Winter 2020 Relocation Newsletter
In most family relocations, school-aged children can rely on a good deal of support from their new school. The administration and teachers may be...
Winter 2020 Relocation Newsletter
Welcome to our Winter newsletter, bringing you articles, news and updates from the world
of international relocation and education.
Looking Back - and Forward
By Erin Fitzgerald, GMS - Content Manager at Living Abroad LLC
Looking Back - and Forward
The global pandemic resulting from COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus, has had profound effects on all of our lives, and some of them are likely to endure beyond the pandemic. However, many of the policies and practices that were established this year may eventually be regarded as positive changes. Here are just some of the areas of global mobility that saw upheaval in 2020, and will continue to require close attention in 2021:
Immigration and Compliance
When COVID-19 emerged as a global health concern, relatively little was known about the virus’s transmission methods, incubation periods, and even many of the symptoms exhibited by those infected with it. In efforts to contain the spread, governments around the world struggled to quickly adjust entry requirements -- mandating lengthy quarantines, or barring travelers from other countries entirely. As a result, many globally mobile employees found themselves in unforeseen circumstances: under pressure to return home quickly, “stuck” in place for periods of time they hadn’t previously anticipated, having to quickly find suitable facilities for quarantine, and other last-minute mobility quandaries.
As the world has gained a more comprehensive understanding of COVID-19, entry requirements have continued to evolve. Local surges in infection rates -- in both home and host countries -- can still dictate rapid changes. As vaccinations against the virus become much more widely available in 2021, vaccination status is very likely to strongly influence one’s ability to travel and work internationally. It will remain of utmost importance to keep up to date with restrictions and requirements, and to consult with expert sources. This will, in turn, reduce the potential for failure before an international assignment even begins.
Sometimes regarded as an assignment phase that deserves more attention, repatriation services came into sharp focus in 2020. Transferees were compelled to return to their home countries on an accelerated or unexpected schedule. This often meant that related tasks, such as household goods movement, occurred much later. In addition, repatriating transferees were sometimes returning to places that, due to impacts of the pandemic, had changed considerably themselves. While repatriation has become less urgent in recent months, the importance of comprehensive repatriation planning for a variety of scenarios is not likely to diminish. This will ultimately leave transferees more prepared for the unexpected.
While the concept of working outside the office has always been a part of corporate life, many more organizations and even entire industries have now been introduced to it as a necessity. These changes have bolstered flexibility for employees and customers, and resulted in improved overall productivity. Working remotely has also been championed as more environmentally friendly.
This phenomenon affects global mobility in many ways. Tax compliance issues can change significantly when an employee is working in a non-corporate location. When evaluating housing options in a new destination, transferees now consider new questions. Do fewer commutes to a workplace change the parameters for an ideal housing location and transportation needs? Does a home have adequate resources for remote work, such as a separate desk/office area, or high speed/high volume Internet access? Do lease agreements or details need to be adjusted?
Even as the public health crisis abates and many return to doing business face-to-face, experts anticipate that the shared experience of 2020 will permanently hybridize many work environments into partly on-site, and partly remote -- turning what are sometimes new considerations for transferees into conventional ones.
Safety in Groups
Establishing, building and maintaining relationships, always crucial to assignment success, have been profoundly reshaped by the effects of the pandemic. Many communication tools have emerged, or have developed stronger presences in daily life. Professional and volunteer organizations, special interest groups, schools, and religious communities have had to evaluate how best to carry on without close in-person contact. The solutions and connections have varied considerably, as have their successes. As the coming months and years bring a return to in-person group gatherings, it is likely that the precautions we take now -- such as livestreaming, PPE and sanitization practices -- will support the inclusion of those who faced related health concerns prior to the pandemic.
Cultural agility has always been a key component to doing business globally, and this remains true, whether one’s counterparts and colleagues are six meters or six thousand kilometers away. Now, more than ever, it is important to be aware of how cross-cultural norms and practices can influence the use of email, social media, and video conferencing. How do differences in time zones and national observances come into play? What elements are important for clear and persuasive presentations? What types of personal information are appropriate to share? How are concepts of time influenced by various circumstances? Obtaining answers to these questions in advance can help businesspeople navigate new relationships regardless of their physical location.
