Moving Out: Exploring Trends in International Relocation

Last year, corporate relocation activity returned to pre-pandemic levels—but it’s not quite the same as it was before, especially when it comes to international relocations.

Like so many aspects of business, things have changed. Costs. Laws. Logistics. Not to mention the employees themselves.

So, what’s different? What’s trending? And what does it mean for employers? Let’s take a closer look.


Relocations Costs Are Up       

Not surprisingly, relocation costs hit a record high in 2022 and are projected to keep rising. Nearly every component of the relocation process—labor, packing and shipping supplies, housing, transportation—is more expensive. Because inflation is a global problem, this holds true in most parts of the world.

As a result, employers are actively searching for ways to control relocation costs. Some are switching from fully-covered relocation policies to more affordable managed benefit plans. Others are transitioning from traditional relocation management companies to tech-based providers, which may cut costs by up to 66%.

Either way, employers are more mindful of relocation costs today. Fortunately, highly- effective cost-reduction strategies are available to those who seek them out.


The Housing Market Is Trickier

Although housing costs have fallen since last year in many markets, mortgage rates remain high. As a result, more relocating employees are choosing to rent rather than buy and/or sell.
Naturally, this has increased demand for short-term housing in many markets, resulting in limited inventory, higher costs, and longer house-hunting trips. While employers and relocation providers are striving to please employees, in particularly tight global real-estate markets, employees may need to compromise on their housing wish-lists. 


Immigration Assistance Is Essential

During the pandemic, a number of countries tightened their immigration rules—which weren’t exactly simple in the first place. Understandably, more employers and their employees are seeking help with immigration compliance from their relocation companies.

In particular, they seek clarity regarding the rules and processes of various host countries, help completing paperwork, and expert guidance regarding international taxes. Put it all together, and immigration-related support has become essential to keeping global moves on track.


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Global Relocations May Take L-o-n-g-e-r

Between labor shortages, transportation hurdles and low housing inventory, it is not surprising that some international relocations are taking more time to complete, whether the holdup is the shipment of household goods or delays in securing housing.

The good news is, some relocation providers have expanded their supplier networks in order to provide more resources and options. And as always, good communication is a must when it comes to managing expectations.


Destination Services Are a Must-Have 

  • These days, employees expect more from their employers. So, when employees accept international assignments, they do so with the expectation of acclimation support—aka, destination services. 

    Once considered a nice-to-have, destination services are now a prerequisite. These generally include:

    •    Cross-cultural training 
    •    Language training 
    •    Immigration assistance
    •    Personal orientations/guided tours
    •    Help navigating local neighborhoods, schools, transportation, etc.
    •    Spousal/partner assistance
    •    Settling-in services
    •    Repatriation services once the assignment is complete 

    This benefits employers, too. Because the more transitional support employees and their families receive, the more successful their global assignments are likely to be.


Employee Experience Trumps All

In the past, an employee’s decision to agree to a global relocation was often driven by financial compensation and/or the promise of career advancement.

But, not surprisingly, employee priorities have shifted since the pandemic. Now, employees often accept international assignments in order to broaden their life experience and/or enjoy a more harmonious work/life balance.

Case in point: in 2022, only 9% of Americans who moved abroad did so on behalf of an employer. Another 14% sought out new, foreign employers on their own. Still, others moved to a new country in pursuit of adventure or to enjoy a lower cost of living.

International relocation is rarely just about the job now—it’s about the life experience.  

In summary, international relocations are a bit more complex and costly these days. But employers have excellent business reasons for sponsoring them in this global economy, and employees have equally compelling personal reasons for seizing these opportunities.

By providing a smooth relocation experience—despite these new but manageable challenges—employers ensure that employees start their new adventures off right, wherever they are bound.

Human Resources Today