Going global: Deploying creative talent across borders

As opportunities in non-US markets continue to grow, architecture and design firms find themselves increasingly stretched to deliver for clients farther and faster than ever before. Entering new markets to find and support clients may require the deployment of your “best and brightest” to an extent that you, and they, may be unfamiliar. How can your firm not only meet this need but leverage it as a growth opportunity?

In the second of a two-part series, Andrew Caruso, AIA, explores the challenges of deploying US-based talent to new markets with Lisa Ryan, partner at immigration and mobility advisory firm Fragomen Worldwide.

What are some of the key considerations when sending US passport holders on international assignments?

Lisa Ryan: Challenges related to sending US passport holders on international assignments largely depend on three criteria: where they’re being sent, for how long, and what they’ll be doing. Generally, one of the issues to be addressed is whether there will be a sponsoring entity in the receiving country and, if so, who the sponsor will be. For architecture firms who have an office in the overseas destination, that may be easy to address; an intracompany transfer may be a straightforward solution. In many instances, however, the firm will not have an office in the destination and other alternatives will need to be pursued, including whether having the client serve as the sponsor is a viable option.

Time is another critical factor, as timelines for securing work authorization vary widely. Some countries welcome foreign talent and have fairly liberal work permit processes. Others, particularly those with high unemployment rates, can be more restrictive and have more onerous criteria or longer processing times. Burdensome requirements may exist for both corporate and individual documentation. For example, many countries throughout Asia Pacific and Latin America may require documentation to be legalized or apostilled to establish their authenticity, which can add a significant amount of time to the process.

Many firms focus on getting talent to a target destination, but are there also important regulatory considerations to anticipate for the expatriate’s return?

Ryan: In terms of US citizens returning home after conclusion of the assignment, the most important thing to remember is that some countries have very strict exit requirements that can bear significant penalties if not followed, including to the employer. As a firm looks to conclude an assignment abroad, it will be important to know whether such procedures are required in that country and, if so, in what timeframe.

Given the complexity and diversity of immigration requirements—and how frequently they may change—can any firm benefit from the support of an immigration firm, even if they have previous experience with global mobility?

Ryan: Having the right strategic partner is critical to an architecture firm’s ability to get their key staff where they need them, when they need them. While it is important for a firm’s immigration services provider to be an expert in the nuances of a particular country’s work permit categories, a true strategic partner needs to be able to understand the goals and objectives of the architecture firm more broadly. They also must understand what that translates into in terms of agility in the structure of the immigration program, the level of support required for employees undergoing an immigration process, visa readiness of the firm’s employees, and transparency.

For example, the success of a project bid may depend on the firm’s ability to get their staff quickly into place. To help the firm best position itself for those instances, a strategic partner could assist in identifying “visa ready” staff, or in helping staff who are frequently deployed ensure they have the documentation required for work permit processes readily available and current at all times.

In the first part of this series, Caruso and Ryan explore the challenges of recruiting and retaining a globally sourced creative workforce.

Lisa Ryan has practiced exclusively in the field of corporate immigration and nationality law since 1994. She currently manages West Coast global operations for Fragomen, providing guidance on global initiatives, the development and implementation of global, regional or country-by-country immigration programs for clients, and immigration best practices.

Andrew Caruso, AIA, is an architect and international development economist. As a member of the AIA International Practice Committee Advisory Group and former AIA national board member, he is passionate about helping AIA members engage in issues of global practice and development. He is currently Director of Strategy & Operations for Urban Solutions at Hatch, consulting for private and public-sector clients facing rapid urbanization in emerging markets.

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