Understanding the need for immigration background checks for employee relocation

Understanding the need for immigration background checks for employee relocation

min read


Understanding the need for immigration background checks for employee relocation

Join our newsletter

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Related articles


Why Jobbatical? Unlocking effortless employee relocation


How to Design The Perfect Relocation Package for Tech Employees


5 Signs it’s Time to Find a (New) Talent Relocation Partner

As multinational companies continue to spread their wings worldwide, transferring employees across international borders is more important than ever. However, in these times where global mobility drives business forward, relocating staff to new countries usually means diving headfirst into a sea of immigration paperwork like work visas, which require thorough background checks on candidates.

Doing international background checks is exactly as easy as it sounds: not much. There are challenges around balancing diverse regulations, privacy laws, and cultural norms across countries.

While checks on immigrant candidates need to be comprehensive and compliant, they must also always uphold human rights. That means there are a few important considerations companies need to keep in mind when doing a background check for an international employee transfer.

This goes from understanding the complex legal landscape, data privacy issues, core principles for ethical screening, and the importance of cross-cultural sensitivity when vetting candidates across borders. Making sense of these dynamics allows global organisations to relocate employees internationally ethically and effectively.

Why companies offer relocation

Companies offer international relocation for a number of strategic reasons. Expanding into new markets and building global teams means transferring qualified employees abroad.

According to a survey of 1,000 adults who have relocated for jobs, the top reasons companies offered relocation were:

  • Career advancement or opportunity to make more money (36.96%)
  • Chance to be closer to friends or family (17.88%)
  • Transfer to a new division or office (15.48%)
  • Company expansion to a new location (13.79%)
  • Miscellaneous other reasons (8.29%)
  • Company acquisition leading to relocation (7.59%)

By offering relocation, companies attract and retain top talent looking for career growth and global opportunities. There are also some potential financial benefits compared to local hires in some markets.

Dynamics of re-screening processes across the globe

Laws and norms around employee background checks vary a whole lot worldwide. Multinational companies need to understand these regional differences when screening and transferring staff across different countries and cultures.


The European Union does not joke around when it comes to regulations around personal data protection and employee privacy. Laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) govern how private information can be collected and used for employment checks.

Companies have to communicate to staff how their data will be handled and get explicit consent for background screening. EU states prohibit specific sensitive questions during hiring like political views, ethnic origin and health information that may be allowed in US checks. Most EU countries require specific job-related screening only. It’s fine to verify identity, work eligibility, qualifications and criminal records, but wide-ranging checks are considered invasive.

United Kingdom

The land of the most popular royals in the world requires detailed pre-employment checks under right-to-work laws. When sponsoring overseas staff for work visas, companies need to validate identity, work eligibility, qualifications, and criminal history. However, principles like data minimisation and transparency still apply under GDPR. 

Companies should limit checks only to necessary criteria, inform staff what information is needed and safely destroy the records when they’re no longer needed. It is allowed to do some discretionary checks if they're justified for the role. Still, cultural norms lean towards privacy and going overboard with screening might raise a few eyebrows. 

Asia Pacific

The Asia Pacific region is quite the melting pot when it comes to background checks. Singapore takes things pretty seriously with strict screening rules and thorough certificates of clearance, which are needed not only for jobs but also for everyday activities. 

Japan prioritizes privacy and discretion over digging deep in background searches. Chinese norms discourage invasive vetting, but some employers still go the extra mile with thorough checks. Indian laws allow in-depth verification, looking into qualifications, employment history and character. Across the region, understanding different cultural perspectives on privacy is critical for foreign employers.

United States

The United States offers the L-1 visa for intra-company transfers - the golden ticket that lets foreign companies send their managers, executives, or specialized knowledge pros over to the good old U.S. of A. They can work at an existing U.S. branch office or set up a brand new one.

Key features of the L-1 visa:

  • Valid for up to 7 years for managers/executives and five years for specialists
  • Dual intent allowed, enabling applicants to also apply for permanent residency
  • Spouses and children under 21 can accompany the visa holder

To qualify for L-1 visas, companies need to:

  • Have a parent, subsidiary, branch or affiliate relationship between foreign and US entities
  • Demonstrate operational command and control between entities
  • Show the US entity is actively doing business, not just passively present

The L-1 is a valuable option for multinationals to transfer qualified employees to the US. By making the L-1 visa process more efficient with the help of immigration technology and services, businesses can easily tap global talent.

