa processes vary from country to country according to immigration laws in practice but the process can be divided into several phases:
- Gathering information and documents to support the request (one to two months)
- Submitting a work permit application (two weeks to three months)
- Visa issuing (one to three weeks)
- Additional processes: resident card, local national insurance registration, etc. (usually done on arrival at the destination country)
The visa issuance process is a long process spanning several weeks to several months. Immigration laws in any country can be complex and complicated and usually are not fully known to the manager or employee. The actual process involves a number of factors, not all of which are outside the control of you, as the manager, or the employee. The process involves work and coordination with several entities: the parent organization, managers, human resources, the acquiring company or the company in charge of the process, the authorities of the country – sometimes necessary in contact with several agencies and consulates in the process, consultants and suppliers.
In addition, specific questions always arise regarding the process and can influence it – Is it possible to go on a business trip in the process, can cargo be sent to the destination before obtaining the visa and more.
The process requires attention to detail, precision, patience and followup.
Communication, then, is the basis for success of the process and for preventing breakdowns and emergency situations. Good communication enable the prevention and handling of problems before they arise.
In many cases the process gets bogged down or the visa is refused and there is tremendous pressure on the human resources and employee. Project success often depends on a specific employee who cannot enter the country or can not extend his stay. In such situations the company is ready to employ many resources to enable the project to move forward. Typically, these situations can be avoided with proper planning and attention to detail.
Preparing the application
This is the stage when the manager (usually the HR Manager) can monitor progress, identify problems and solve them in a timely manner.
The necessary documents and information come from three sources. The sending company, the acquiring company and the employee and his family. It is very important to review all relevant data to the application at this stage, when changes can still be made at a relatively low cost (financial, organizational, and individual). If, for example, it turns out that a diploma is required and the employee cannot present it, it is possible to try a different category visa or try to locate another employee who can perform the job and meet the visa requirements.
The visa issuing process has a clear timeframe based on the evaluation, experience and work procedures at the relevant government offices in the destination country. This timeframe should be taken into consideration and the employee’s travel plans and the project schedules should be based on these timetables. You cannot shorten the processes and they are inflexible. The long way is usually the shortest way.
Approval of employment
In general, an employee should not be hired without a valid work permit. If there are constraints that require the employee to travel to the destination country before obtaining a work visa, it is important to define the trip as a business trip and to brief the employee accordingly.
The employee can visit the destination country (not all destinations) before receiving approval. You should try to reduce these visits as much as possible and make sure the employee travels without his family and with a return ticket.
After completing the visa issuance process, it’s a good idea to plan the extension of the visa before it expires (in most countries, at least three months before the expiration date).There are countries where a visa is for a year or less. You should check the rules applicable to extension. If you need to present papers and other documents, you should know this in advance and avoid a case where the lack of a document will require the employee to leave the country before completing his mission.
We have tried to inform you of some issues involved in immigration law and visas. We hope that the article was able to help and guide you in controlling and managing the visa issuance process.
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