- A sizable percentage of respondents indicated that their timelines for the resumption of both inbound and outbound business trips and overseas assignments are undetermined: 54% in the case of inbound travel and 41% in the case of outbound travel.
- Over 50% of respondents identified border enforcement measures as the primary obstacle to overseas business travel. Despite this recognition, however, the survey data reveals that actually keeping pace with updates to the measures poses a significant challenge for companies, with more than 50% of respondents indicating that their companies have not initiated any of the procedures made available under New Border Measure 19 (a measure intended to relax restrictions on new entries of foreign nationals and post-entry quarantine requirements) upon its announcement in November 2021, and citing factors such as complexity, unfamiliarity, and insufficient time to complete the requisite procedures by the cutoff as the reasons therefor.
- Respondents reported hiring an average of 5 to 6 foreign nationals per annum. In contrast to recent years in which companies have generally expanded their recruitment of foreign nationals, 64% of respondents indicated that they were unsure regarding future plans to recruit foreign nationals, which suggests that the pandemic has thrown recruitment activities into uncertainty.
We are pleased to announce the release of EY Mobility Survey No. 2, a joint project of Ernst & Young Tax Co. and EY Immigration Corporation, which explores international mobility practices concerning overseas assignees, business travelers, and inbound foreign national employees.
The survey demonstrates that the impact of COVID-19 border enforcement measures has extended beyond overseas assignments and business trips and has introduced uncertainty into company plans for the hiring of foreign national employees and their placement on overseas assignments. The survey also demonstrates that many companies decided to forgo use of New measure regarding strengthening of border control (19) (below, “New Border Measure 19”) after its announcement in November 2021 in part due to the limited time applications were accepted; and that the announcement of New Border Measure 20 (which suspended the enforcement of New Border Measure 19 for one month) soon afterward had a significant impact on overseas assignees, both Japanese nationals planning to temporarily return to Japan and foreign nationals planning re-entry into Japan.
The EY Mobility Survey commenced in 2021 with the purpose of gaining insight into corporate management of overseas assignees, business travelers, and employees on inbound assignments to Japan. EY surveyed and analyzed responses provided by 229 respondents (218 companies) concerning policies and tax practices pertaining to overseas assignees, with such responses primarily sourced from administrative departments including HR, accounting, executive functions and corporate planning. Topics covered in this second survey include visas, border enforcement, overseas business trips, and inbound foreign national employees.
EY Mobility Survey No. 2: Findings
Border enforcement measures significantly impact overseas business travelers during the pandemic:
Entry and exit restrictions during the pandemic are still significantly impacting companies’ plans for overseas activities. Responses to questions about challenges pertaining to business travelers indicate that border enforcement measures are the challenge most often cited by companies, rising above business trip expenses and complying with laws and regulations related to short-term overseas stays, which previously topped the list.
Obstacles presented by the need to stay informed regarding border enforcement measures:
Over 80% of respondents cited the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and embassies as their sources of the most up-to-date information on visas and border enforcement measures, indicating that many companies closely monitor government announcements; 49% of respondents also pointed to an inability to keep pace with immigration policy changes as a notable hindrance to visa application procedures, a clear indication that the pace of such policy updates outstrips corporations' ability to adapt.
Respondents were split between two methods for completing visa applications for business travelers, either insourcing (at the home entity) or outsourcing to specialists, such as travel agencies or administrative scriveners. Their responses expressed a lack of resources alongside the complexity of the interlacing administrative procedures necessitated by the border enforcement measures and visa applications, a pattern particularly noticeable in responses from companies who handle such matters in-house.
