Virginia, US
Family is complicated, isn’t it? And when dealing with matters of immigration and moving abroad, having a family, or even just a spouse or a partner can make already complicated matters so much more so. The issues that arise when it comes to family members range from the whether a spouse may be allowed to work, timing with schools, to whether the laws of the host country will even allow the family set-up. Add the emotion and stress of an international move to the legal and procedural hurdles, and the mix may be highly volatile.
Some of the most common immigration questions around dependents include:
  • Can my spouse work? Many countries around the world allow the spouse of a work permit holder to seek independent employment of their own. More countries do not.  If the spouse is accustomed to working, or if the family’s finances depend upon the spouse normally working, this issue alone could prove the end of consideration for the assignment or move.
  • Is my spouse legally considered my spouse? Many countries in the world will only allow legally married, opposite-sex couples to immigrate together. Civil partnerships will often not be deemed “marriages” for purposes of immigration, and moreover, same-sex couples continue to face legal discrimination in many parts of the world.
  • Can my 21-year-old child come with me? Some countries will consider a 21-year old child to be a dependent able to accompany a work permit holder, but others will consider that same child to be an adult who must seek his or her own immigration permission separate from their parents.
  • Will the work permit be ready in time for the school term start date?  In many countries, it is nearly impossible to predict the exact timing of when permits will be issued with much accuracy. Although we can always provide general timeframes, any number of hurdles can block the way to a smooth approval (e.g. lack of government staffing, change in government, additional document/information requests, etc).
  • Can the family be accompanied by our nanny? This issue has particularly arisen in my career when there is a widowed mother or father who has been asked to go on assignment and the children are accustomed to a nanny that has been with them from a young age.  Many countries, however, make it very hard if not impossible to sponsor foreign nannies.
  • Will my family be able to move at the same time as me?  This is a question that so often does not get asked by assignees because the answer is assumed to be yes. However, there are a few countries in the world where the employee must arrive first before the family can join. This, as one might imagine, can cause quite a bit of stress in the family that must temporarily separate from each other.
These are really just a few of the most common questions that arise. In many situations, there are alternate solutions that can be found. The key to successfully navigating family matters is transparent communication about the full picture including the needs and expectations of the family as part of the move. We also do well to remember that the rules in one country are almost certainly not going to be the same as the next country. Very often, we and our clients may be so focused on securing timely approval of an employee’s work permit that the family matters are considered secondary. However, when it comes down to how an employee feels about the move experience --- whether they want to ever take an assignment again --- it is often the family experience that matters most.