Mobility Trends and Immigration Compliance Issues


Businesses with global operations are using and adapting different types of mobility to deploy and develop talent, and to tap into global talent pools. But current mobility trends are creating greater compliance issues from an immigration point of view.

  • Talent swaps 

One of the fastest emerging modern mobility trends is the talent swap, where employees from different countries switch places for a fixed period of time.

Talent swaps are being used increasingly by businesses as part of their talent attraction strategy. There is particularly strong appeal among millennials who in general are showing appetite for experiencing work in a different culture.

Talent swaps are also being used to develop future leadership talent. They provide opportunity for high potential talent to forge strong senior-level relationships across the organisation’s footprint, and to improve the global perspective of management, which is essential for successful global operations.

Your ability to effect a compliant talent swap will hinge on the success of the individuals concerned each obtaining the relevant entry and right to work permissions for a concurrent period. This essentially doubles the workload. You need to ensure you account for this in your budget and timelines by building in contingencies that will enable effective execution of the swap.

Regular contact with both individuals and their respective sites will help minimise any potential for delays or complications with immigration compliance.

  • Short term-assignments

The number of short-term, overseas assignments is also on the increase as a mobility trend. Typically lasting up to 12 months, businesses are using these assignments for similar purposes to talent swaps – to develop high potential talent and to attract new talent, particularly at graduate/entry level. Short-term assignments are also becoming more common as the baby boomer generation exits the market, with their preference for longer-term overseas assignments and expectations of sizeable relocation packages.

For assignments of shorter periods, it’s important to ensure clarity for all parties – both internal to the organisation and the relevant authorities – of the nature of the stay, and what the assignment will substantively entail. It’s a common area of challenge among many authorities to query right to work applications based on the purpose of the stay, and nature of the work that will be involved. This can be avoided if the right discussions have already taken place within your organisation prior to application.

  • Recruiting non-European talent

One of the key modern mobility trends for UK employers remains recruitment of overseas talent. Ascertaining the availability and location of global talent, and matching this to an employers’ need for skills and labour, is a complex process. As are the subsequent stages of making the move happen, whether to a UK location or to a different overseas base.

It’s essential to stay up to date with changes in local immigration rules if you are actively recruiting from outside the EU. Failure to adhere to current legal interpretations regarding the migration of workers can be detrimental, resulting for example in application delays, penalties or losing talent to competitors.

With governments across the globe focusing more resources than ever on managing immigration, both to protect their domestic labour markets and combat illegal working, we’re seeing data sharing and collaboration among authorities from different countries become commonplace. Businesses have to satisfy these stringent requirements to be compliant and avoid operational and reputational difficulties.

The big unknown in this category is of course the Brexit vote and its implications for employers of EEA workers. An ‘out’ vote is likely to open up this category to include European citizens as well. Though migration restrictions are unlikely to be applied on a retrospective basis, organisations will have to reassess their recruitment and right to work processes and systems to ensure compliance with any new rules.

  • Increasing activity in emerging markets

Since the economic downturn, organisations have been looking more and more to developing countries for opportunities to grow revenue and reduce costs. This is resulting in a modern mobility trend of assignments to growth markets such as India, Brazil and China.

Assignments to these areas pose enhanced challenges for UK employers. Immigration compliance complexities arise when dealing with foreign immigration rules which organisations may not be familiar with. This makes applications more resource-intensive than those concerning developed countries, which you will have to factor into your workflow.

Issues can also arise where families and dependants are involved, depending on the culture of the host nation. A cautious and measured approach is essential, ensuring you are applying a correct interpretation of rules and that you have all relevant information about the applicant and any dependants ahead of making the application.

  • International business travellers

Also on the increase as a modern mobility trend is the number of international business travellers. Systematic recording of this type of activity is essential to ensure broader, related issues such as immigration and tax are managed proactively, not least to avoid financial and reputational repercussions of non-compliance. For a more detailed examination of this cohort, see our article on managing the compliance risks of your travelling employees.

If you have any queries about global mobility and immigration compliance, please contact us.


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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