Stealth Expats Could Be a Risk to Your Company

Last Updated on March 2, 2023


Stealth expats are business travelers who overstays his or her welcome in a foreign country, living and working there in a state of noncompliance. Generally, stealth expats aren’t intentionally subverting the law in the country they’re in; they’re simply uninformed. Neither they, nor their department, knows that their entry and stay in that country is actually unlawful. And, chances are, HR was never made aware of their trip abroad.

Ignorance, however, is not a justification for the stealth expat problem, which could put the employee and employer at risk of noncompliance penalties.

Are you employing any stealth expats?

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What are the consequences of noncompliance?

The consequences of noncompliance vary, though recently immigration policies in many countries throughout the world have had a heavy nationalist lean. The result? They’re keeping a closer eye on travelers subverting the system and traveling within their borders unlawfully.

Penalties, therefore, range from a simple slap on the wrist (this is becoming less common) to more severe punishments that could risk business operations and hurt a company’s overall growth. The traveling employee could also be at risk of facing jail time if he or she is caught acting as a stealth expat, regardless of whether he or she was aware of the immigration laws beforehand. Your company could be in danger of fines or, perhaps worse, not being permitted to do business in that particular country or region – for a select period of time or indefinitely.

What can you do to avoid problems with stealth expats?

Often, a lack of awareness of a company’s immigration policies allows employees to slip through the cracks and inadvertently become noncompliant. HR can avoid this by developing (and sharing!) a thorough company-wide policy to keep internationally mobile employees compliant. Today, there are more employees moving in and out of countries around the world and more and more immigration laws to worry about. It’s critical to have a mobility plan that leadership and employees are aware of.

Then, there’s the big one: even if you have a handle on immigration laws in every country today, you probably won’t a year from now. Immigration policies are constantly changing, and if you’re not as up to date as possible, you could be at risk.

Check in with your mobile employees traveling internationally – are you employing any stealth expats? If so, take steps to immediately put compliance-first immigration practices in place in your company.

Need some more tips on how to stay compliant with a global, mobile workforce? Download our Best Practices for Talent Mobility and Global Immigration guide.