Candidates for international assignments are, of course, chosen primarily based on their technical competence and the need for their skills and expertise in the global location. But it is critical that the employee and family are given an opportunity to experience the new location, and that they are thoroughly prepared for life in the new country before the leave home. Pre-Assignment assistance provides the candidate and family with the support needed for a smooth transition. This relatively small expense can safeguard the company’s substantial investment in the assignment.

 “Look-See” Trip

Before any candidate can adequately judge whether a potential international assignment is the right fit, it is imperative that he or she be given the opportunity to preview the potential destination. Typically, international assignment benefits provide for a “look-see” visit of up to five days in the new location with an extra two days for travel. During this time, hotels, meals and transportation are typically covered for the candidate and spouse at a minimum. Some policies provide for children as well.

Transition Assistance

The spouse/partner’s career is a critical factor in any international assignment. In a few fortunate situations, the spouse/partner can transfer within his or her current company to a new position abroad. In less fortunate situations, the spouse might be prohibited by local laws from paid employment at all. If the couple still wishes to accept the assignment, other alternatives can be explored, including continuing education, or in some cases, self-employment. When employment is an options, companies typically provide career transition assistance.

In addition to career transition assistance, language and cultural training should also be an integral part of any international assignment transition. Policies typically provide for up to 100 hours of language training at the departure location and sometimes additional assistance at the destination location. Cross cultural assistance is sometimes viewed as a “nice but not necessary” extra, subject to the budget axe. But it is a wise investment to help protect the substantial investment the company is making and to reduce the risk of a costly failed assignment.

Immigration and Visa Expenses

Most countries require a wide range of visas, work permits, immunizations and more, before the assignee and family can reside in the country. The company should expect to cover all of these costs for the candidate and family, either through direct billing or reimbursement.

By offering qualified candidates the opportunity to experience their new home, and providing them the necessary tools to be successful in their new home, you are more likely to see a positive return from the assignment. Pre-Assignment services also reduce the risk of unhappy families and failed assignments, and can make it more likely that the employee will stay with your company for the long term. Investing in pre-assignment assistance as a part of your international relocation program shows employees that you are genuinely interested in helping them to succeed.

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