The Secret Diary of a Global Mobility Manager – it seemed all a little too easy

by Gina Tonic

Expat Academy The Secret Diary of a Global Mobility Manager - it seemed all a little too easy  Dear Diary,

One of our German based managers applied for a job in Chicago and was successful.  This was good news because the role in the US had been particularly hard to fill.  It was also good news because they were going to transfer to the local payroll and conditions, so from a global mobility angle it all felt quite straightforward.  Just a visa (we will skip past the minor misdemeanour that nearly scuppered the visa application), support with tax returns and some initial travelling costs to worry about.

Just all a little bit too easy?

Enter the partner and their line manager to spoil the day.

The partner of the employee who was moving, also worked for the company and their manager started to talk to the partner before talking to the Global Mobility team. (Cue eye rolling and silent inward groan upon discovery of this delight) The partner decided that it would be a really good idea if they moved to Chicago as well (I can see that this works for them) and that they could continue to do the job that they did in Germany from the US (I can see this works for the manager).

Unfortunately, as soon as they started to share their plan wider, some issues started to present themselves. This of course did not please the line manager who saw everything as a blocker to their cunning plan or, more to the point, they didn’t want to tell the partner that they had made promises they couldn’t keep!

It’s all in the detail

Issue 1.    The job was not one that it would be easy to get a US visa for, mainly because of the level of pay and seniority – but we hoped we might be able to achieve that.

Issue 2.  Even if we could get a visa, doing purely German based work in Chicago could make the company liable for US corporate tax.

The manager comes up with another ‘cunning’ plan that involves the partner doing significant US based work as well as the German work to get around issue 2. Great, but this produced Issue 3.

Issue 3.  The individual was not qualified to perform their role in the US.

Time to wave the magic Global Mobility wand.

What happened in the end you may ask?  Well, to cut a very long, painful and time sapping story short we did manage to get a visa. To work around the corporate tax issue we went with the solution to issue 2 and found a solution to issue 3 that involved someone qualified in the US being responsible for checking the US work.

Should we have done it? ….. probably not.  Was the employee so imperative the additional time and cost of supporting the partner was worth it? Only the business can answer that one, I have my theory on that! What should we do better in future?  Clearer comms to managers so they understand the implications of moving to the US, or at least they talking to Global Mobility first to check facts before talking to individuals – yeah right! Is that too much like wishful thinking?

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