Challenges for Multinationals

Navigating the complex and ever-evolving global regulatory scene can be quite a puzzle for multinational organizations. Customising background checks to meet diverse country-specific laws and norms is essential to stay on the right side of the law and respect country-specific regulations and norms. Companies need deep regional expertise, regular policy reviews, and close coordination between headquarters and local teams. Jobbatical's tech-driven platform simplifies and streamlines this process, making sure companies can conduct necessary and appropriate background checks across international locations.

Adhering to universal principles in employee re-screening

When it comes to re-screening employees for international transfers, there's a need to stick to some fundamental ethical screening principles, even if the regulatory landscape varies from region to region. This way, companies can make sure they're respecting their employees' rights while still meeting legitimate business requirements.

Ensuring relevancy and consent in re-screening

With re-checks, it’s best to focus on what’s really relevant for the new role and the local requirements. Unrelated screening compromises privacy - and we’re all about respecting privacy. Companies should communicate the specific purpose of repeat checks and get informed consent before accessing private data. Rescreening should be limited to identity, qualifications, history and eligibility information, that’s the ethical way to meet verification needs.

Compressed time frames for relocations

A survey revealed short timeframes often provided for international relocations:

  • 34.37% had just 1-2 months between a job offer and the start date
  • 33.07% had 30 days or less - an extremely rushed timeline
  • Only 18.98% had 61-90 days, and 13.59% over 90 days.

These transitions increase challenges around compliant, ethical rescreening. With these short relocation times, it's absolutely crucial to streamline those must-have checks and offer solid logistical support.

Maintaining communication and transparency

Open communication channels and transparency help relocated staff understand screening processes. Being clear about specifics on required checks, data access, and policies prevents confusion and builds trust. Because with overseas assignments there are often tight deadlines, being responsive and providing solid support is essential.

Objective evaluation of background check results

When evaluating international assignees’ background check results, it's important to take into account the cultural context. Subjective biases must be avoided and outdated or irrelevant results should be excluded from decisions to prevent unfair treatment. Staying objective and concentrating on relevant eligibility and qualifications ensure ethical standards.

Comprehending data privacy regulations

Background screening can get pretty tricky since it involves handling sensitive employee data. Navigating the complex maze of data privacy regulations, especially when transferring employee records across borders, can be quite a challenge. Companies must explain exactly which background checks are going to be redone to meet the visa and work permit requirements of the destination country. 

This means providing specific details about the documents to be requested, the third-party agencies involved in conducting checks, and the data use and security protocols. Compliance with regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is crucial when transferring data from European Union countries. Companies should aim to collect only essential data required to validate immigration eligibility and job qualifications, helping to maintain trust and respect between employers and employees.

Recognising cultural norms in background checks

During the pre-screening process, it's important for companies to be culturally sensitive. Different countries have different norms around appropriate or sensitive information to request and share. 

A standard background check in one country might be seen as pretty intrusive in another. Companies need to understand these differences and offer transparent and explicit guidance about the screening process to help employees navigate it with confidence.

Providing translators when necessary and ensuring that decision-making focuses on the employee's ability to excel in the job rather than being influenced by cultural biases is vital in maintaining a respectful and inclusive work environment.

Final thoughts

When it comes to international background checks, it's all about finding that delicate balance between being meticulous, ethical, and legally compliant. At Jobbatical, we believe that with the right approach and staying true to the principles of respecting local nuances and prioritizing the employee experience, we can get this balance just right. Involving legal counsel when developing policies is always advisable to make sure the company stays updated on the fast-evolving global regulations. Companies that maintain well-informed procedures, cultural sensitivity, and ethical standards can achieve the necessary screening processes without overstepping boundaries or infringing on employee rights. After all, the next exciting role for a valued employee could be anywhere globally, and with Jobbatical they get there seamlessly and ethically.

Get your free relocation consultation

Ready to unleash the smoothest relocation experiences for your employees?

Book a demo