Have you ever heard the terms “expat” or “repat”? When citizens of one country are sent to work in another country while retaining their citizenship, they are called “expatriates,” from the Latin terms ex (out of) and patria (country), but over time we have shortened it to “expats.” Repats are expats who return home after an international work assignment. Did you know there are approximately 7,600,000 American citizens working abroad as expats? There is a lot to consider before sending someone overseas to work in your operation or spearhead your global initiative, and it isn’t just a matter of the employee’s desire to strike a tourist location off of their bucket list. But what about bringing them back home once the expatriate assignment is completed? Once your employee has honored the terms of their contract and accommodated the organization’s global needs, it’s time to bring them home. But what’s the best way to bring them back into the fold so they don’t wind up feeling like an outsider? Or so they don’t start looking to go elsewhere? 

4 Tips for Welcoming Back Expats

Human resource professionals and business leaders may be forgetting some pretty basic steps that could make it a lot easier for expats to re-acclimate to the home office.

  1. Keep them informed. Although the world is huge, the Internet, cell phones, and technology allow us to stay in constant communication with one another, it’s not enough to give an expat employee VPN access and expect them to log on to see what’s new on the company’s Intranet. You need to keep them informed about all of your new initiatives, new products, new slogans, new missions, new office designs, and new internal technology. And you must familiarize them with new team members, especially if those team members will be working with them when they come back home. Keep them in the loop!
  2. Take care of their needs. Let’s face it, our employees have busy lives and we all know things can change in a heartbeat. It’s important to have conversations via telephone, Facetime, or video conference with expats to address any concerns, problems, or potential problems regarding their return. For instance, some employees may have sold their cars, apartments, or homes and now will need new ones. Maybe they were married when they went overseas but now things have changed or vice versa, meaning they were single and now they are married! Have conversations with expats to see where you could possibly help them adjust to living back home.
  3. Make sure they have meaningful work to do. This is probably the most important of them all. Maybe the employee will pick up where they left off, or maybe they won’t. You should definitely debrief expatriates to find out what they liked about working aboard and see if there are any projects that they would like to tackle now that they are back. As you already know, every employee is different; some may want light duty as they ramp up to life back home, others may want to work on a grander scale. That’s why the conversations are so critical, so you can devise a plan for them to have something to do.
  4. Do you want to keep expats with your organization? Consider this additional tip! While researching this subject, I found several sources that cited the number of expat American workers who renounce their citizenship, which is on the rise, mainly due to high tax fees and penalties.Within the first three months of 2015 alone, over 1,300 Americans have renounced their citizenship rights and more than 3,400 did in 2014. This number is predicted to continue to increase due to complicated tax laws and steep penalties for overseas workers. Incorrect tax filings can lead to higher penalties and even jail time. Expats who hire accountants to help them manage their taxes could pay thousands for this assistance. All of this is part of the U.S. Government’s plans to stop tax evaders. It has gotten so bad that some foreign banks won’t accept expats as customers. We are learning that employees, especially high performers, are looking for companies that take care of their outside needs as well as their professional needs. Taxes are a major concern for expats so you (the organization) should provide professional help to support them with filing complicated I.R.S. documents.

So, what do you think? We would like to hear from you. What has been your experiences working with expats? Have you ever worked abroad?

Chris Fields

Chris Fields is an HR professional and expert resume writer with more than 13 years of experience as a former practitioner and current HR consultant. He is the curator of two websites: CostofWork.com and ResumeCrusade.com , and contributes HR-focused content to many others, including PerformanceICreate.com and SmartRecruiters.com . He has been listed by the Huffington Post as one of the “Top 100 Most Social Human Resources Experts to Follow on Twitter”, one of the “Top 40 under 40” by the HR Blogger Network, one of the “25 Must-Read HR Blogs in 2013”, and also featured on Oprah.com. He is very active with the Society of Human Resource Management, working closely with conference directors, communication chairs, and social media teams from Illinois, Oklahoma, and Tennessee to develop social strategies to engage attendees and enhance their conference experience. Chris earned his master’s degree in Labor and Human Resources from Ohio State University. In 2005, he moved back to his hometown of Memphis, TN, where he has developed a reputation for helping his clients create HR strategies, and individuals master the tough economic challenges of the South.

3 Comments

  • Avatar Avery W. says:

    We have a great number of expats and too little focus on them. Communication should be about life as well, not just work. The changes that happen in both areas can influence their future performance in the company. With very little effort, you can have an expat come back as a happy repat. 

  • Avatar Leah S. says:

    Giving up on citizenship because of tax matters is a serious matter, especially when it comes to expats. I agree that companies should ensure the technical support in filing taxes for these employees, as well as support when coming home, considering every change in their life and work experience. 

  • Avatar Harper R. says:

    Being away for a long period of time as an expat is mostly a pleasant experience, but it can turn ugly upon return if you are not integrated properly into the workforce or left to deal on your own with financial situations you didn’t sign up for. Maybe expats should include tax filing consultancy as a part of their contracts. 

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