Virginia, US

I have just returned home to London from back-to-back trips to the United States. The first trip was work related and the second was a visit to see family.  During both trips, I was struck again at how inward-facing much of the thinking is in the U.S. The news, of course, is dominated by the U.S. elections and even world events are viewed through the prism of the U.S. elections.  With work and more related to the purpose of this blog, the focus was understandably very much on U.S. immigration. When discussions turned to “global” immigration, there was often wonderment about what this involved and how it was different from U.S. immigration. The answer is that while every country has a different immigration system, laws, and terminology, there some important commonalities. It starts with the question of “What is immigration law?”

When we talk about immigration law, we are normally talking about three entitlements that would be granted by the host country to the foreign national. Specifically, we would be talking about rights to work, to reside, and to travel into and out of the country. Related subjects around tax, shipment of goods, social security and other areas of law encountered by people moving between countries would not be included.

Right to Work

The right to work in a host country is usually given in the form of a “work permit” or “employment pass” but may also be bundled up with other rights in a separate document or a combination of documents. For example, in some countries the right to work is not granted until there is both a work permit and a residence permit granted, or alternatively a visa, or all three. In each country, it is vital to understand what document or combination of documents grant the right to work.

Right to Reside

The right to reside, or to live in a country, is often adjudicated as a separate issue from the right to work. In other words, the granting of work permit approval does not necessarily mean that the individual foreign national has a right to remain in the country. As such, it is often the case that an individual cannot begin his or her assignment in the host country until both the work permit and residence permit has been granted. In other countries, the assignment may begin before the residence permit is secured so long as it is applied for within a suitable period of time.  In still other countries, the right to work and reside may be granted in one single document.

Right to Travel (Entry & Exit)

In addition to the in-country rights of working and residing, there is a separate right involving the ability to travel into and out of a country.  Normally, this right is granted through the issuance of a visa (unless the requirement for a visa is “waived” for certain nationalities). In most countries, a visa can be used to travel both into and out of a country. In other countries, a separate exit visa must be obtained which is distinct from the entry visa.  Visas may be for different travel purposes, including business, work, or tourism, among others. Each country will have specific rules on visa types and application procedures.

To give my fellow citizens in the United States  a sense of these rights in U.S. immigration terminology, the right to work would normally be granted in most cases through an I-797 petition approval, the right to remain/reside through the CBP arrival record (I-94), and the right to travel for a particular purpose through the visa stamp.  In other countries, this combination might be a work permit, residence permit, and visa, or an employment pass and visa, or a combined work/residence permit. The terminology and documentation required may differ but the rights granted will be consistent with the purpose of the visit, assignment or move to the new country no matter where in the world that may be.

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