2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic brought a great deal that was chaotic, upsetting, and stressful. Fortunately, there are signs that relief from some of the related hardships is on its way in the new year. It is important, however, to appraise the changes and adjustments that this time of crisis brought, and consider how best to take advantage of them in the future, for the future.
How do I choose the Remote Work location that’s best for me?
Fred Schlomann, Managing Director of AIRINC Asia- Pacific
THE RISE OF REMOTE WORK AND WORKPLACE DIGITALIZATION
COVID-19 has propelled the digitalization of the workplace and the rise of remote work. Capitalizing on the appeal of its advanced infrastructure and digital connectivity, Dubai recently launched a new visa programme to encourage overseas remote working professionals (and their families) to relocate to Dubai, while continuing to work remotely for their overseas employers.
The new remote worker scheme stipulates certain eligibility requirements around income and health insurance coverage, but those who qualify for the visa are eligible for Dubai’s no-tax regime. Even more recently, Cayman Islands has announced it will soon be offering a 24-month visa for remote workers.
While there are substantial eligibility requirements on earnings (USD 100,000 per year for single employees, up to USD 180,000 for a family), the program does waive income taxes for the visa eligibility period. These developments follow similar moves by other countries eager to attract remote workers, like the 12-months Barbados Welcome Stamp.
Assessing the best locations for Remote Worker Visas
With the addition of Iceland (announced Nov 2020), there are now 17 locations that offer visa programs targeting digital nomads and remote workers, including Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Czech Republic, Dubai U.A.E., Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, Mauritius, Mexico, Portugal, and Spain.
The goal of all these visa programmes is to attract foreign talent to work and contribute to the local economy. Waiving local income taxes is commonly offered by many of these remote worker visa programmes as an incentive to attract applicants to the programme.
With a growing list of countries offering remote work visas, how do you begin to assess the available options? For some, lifestyle is most important (particularly if money isn’t an issue). For others, financial well-being is at the top of the list.
Using our Global 150 city ranking database, we took a closer look at some of the countries offering remote work visas to see how they stack up:
Please note: The Cost-of-Living ranking ranges from 1% to 100%, with 100% being the most expensive cost-of-living. All information based on AIRINC's Global 150.
Which countries offer the best quality lifestyle for remote work?
If the quality of your lifestyle is your main goal, don’t pack your bags for those Caribbean islands yet!
AIRINC’s Global 150 rankings offer a surprising, perhaps controversial, view on which of the countries offering remote work visas offer the best lifestyle:
While scenic landscapes and pristine beaches can provide great memories and Instagram moments, the reality is that a good quality lifestyle over the longer-term depends on fast, reliable digital connectivity and good infrastructure (including environmental management), as well convenient access to quality health care, education, housing, and goods & services.
Looking at our report, Zurich in Switzerland comes first for overall attractiveness, second for Lifestyle and third for Financial. In fact European cities make the top three for lifestyle with Prague topping the list and Vienna third. The Caribbean locations, however, score at the tail end of our remote work location lifestyle rankings starting in the late 60's onwards.
Interestingly Bahrain tops the list of our Financial ranking but a disappointing 100 on the lifestyle rank. The Cayman Islands unsurprisingly comes second and Zurich ranked third.
Choosing the best location is ultimately a subjective exercise. But if you are seriously considering applying for a remote work visa in these or other locations, evaluating the financial and lifestyle impact is a first step to making the right choice!
ACS International Schools News
What's happening here at ACS?
ACS Partnerships Director receives MBE
Graeme Lawrie, ACS International Schools' Partnerships Director has been awarded an MBE for his ‘services to education’ as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2020.
Graeme has spent over two decades working in education and is passionate about supporting quality education, social mobility and increased social capacity via education. Through his various roles in the sector, Graeme has worked with hundreds of schools, refugee camps and other charities to create and provide opportunities to those in less fortunate circumstances. Graeme joined the ACS executive team in January 2019 and has since been working hard to drive ACS' charitable mission to advance the education of its own students and also the wider community, by working locally and internationally in partnership with schools and communities to share expertise and resources.