Restrictions on new entries of foreign nationals into Japan has impacted foreign national hiring and inbound assignments:
Standing at 60%, the most common response indicated hiring of between 1 to 9 foreign nationals per year, while separately 79% indicated that their company employs foreign nationals. Furthermore, over half of respondents (52%) indicated hosting foreign national employees assigned to Japan from overseas, which reflects a trend toward greater globalization in staffing and hiring. With that said, in response to a query concerning whether their company plans to increase hiring of foreign nationals, while twice as many respondents indicated “Yes” (24%) as did “No” (12%), a total of 64% indicated “Unknown.” This finding may be attributable to the COVID-19 border enforcement measures that resulted in new restrictions on entries of foreign nationals into Japan and suggests that a significant number of companies feel unable to forecast hiring plans.
Companies establish internal systems to ensure compliance with border enforcement measures, yet struggle with the complexity of procedures when updates to those measures occur:
75% of respondents indicated that they have already or are currently establishing internal systems to ensure compliance with border enforcement measures, which suggests that companies also recognize the value that internal systems provide in ensuring progress on their overseas business plans. The short period of time between the announcement of New Border Measure 19 on 8 November 2021 and its suspension three weeks later, however, contributed to low use of the policies therein: as of the time of the survey, 14% of respondents had completed applications for new entries of foreign nationals, 15% had completed applications for eased activity restrictions post-entry, and only 3% and 8% of respondents had obtained screening certificates for each respective policy.
Uncertainty regarding the time required for applications to be processed was the challenge most commonly indicated by respondents (64%) with regard the border enforcement measures. This gives rise to concerns that some companies will forgo applications if they must complete complex procedures with no clear indication of the time it will take for their applications to be processed, as was the case with New Border Measure 19.
More than 30% of this subgroup indicated that their company either understood the procedures and did not apply due to their complexity or did not understand the procedures and accordingly had not begun the application process, which reflects the challenges posed by the administrative burden placed on companies and the complexity of the procedures.
Furthermore, over 90% of respondents indicated being impacted in some way by the announcement of New Border Measure 20 on 30 November 2021, partly due to the fact that it was announced so close to the end of the year when many employees were seeking to temporarily return to or otherwise enter Japan for the year-end holidays. That such a high percentage of respondents indicated being impacted by New Border Measure 20 gives us a glimpse into how companies are hard-pressed to respond to changes in border enforcement measures.
Initiatives addressing challenges concerning overseas business trips and assignments:
Respondents cited various challenges, such as managing returnees while their activities are restricted by pandemic-related border enforcement measures and concomitant impacts on work, delays in assignment timelines due to the length of time required for visa issuance, and the continued inability of people hired overseas to enter Japan. Additionally, respondents indicated that restrictions on entering and exiting Japan have prompted them to consider implementing remote work, but they are also concerned about the potential tax risks international remote work would raise.
Examples of initiatives to address such challenges provided by respondents include a wide range of tangible and intangible approaches, such as formulating rules governing assignments and business trips during the pandemic, adoption of IT management tools, and centrally managing business travel and assignment data.
Adoption of global mobility management tools:
When asked about the adoption of tools for managing assignments, business travel and other examples of people mobility operations, 13% of respondents indicated that they either have or are considering adopting such tools, with respondents evenly split between the adoption of proprietary and third-party tools. While tools developed in-house can be tailored to the company’s specific needs, the employee resources required throughout their development is a notable detriment. Third-party tools are available immediately but are costly, and the selection of any such tool for adoption requires thorough analysis of the number of assignees and business travelers as well as the specific information to be managed.
Commentary from Yoshito Kijima, EY Immigration Co. Partner:
“Our survey demonstrates that the hosting of inbound assignees and the dispatching of outbound assignees during the pandemic has been a challenge for many companies due to insufficient resources and the need to keep pace with frequently changing operations and rules. Beginning 1 March 2022, a set of less restrictive procedures will permit new entries of foreign nationals into Japan, except for those entering for tourism. EY will continue to provide our clients with the latest information and insights on border enforcement measures. And as our survey findings reveal low adoption rates for mobility management tools, we plan to support our clients by introducing a myriad of tools optimized for the increasingly complex global mobility landscape.”
Overview of survey findings: