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Worldwide ERC Event Shines Spotlight on Singapore Global Mobility Issues

March 29, 2016 4:16:25 PM EDT | By: Michelle Dopps

The pursuit of continuing education in all areas of global mobility is a must for companies that are committed to developing policies and practices for clients that will make a positive impact on their program.  Our team attends as many educational events as we can and are happy to report what we learn back to you.

Worldwide ERC® convened its first one day summit in Singapore recently. The Singapore event was well attended with around 200 corporate and service provider mobility professionals participating. There were a number of panels and discussions full of valuable information, and we’ve highlighted our top takeaways below.

The sober outlook of the global economy is being felt in the area of global mobility

Singapore economy and global mobilityWith economic struggles across the board, there is more and more executive-level pressure to demonstrate ROI and contribution to both bottom-and top-line growth from assignments. This doesn’t mean things are coming to a screeching halt but are instead in a slowdown.  The general sentiment about the global economy appears to be somewhat negative, particularly in relation to China. However those actually closer to China feel that China is managing pretty well. All in all, there seems to be a lot more caution driven by concerns about the global economy and reflected in both business in general as well as mobility.

Read more about China mobility practices here.

Prolonged difficulty ahead for the Singapore economy

The Singapore economy in particular is deeply impacted by negative developments in the oil and gas industry. Singapore is home to the world’s two largest marine companies that also manufacture oil rigs. There may be more scrutiny on full international assignment packages in the area, and some companies are already introducing hiring freezes. Internal mobility teams in the oil/gas and finance industries have recently downsized.

Why you must pay close attention to immigration compliance

This is a cautionary tale shared by Christina Karl of BAL about a Singapore-based expatriate who went to Vietnam on a business trip without the requisite visa for conducting business there. ERC Singapore global mobility eventDenied entry to Vietnam, the employee returned to Singapore. The business opportunity which had driven the travel need collapsed, which was bad enough. Everyone involved thought this was the end of the matter, but it wasn’t.

When the time came for the expatriate to seek renewal of his Singapore employment pass, his application was denied by Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MoM). The reason for the refusal was that he had been denied entry to Vietnam. The solution included the acquisition of the correct Vietnam visa even though it wouldn’t be used by the expatriate. This was necessary to right the situation in Singapore with MoM.

The thorny issue of business travel

Business travel can be especially tricky when it comes to compliance as highlighted in this blog post. The ownership of business travel is still an issue in many companies. On top of that, tax authorities and immigration authorities are sharing data more often now, which makes it much less easy to flout regulations as may have been the case in the past.

While tax compliance is seen as mostly black-and-white, immigration compliance has many grey areas.  When you’re in breach on the tax side, you can pay the fine or penalty and move on; with immigration, you often can’t just pay your way out of it.

For companies who do not fully outsource their immigration program, conducting a regular internal audit is an important tactical tool. From time to time governments provide amnesties for non-compliant individuals and businesses to come forward and settle out-of-compliance situations for reduced fines or penalties. Companies have found success with policy directives that require anyone traveling to fill in an immigration assessment and submit for approval prior to travel. For those who fail to submit the assessment and obtain the necessary approval, their travel expenses are not reimbursed.

All of this great information came from the two main sessions led by Peggy Smith, president and CEO of Worldwide ERC®. Contributors to Global Thought Leaders: Senior Strategists Dialogue included Kamali Rajash (Head of HR ASEAN for Syngenta), Paul O’Malley (Director Total Rewards APAC & MEA for Franklin Templeton), Sean Collins (Managing Director Talent Mobility Asia) and Fermin Diez (Adjunct Professor, Singapore Management University). Contributors to Compliance in a Mobile World were Jacqueline Thornley-Farrerr (Regional Head of Mobility AsPAC for British American Tobacco), Christina Karl (Managing Director Asia for BAL) and Joanne Lee (Associate Director for Deloitte & Touche). Thanks to all for their valuable insights!

For more information on this event, visit http://www.worldwideerc.org/Singapore16/Pages/conference-home.aspx

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