ACS became a registered charity in September 2018 and partnerships form a key part of its schools' charity activity. It is ACS's aim to become a valued partner to local state schools, businesses and the wider community in the areas its schools serve, and beyond. Over the past two years, Graeme and the Partnerships team have been working on an outreach box scheme which involves ACS representatives - including staff and students - visiting partner schools with a box of state-of-the-art technology equipment, to deliver valuable technology-based training and share expertise.
During the recent UK lockdown the boxes were grounded but hopefully with a new vaccine, soon schools can start to book them out again enabling them to experiment with a range of technology, such as Digital SLR cameras, innovative robots and VR headsets, free of charge.
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Graeme spearheaded a number of charitable initiatives to support communities in need. For example, the ACS community raised and donated £5,000 to the Magic Breakfast programme, which provided 13,000 meals to children of families experiencing hardship in the local communities around ACS's three schools in the Surrey and Greater London area.
ACS Hillingdon Launches Global Citizen Diploma
We are pleased to announce that Grade 11 student, Ellie, is our very first student to earn the Global Citizen Certificate (GCC) and is on her way towards earning the Diploma. One of Ellie's GCD stories focuses on her Global Understanding as she explores her role in being an activist for climate change, educating others about the darker side of fast fashion, the racial divide and gender inequality.
Ellie says, "I have realised that there are many things in the world that need to change, and this is only the beginnings of my journey into becoming an activist."In addition to exploring Global Understanding, another one of Ellie's GCD stories is about her Artistic Expression.
Personal on campus tours are now available again by appointment for families who want to see the campus first hand , however we have also been busy creating virtual tours for both Egham and Hillingdon, accessible from our website, with Cobham on its way after the Christmas break.
- Egham can be found HERE
- Hillingdon can be found HERE
ACS International School Doha launched its new sports mascot as it moved into its landmark new campus this academic year. ACS Doha Wolves is the new mascot, ushering in a new vision for sport at the school.
The Wolves will feature in all the school’s sports activities and will represent the school at events and sports matches. Conscious that middle school and senior students in particular want a mascot that evokes competitive spirit, teamwork and conviction, the Wolf was the outstanding choice. ACS Doha is also using the popularity of the mascot in promoting the use of face masks for the students and distributing customised ‘wolf’ masks carrying the slogan ‘safety in the pack’.
The World Needs.....Adventurers
Parents, teenagers, teachers and members of the wider Surrey community learnt what it takes to be a changemaker for a better, more sustainable future during a recent ACS Cobham virtual event ‘The world needs…adventurers’ in November. ‘The world needs… adventurers’ was the first in a series of events across ACS schools which will explore ‘what the world needs’, delving into the big societal and technological challenges the world is currently facing and considering exactly what kind of citizen the world needs to contribute to a better, more sustainable tomorrow.
Featuring renowned entrepreneur, Sian Sutherland, a thriving ACS Cobham alumna, Sissel Tønnesen Engblom, and our very own Forest School Trainer, Chris Hupp, the event explored why the world needs adventurous thinkers, the importance of nature in our lives now and in the future, and how taking risks and embracing failure creates positive outcomes.
Former student, Sissel Tønnesen Engblom, was welcomed back to her alma mater to share her career pathway from student to urban architect and CEO, highlighting the importance of the spaces we live in for ensuring a sustainable future. A highlight of the talk was Sissel’s thought-provoking description of her involvement with the redesign of the Government Headquarters in Oslo following the 2011 terror attack.
Through the power of architecture, Sissel worked to redevelop the space in a way that would heal the hearts of Oslo’s community, and provide a platform for them to thrive moving forward from the attack.
Co-founder of A Plastic Planet, Sian Sutherland, followed Sissel with a compelling talk on how a decision at age 25 led her into a career of entrepreneurship, failings and open mindedness.
Sian shared powerful anecdotes on “what she wishes she knew at 16”. Sian talked of the importance of failure, learning from your lows – not your highs - and accepting that things won’t be perfect. She highlighted that, when it comes to entrepreneurship “if it was easy, everyone would do it”; you need to be prepared to set yourself goals and strive every day to achieve those goals.
