When the Pandemic Leaves Expats No Choice but to Stay Put 

At best, it is a crisis situation that has defied precedence. At worst, it can be a nightmare that is hard to awaken from. In the frontlines of global mobility hiring, a manager could face a problem on both sides of the pond: Americans who cannot come home from abroad and expats who can’t leave the United States.

Both groups of expatriate talents are desperate to return to their native soil. But immigration policies, limited or suspended intercontinental flights, their own health status or even simply fear itself, bar them from doing so. 

Chances are they would be unloading their worries on their global mobility manager. The question facing everyone at this point is: if repatriation is impossible at this point in time, how can one quicken it?  In the meantime, how can everyone concerned make this unpleasant situation (to say the least) tolerable and less stressful?

The first order of the day is to make sure that the assignee is safe

Not only do they not have exposure to the coronavirus, but they are housed safely in functional, if not comfortable accommodations. Many of these living spaces had been rented by the assignees during their time in their adopted country.  

The global mobility manager must see to it that the rent has been paid for in order to guarantee a prolonged stay. If the lease has expired, because the assignee was scheduled to fly back to the U.S., then the manager must renew that contract and stretch it for as long as needed. If the property developer or owner cannot allow it for whatever reason, then suitable accommodations have to be found and the assignee relocated ASAP.

Arrange matters with the U.S. government/embassy in countries where the assignees are staying. 

If the assignee is a foreign national working in the U.S., then their embassy in this country must also be contacted immediately. As advised by The Daily Mail, the red tape might be long and cumbersome, but informing the concerned governments overseeing the assignee’s working arrangements is already half a battle won. The global mobility manager should have the ambassadors, American and foreign, on their speed dial.

Another VIP to have on standby is an immigrant lawyer, says Living Abroad

They must be experts not just in American immigration legalities but the rules and regulations of the foreign country that the assignee is a citizen of. If the employment status of the assignee changes or expires while trapped in a foreign country, the terms of his contract may have to be revised. 

Salaries, insurance policies, living conditions, and other benefits might have to be renegotiated. The impact of this expiration on the assignee’s visa would also have to be evaluated. You would need a sharp legal eagle who can help fly you over the mountainous hurdles of immigration policies, in order to land your assignee on secure repatriation ground.

Finally, as much as possible, make sure that your assignees are surrounded by family and friends. Foreign nationals who had been working in diversity-friendly cities in San Francisco, for example, could rely on a community of close-knit colleagues. 

As the global mobility manager, reach out to their American counterparts who are quarantined in Asia, Europe, or the Middle East. Ask them if they have trusted associates or even distant relatives living nearby.

Do call them daily just to assure them that you are still around and working on their situation. With stress and anxiety climbing high, your face and voice, thousands of miles away, might be the one bedrock of security that keeps them hanging on.