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Immigration Challenges for Partners and Dependents Around the World

As companies become increasingly global, more employees are being asked to go on international assignments. While the hired employee may have authorization to work in the host country, their spouse/partner and dependents often face challenges in obtaining work permission themselves.

Julia Onslow-Cole (Fragomen) recently highlighted some of the key issues partners and dependents face in several major economies:

Ireland: Spouses/partners of critical skills employment permit holders can work, but those of inter-company transferees cannot — a standout exception in the EU. The Permits Foundation is advocating for equal work access.

United States: Spouses/partners of L (inter-company transfer) and E (treaty trader) visa holders can work, but those on certain other visa types like H-1Bs face long delays and restrictions in obtaining work authorization documents.

Singapore: Work permission is restricted to certain visa categories and further conditions apply, reflecting an increasingly restrictive approach according to the Permits Foundation.

China: No provision for dependents to obtain work authorization.

India: No access for dependents to work permissions, with restrictions even extending to voluntary work in some cases. Positive engagement but a complex decision-making environment.

South Africa: Surprisingly, no direct work access for partners of inter-company transfers or critical skills visa holders, despite ongoing discussions.

The inability of accompanying partners/spouses to work can be very detrimental to the overall success of an assignment. As Julia noted, the working partner has a ready-made support structure through their job, while the dependent partner can struggle without their own professional network and permitted activities.

With an increasing focus on dual-career couples, immigration requirements that enable entire familial units to build their lives in the host location are becoming critical to global talent mobility. The Permits Foundation and others are advocating for more progressive policies in this area.

You can access the complete discussion from The View From The Top here.

Michelle Curran
Created on 2-4-2024