5 Differences between Domestic and International Relocations

Perhaps your employer is expanding into global markets. Perhaps you’re expanding the reach of your talent searches. Either way, let’s assume that you have a strong national relocation program in place—and now you need to develop a global equivalent. 

So, you’re wondering: what are the key differences between domestic and international relocations? What should you consider as you tackle this new challenge?

Let’s start with some good news. Since you’ve already mastered domestic relocation, you’re halfway there. International relocations have more, ahem, moving parts, but you have a great base to build on. As you begin that process, here’s five key points to keep in mind.

International Relocations Are More Complex 

More paperwork. More regulations. Double the tax implications. International relocations present additional hurdles—and until you get on familiar terms, they may seem a bit daunting.

For example, you’ll want to offer incoming hires support in obtaining visas and wading through customs forms. You’ll want to provide a thorough tax briefing which includes the joys of tax gross-ups.  

No worries, though: you don’t need to become an expert—just learn the basics. Your relocation provider should provide these services, either directly or through a specialized partner. 

International Moves Require More Communication 

It goes without saying: all moves require great communication. But it’s more critical on the global scale, due to language differences, time zones, cultural norms, etc. From defining relocation benefits to booking vendors, it’s important to be specific—and to periodically confirm that you’re on the same wavelength. 

Partnering with a tech-based relocation provider can be beneficial here, because relocation software gives far-flung new hires 24/7 access to dynamic information about their move, allowing them to accomplish tasks digitally and monitor their spending in real time—anytime, anywhere.   

International Hires Need More Support

Moving is one of life’s top most stressful events. Now, make that a long-distance move to a foreign country, and that stress approaches lift-off. 

That’s why it’s important to provide international hires with support that goes beyond the logistics of housing and moving—i.e., that addresses the human element. “Culture shock” is a term we tend to use lightly, but for expats and their families, assimilating into a new culture is most likely the toughest challenge they’ll face. 

For many employers, the solution is to add a Destination Services benefit to their relocation policies—something your relocation provider can facilitate. Destination Services providers specialize in helping employees assimilate linguistically, culturally and practically—all which are essential to their success.    

Stay up to date

Subscribe to the blog for the latest updates

International Relocations Are More Expensive   

Not surprisingly, international relocations are more expensive than their domestic equivalents. After all, you’re paying for additional services and fees like those discussed above—visas, customs, destination services, etc. 

In addition, the cost of moving household goods thousands of miles by ocean or air freight is higher than ground transportation. Plus, you’re more likely to be paying for extended short-term housing—perhaps for the length of your employees’ stay, if it’s a temporary assignment. 

However, there are ways to limit your expenses, with help from your relocation company. A good relocation partner will suggest strategies to help you cut costs, without compromising the employee experience. And it won’t markup vendor invoices–an all-too-common industry practice that we vehemently steer clear of at UrbanBound.  

International Relocations Aren’t Over After the Move

With domestic relocations, you can close the file after the move is complete and the last invoice is processed. That’s not the case with most international moves. 

For one thing, the employee and his/her family may need continued support acclimating to the area—and ongoing assimilation services can make a critical difference in how much value that employee brings to the company. With so much invested, this isn’t the time to cut corners.

For another, if the assignment is temporary, you’ll be handling a reverse relocation once it’s completed. It will be easier the second time around, but it’s still a lengthier process.  

Comparing Domestic and International Relocations

So here you thought domestic relocations were complicated enough—and then, along comes international relocations and basically says ‘hold my beer.’ Admittedly, it’s trickier, but it’s also entirely doable.

If you have strong business reasons for hiring global employees, if your cost/benefit analysis confirms it’s the way to go, then of course you should move forward. Just make sure you have the full support of a relocation partner who is equipped to handle all the heavy lifting.    

Human Resources Today