Wrapping up the event, ACS Forest School Trainer and Lower School Science Teacher, Chris Hupp explored the adventure of childhood and our intrinsic need to connect with nature in order to foster an ecological identity. Chris discussed the benefits of outdoor learning, such as the development of resilience and confidence, as well as the ways it improves wellbeing, creativity, and cooperative teamwork.
Of the event Barny said : “It was a pleasure to welcome three such engaging and insightful speakers– they all truly summed up what it means to be an adventurer, and why it’s so important for us all to think a little more creatively to build a better, more sustainable world of tomorrow. We’ve received wonderful feedback from attendees; it was a fascinating and inspiring experience.”
To stream the ‘The world needs…adventurers’ event, you can click here: https://www.acs-schools.com/the-world-needs
UK relo round-up
by Caroline Breeds
Follow Caroline on LinkedIn and Twitter
This has certainly been a year like no other!
2020 is one perhaps we want to forget? Or, shift our focus to new things that we have learnt, perhaps about ourselves, families or others. 2020 certainly gave us time to reflect, finding out other ways that we enjoy spending time that previously we might have discarded. Many were able to take the opportunity to learn new skills, new hobbies and new ways to keep fit! My new hobby was paddle boarding in the warmer months both in the sea and along the River, finding some new really picturesque spots. I have not been brave enough in the colder months to continue my love of paddle boarding and will wait in anticipation until the warmer months of 2021 I think.....
Many found a new level of appreciation for teachers following months of home schooling! As we now look forward to what we hope and believe will be a happier year in 2021. We have the exciting news that the vaccine will be rolled out shortly to those who are vulnerable, it will make such a difference to many patiently wanting to visit family members in care homes and hospitals. Some of these stories have been truly heart breaking.
For our students although they are back on campus which is wonderful, the lead up to Christmas has been unusual. There would of course be lots of buzz around school productions, music ensembles, parents visiting the schools for various Christmas events, this year we have had to do things differently. Some events are able to continue online so families can share these special moments together at home.
Our admissions staff continue to work extremely hard speaking with perspective and new parents to ensure that during this difficult we can still demonstrate the warm ACS welcome but in slightly different ways! Our admissions teams have enjoyed getting to know families via zoom meetings prior to arriving in the UK. This has helped settle the nerves of the whole family, meeting teachers on line has also been invaluable. We have superb virtual tours where families can be guided by admissions or take a tour themselves of our wonderful campuses. The feedback we have received has been encouraging regarding these zoom meetings prior to leaving their home country, these are meetings that in some cases will continue going forward.
Details are as follows:
Cobham Admissions Team - Dean is Helene Campbell, Assistant Deans are Aileen Macgee and Betina Awtani:
Tel: +44 (0)1932 867251
Egham Admissions Team - Dean is Rhian Curtis and Assistant Dean is Jane Hudson:
Tel: +44 (0)1784 430800
Hillingdon Admissions Team - Dean is Christina Decu and Assistant Dean is Maria Marsh:
Tel: +44 (0)1895 259771
Keep up to Date with Campus News
ACS International Schools have a wealth of content resources for you to stay up to date with news, views and events at our three unique UK schools. Our Facebook and Instagram channels are fed by students and faculty inside the school, showing the exceptional lessons and curriculum that we teach, co-curricular activities and campus life stories.
ACS Cobham on Facebook and Instagram
ACS Egham on Facebook and Instagram
ACS Hillingdon on Facebook and Instagram
We recently launched ACS Changemakers, designed to celebrate our thinkers, creators, leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators. Through this, we profile and celebrate some of our exceptional students and alumni and, importantly, the teachers who helped them to achieve their goals. It truly is a fascinating read to see the exceptional opportunities that ACS provides students, and how our Alumni have gone on to succeed.
In addition, we have our Future Focus blog sharing thought leadership and information ranging from education through to mental health and wellbeing.
