5 Types of Global Assignments: What’s Best for Your Company?

Last Updated on November 1, 2023

Employers and employees have many reasons for sending employees and other talent on different types of global assignments worldwide. Sometimes, companies need to relocate their employees temporarily for a short-term finite assignment. In other scenarios, they must send talent abroad to work for a more extended assignment to facilitate a business objective successfully.

No matter the type of, or reason for, an international assignment, they are essential in global mobility programs and allow for avenues to ensure international organizations’ success. 

What are Global Assignments?

Global assignments require an employee to relocate internationally and undertake work in a destination country for a specified time. Global assignments can vary in duration, often differentiated by being classified as either short-term or long-term.  

Types of Global Assignments

HR professionals may wonder, “What is an example of a global assignment our company can utilize for the needs that arise in our industry?” Companies have various options for assignments when devising an optimal global mobility strategy.

Employers can leverage multiple forms of global assignments to meet their needs and maximize their ROI by choosing impactful yet cost-effective assignments based on assignment length, location and ultimate business need.

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Short-Term Assignment

A short-term international assignment usually lasts for a year or less. Employers generally have a specific goal for the employees they send on short-term assignments, such as facilitating training, completing a particular project, or temporarily filling a vacancy.

Many short-term assignments are single-status, whereby only the employee travels, and dependents do not join for the time abroad. Companies may also make use of short-term assignment options when trying to reduce the cost of conducting work abroad despite a need to have talent present on location abroad.

Long-Term Assignment

Companies also often leverage long-term work assignments for a variety of reasons. Employers often contemplate long-term assignments to last one to three years. However, it is commonplace for employers to extend assignments due to continuing business needs, the preference of the employee, or a variety of other reasons. Many companies contemplate a maximum assignment length of five years, primarily due to cost.  A stay of up to five years is still often considered temporary. Still, assignments longer than five years are more likely to be seen as permanent.

Employers typically send their employees on long-term international assignments for strategic reasons such as expanding the business into new markets, opening new offices, developing talent and establishing teams of global leaders.

Since long-term assignments last an extended period, employers have more factors to consider for long-term assignments than those classified as short-term. One key consideration is that employees on long-term assignments will likely need to find housing, which may include renting or buying a house.  Another is the tax component, as there are likely to be more significant tax implications where there is an extended stay in a given destination.

Employees with families are more likely to bring their dependents along on longer assignments, which means their family members may also need to find work or education options. You’ll also want to consider transportation and healthcare needs and tax obligations.

Business Travel  

Business travel resembles a short-term work assignment because employees don’t stay at the destination for an extended period. The main differentiator is the type of activities undertaken during business travel are much less associated with what’s classified as work and are, instead, typically limited to hands-off activities and business meetings.   

In many instances, employees stay in a foreign country for just a few days. However, business travel trips can last multiple weeks in some scenarios. Employees may also travel for business between several countries, creating added considerations employers should consider to ensure compliance.  

Remote Work Visas 

Remote work visas are available in many countries around the world. Some countries introduced remote work visas during the COVID-19 pandemic to stimulate their economies and encourage companies with remote work policies to send their talent there without formally relocating.

Remote work visas quickly gained traction, and governments continue to establish similar types of statuses. They are an increasingly popular option for companies that allow employees to work from anywhere on a remote basis.

The application cost per visa varies from country to country, as does the visa’s duration. Some countries will extend the validity of temporary remote work visas, while others contemplate only a finite period of stay for visa holders. Countries often have requirements for proof of income as part of these types of visa requests and also may have provisions for bringing dependents that potential applicants should consider.

Commuter Assignments 

Commuter assignments differ from long-term and short-term assignments because employees regularly commute from their home country to the destination jurisdiction.

While companies use short-term and long-term global assignments worldwide, commuter assignments are typically regional because employees cross neighboring borders. Commuter assignments can be good alternatives for employees who need to work in another country but prefer not to relocate entirely for personal reasons.

What Types of Global Assignments Should Companies Leverage?

HR professionals often ask, “What are the different types of global assignments we can use?”.

Businesses have different reasons for needing to send talent abroad for work assignments. Therefore, employers should carefully consider what they are trying to achieve when deciding what type of global mobility strategy to implement.

Along with the duration of the assignment, employers should consider the employee’s circumstances – are they hesitant to leave family behind, or do they have other obligations that would impact the length of the assignment? Cost is another critical consideration for employers when deciding on a global mobility strategy and will be a decision driver for most programs.

No matter how long employees stay in another country, employers must use various services to ensure a smooth transition. A global immigration services provider such as Envoy Global can partner with your organization to decide on the proper assignment strategy for the company and employee and support the acquisition of the necessary immigration status to allow for a compliant work engagement in the destination country.

Envoy offers valuable services to educate employers on all global assignment types and to advise on the assignment strategy that will best ensure success for your organization. Every company’s HR team partners with a Global Account Manager to create a successful and sustainable global mobility program, including guidance on best practices for leveraging global assignments.

With so many moving parts to global mobility, HR managers can rest assured that working with Envoy’s experienced team helps make relocating talent worldwide a seamless and efficient experience.

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