Remote Work Immigration: Are We Prepared for the Shift?

As I was speaking earlier today to a gentleman who works in Japan, I had to reflect on how many people outside of the U.S. our firm has been talking to over the last eight months. We’re finding a significant difference in many ways. For instance, if I were to ask you, “What’s the difference in taxation between Hong Kong and Japan – countries that are physically close to each other,” what would you think?

You might be surprised to learn Hong Kong’s taxation is between 2% and 17%, while Japan’s top marginal tax rate is about 55%, making it among the highest in the world. Similarly, Switzerland has a vastly different level of taxation than the European countries it is surrounded by.

Subsequently, one could argue the standard of living in Switzerland is dramatically higher than it is in France. But hold on a moment – France is different because it has made a relaxed lifestyle a high priority. Want to take a two-hour lunch? Work a 35-hour workweek? Take six weeks’ vacation? Not a problem in France.

The point? While we’re thought to have such great variety in the U.S. between states, our differences are relatively small compared to different countries in the world.

From everything we’ve seen, one could argue that people in Silicon Valley accomplish more because of all the investment and infrastructure there since their businesses have an impact worldwide compared to other places inside of the United States. You could also argue that one of the reasons why New York is so productive is because it’s so hectic and so pressurized that essentially you have to get much more done.

Yet, as we return to our conversation with the person working for a large organization in Japan, he knows he’s paid less than his counterpart might be paid in New York. Still, despite the pay gap we’ve just described, he likes the lifestyle he’s been living in Japan for over 10 years.

Work Where You Want Like Never Before

It brings us to an interesting thought to consider in the wake of the pandemic: Are we moving to a world that allows people to work…where they want to work? It certainly seems we’re trending in that direction. Already, some countries are looking to create remote work visas. In the past, a visa implied that if you wanted to work for Company XYX and Company XYZ was located in a different country, you needed to physically be in that country first to possess a visa.


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However, take a look at the movement of employees toward remote work originating from Facebook, Google and Salesforce HQs. We’re not just talking about being away from the office but away from the state or anywhere in the world.

This leads to what we might call “remote work immigration,” a concept that changes a lot of things in the world in terms of the mobility of work and opens up a range of new possibilities – namely, if you can work remotely from anywhere in the world, where would you choose to live?

With the idea of remote work in mind, we could see employees start thinking about factors relating to lifestyle, such as weather. You’re a beach person and want sunny weather? Perhaps the Caribbean countries or Mexico could be advantageous. For those working in Europe, it could mean moving to and living in countries with a lower cost of living, such as Spain or Greece.

We’re also going to see substantial competition in terms of taxation. You can’t go and live in Switzerland at the drop of a hat unless you’re retired and you bring a lot of money with you. But, on the other hand, other areas such as Singapore and Hong Kong may essentially say, “You should come live here if you have income from somewhere else. You can be our resident and we will charge you very little in income taxes.”

What needs to happen next for this era of remote work immigration to be fully realized? Several factors that we’ll speak to in our next post. For now, know that we’re not far away from the potential transition, so companies and workers alike should be poised for what their plans might be – not only as they prepare to return to work in the short-term post-COVID but in the long-term, if remote work becomes a concept that’s more widely accepted on a global scale as we expect it to be.

That means the time to have a conversation with Roy Talman & Associates is now, particularly as we have a deep understanding of so many technical environments and the nature of what those changes are and how they can impact the direction of a company from here. The location of where the work is occurring may change, but the need for top-tier talent is as consistently important as ever – perhaps even more so. That’s why, whether it’s for the betterment of your career and in the name of your company’s future growth, it couldn’t be more critical to Talk To Talman First.