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In our global economy, it’s become more common for employees to travel overseas for business. Business travel by its very nature tends to be urgent and short term, which means that important pre-departure considerations can easily be overlooked. Entry into some countries requires an appropriate visa and in some circumstances certain types of visas have become more difficult to obtain. At the same time, immigration authorities are increasingly scrutinising the use of business visas.
To avoid any unnecessary delays or issues, here is our five-point business travel shortlist:
1. Make no assumptions
It is important to determine at the outset whether a person requires a visa or not. This is not always as straightforward as it sounds. It depends on factors such as the purpose and duration of the trip, the nationality of the individual and the nature of the activities they will be performing.
The definition of 'business activities' and 'productive work' can be blurry, and the distinction between business and work differs between countries. For example, the activities allowable under a Mexican business visa are far more expansive than those allowed under a Philippines business visa.
The consequences of inadvertently carrying out productive work while on business visitor status can be serious for both the employee and the company. In order to be compliant and to avoid the risk of being refused entry, it is essential to examine the purpose of travel and the activities to be performed.
2. Keep travel arrangements flexible until a visa is secured
Even if a work permit is not required, it is still important to allow sufficient time to obtain a business visa, if needed, before the intended date of travel. Visa processing times vary and expedited processing is not always available. Applications are typically paper-based and require the applicant to surrender their passport, which will be held until the visa has been issued. Some countries, such as Angola and Kazakhstan, do not have a consular post in Australia, which means that an applicant’s passport must be sent overseas in order to secure a visa.
There are additional considerations too if the applicant is not an Australian citizen. In this situation, applicants may need to meet certain residency requirements to be eligible to apply at a third party consulate in Australia. Certain nationalities may also be subject to additional security checks.
3. Ensure travel documents are valid
Check the validity of passports before embarking on any international travel. Many countries, such as Indonesia, require a minimum of six month validity to allow entry. Insufficient passport validity may result in the stressful process of securing a new passport at the last minute or, worse still, an airline refusing to allow the traveller to board.
4. Tax and HR status do not always apply to immigration
If a visit is less than 180 days to avoid tax residency and is classified as short term business travel, it’s easy to assume that entry to a country on business visitor status is appropriate. However, it is the activities an individual is performing, rather than their tax or HR status, that determines whether the travel is considered to be business or work related.
5. Current knowledge is key
HR or mobility
advisors play a key role in educating staff and frequent business travellers about what they can and can’t do on business trips. Frequent business travellers also need to understand exactly what each business trip involves so that they can clearly explain to immigration officers at the port of entry what they’ll be doing in the host country. When in doubt, it’s important to seek expert guidance before traveling to assess the activities on a case-by-case basis.