Usually at this time I would be rounding up my thoughts regarding the different events that I have attended, instead I will focus on what has been learnt from online conferences. There are many things that are yet to unfold, however, we are aware that at this time mobility has won its seat at the table, mobility had to assist many assignees and their families in what can only be described as tricky and unusual situations! I am sure that there are a plethora of stories and I am looking forward to hearing more of them when we are able to network again!
Worldwide ERC used a superb platform to showcase their many sponsors and host their conference with many fantastic educational sessions.
We were delighted to be part of the line up with a panel discussion regarding “On Campus, Blended or Remote Learning? How Schools & Families are Adjusting to the Next Normal, and What Mobility Leaders Need to Know.” You can listen to the session HERE.
There was much to learn from the FEM sessions, more about virtual assignment, very interesting to hear the mix of opinion, are they going to be a sticking plaster? Duty of care, cost scrutiny, knowing where the assignee is working, pent up demand, all areas that were discussed throughout the week long virtual conference.
EuRA have been superb at looking after their members at this extremely difficult time, lots of hard work has gone into keeping members connected, through online conferences and webinars. We hope that we will be able to meet again in person next year in Seville! Whilst we will miss the ARP Christmas Lunch this year, we look forward to this potentially being one of the first networking events next year in April 2021! ACS have entered the awards; we are proud to be able to share with the industry how well we were able to adapt to our students needs in such challenging times.
We have lots to look forward to in 2021, we are delighted that we will be hosting another virtual relo event in January, this time with an expert panel with a focus on what is next for mobility, this is not to be missed!
Once it is safe to do so we will be inviting you to join us in person at our Cobham campus, more information to come but I promise it will be worth the wait!
I look forward to seeing many of you next year, I literally cannot wait! In the meantime I wish you a very Happy and Safe Christmas whether you are spending time with family or find yourself having a different Christmas, I urge you all to reflect on the positives that you have learnt from 2020 and look forward to 2021.
Stay safe, and I look forward to seeing you next year!
All the best, Caroline
Brexit and Its Impact on Household Goods Moves: Awareness and Mitigation
Jacob George, Sirva Worldwide, President & COO, Europe, Asia Pacific and Middle East
As the United Kingdom (UK) negotiates the terms of its withdrawal from the European Union (EU), stakeholders of global companies wonder how the country’s future relationship with the EU will impact day-to-day business functions related to mobility.
What are the current parameters surrounding the negotiations? What can be expected if an agreement isn’t reached? How, specifically, might this impact household goods (HHG) moves? This blog post will address these questions and offer suggestions for minimizing complications.
Where do things currently stand regarding Brexit?
Since January 31, 2020, the UK has been in a transition period as it prepares to leave the EU. Discussions between the two parties have continued, with the state of future trade relations being a top priority. During the transition, the UK has been complying with all EU rules and laws without significant changes. As of the mutually-agreed-upon deadline of December 31, 2020, however, changes should be expected whether an agreement is reached or not. It’s important to note that there is not an option for extending the Brexit deadline. If either party wanted an extension, a formal request would have needed to be made by July 1, 2020 per the withdrawal agreement. No such request was made.
What happens if no deal is reached by the deadline?
If an agreement isn’t reached by December 31st, both parties would be expected to trade with each other according to terms established by the World Trade Organization (WTO). Additionally, the UK would leave the single market and customs union, both of which help to facilitate trade between EU member countries and eliminate tariffs and checks on imports. These changes would further result in:
- Tariffs (taxes on imports) that would apply to most goods that UK businesses send to the EU – and vice versa
- Border checks for goods, to ensure that tariffs are collected; this could further result in delays at ports and vehicle stops, as trucks/containers would likely be subject to additional inspections as they wait to cross borders
- Overburdened individuals/agencies that are responsible for the UK’s Transfer of Residence (TOR) process for shipments; previously responsible for inbound shipments solely from countries outside of the EU – these individuals could now be required to process shipments from all countries, including the EU
All of the above could lead to delays in shipping and retrieval times, in addition to the time that it could take to obtain customs clearances to ship household goods. Further complicating matters, if shipments are delayed, HHGs that are already in transit could also end up impacted. Scenarios include:
- A need to source additional crew members, due to missed windows of opportunity with initial crews
- Scheduling conflicts/a need to reschedule action steps in shipment/delivery timelines
- The expiration of parking permits
- A need to rearrange shuttle vehicles due to delayed arrival times of household goods
- Accruing extra handling costs for extended storage or warehouse requirements
Professionals that handle HHGs would likely face a period of uncertainty and/or confusion following a no-deal Brexit, while new paperwork is developed and expectations are established to address issues impacting mobility.
What can organizations do to minimize complications?
While many of the decisions regarding post-Brexit HHG processes have yet to be made, there are a few items business stakeholders can keep in mind to minimize negative impacts in advance of the Brexit deadline. The following questions should be asked regarding any shipments into or out of the UK as soon as possible:
- Can the shipment take place, avoiding the busy December holiday period through the first few weeks following the post-Brexit deadline? (December 15, 2020 through January 10, 2021)?
- Could items be shipped into the UK prior to December 31, 2020 and stored in a storage facility if access to an employee’s residence won’t be possible until after that date?
- Can the initiation of the shipment be delayed until after the first week of January 2021 – or until after new parameters have been established that can be more easily anticipated and followed?
- If move dates are already established and can’t be changed, is it possible to book furnished accommodation for the employee and accompanying family for a short period if there is a chance their HHGs could be delayed? This could provide some security and avoid the need to source accommodation at the last minute – or for the employee to have to establish his/her own accommodations in an unfamiliar location. It’s advisable to check cancellation policies prior to booking, should these accommodations prove to be unnecessary in the long run.
What other challenges can I expect?
As events evolve, we recommend that organizations work closely with their mobility providers to navigate changing circumstances. In the meantime, the following are a few considerations to keep in mind:
Follow the Transfer of Residence (TOR) Process – HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the tax authorities in the UK, has advised SIRVA that organizations should follow the TOR process for UK-bound HHG shipments from all countries, including those in the EU. The employee must submit a report to HMRC (available from the link provided in this section) to request clearance to import; if approved, the shipment may not be subject to taxes. The process is expected to take three to five weeks. In all cases, SIRVA recommends initiating shipments only after the TOR process has been cleared to avoid shipments being subject to taxes.
Packing – SIRVA always recommends that the employee or another reliable family member be present during both the packing and loading of their HHGs. Doing so minimizes employee stress, ensures the successful completion of each phase, and greatly increases the likelihood of a successful move and assignment. If packing has been delayed due to the processing time of the TOR and the employee has necessarily travelled ahead to his/her destination, stakeholders should be aware that the employee may need to return home to supervise the packing of his/her household goods at a later date. This could result in additional travel, hotel, and subsistence costs.
Pets – Without a new agreement, pet passports that were previously issued in the UK will not be valid for travel to the EU. While permanent regulations for pet travel may not be fully solidified until sometime after the Brexit deadline, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has listed a number of scenario-dependent requirements on its website that are currently in place. Scheduling veterinary clearance visits prior to every instance of travel, required microchipping, blood tests within specific travel windows, and obtaining an animal health card (AHC) are among the more stringent rules listed. The page will be updated as requirements change.
Also listed on this page is the statement, “To make sure your pet is able to travel from Great Britain to the EU from 1 January 2021, you should contact your vet at least 4 months before travelling to get the latest advice.” For those employees who will be moving to other destinations on a set timeline, this could create significant complications that include having to place their pets in a kennel or boarding cattery until the appropriate paperwork and blood test waiting periods have been satisfied. Companies will need to decide who will be responsible for the extra boarding fees that would be incurred in these cases. In some scenarios, employees may decline a relocation altogether until their pet is cleared for travel.
Conditions and processes surrounding Brexit are expected to be fluid, impacting multiple areas of mobility until they are solidified. To minimize complications, companies should collaborate closely with their mobility providers. Relocation management companies have systems and networks in place to streamline standard moving processes and the expertise and experience needed to find innovative solutions when those processes are interrupted by world events. At a minimum, organizations should explore whether shipments can be arranged to avoid the immediate pre- and post-Brexit period.
Lisa Marie DeSanto, Content Marketing Manager
Richard Thurston, Global Account Director
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