A time of observances…

Muslims around the world are currently fasting during daylight hours. However, soon they will celebrate. Here are four important facts about two of Islam’s observances:

1. Ramadan is a holy month in the Islamic calendar.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic year. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and sexual relations from dawn to dusk. This observance is part of sawm, one of the Five Pillars of Islam. In Islamic countries, it is courteous for non-observers to refrain from eating, drinking, and smoking in front of Muslims observing Ramadan.

2. On other calendars, the dates Ramadan begins and ends change each year.

Unlike the Gregorian or solar calendar, the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. The lunar month has 29.5 days, so the months rotate and are not tied to the seasons.  Most calendars in Islamic countries are printed with both Gregorian and the Islamic dates.

3. Business hours in Islamic countries may change during Ramadan.

Many government offices, restaurants and stores have shorter hours during Ramadan. Shops sometimes stay open later in the evenings to accommodate observers. Some restaurants opt to offer meals to non-Muslim customers during the day, but others close during this time.

4. The end of Ramadan also marks an important Islamic holiday.

Eid al-Fitr, which begins the day after Ramadan ends, is a holiday of celebration and prayer. While traditions vary from region to region, new clothing, family gifts, and sumptuous feasts are common. Islamic countries often observe Eid al-Fitr as a national holiday, and in some the celebration lasts multiple days. This year, observation of Eid al-Fitr will begin on August 7 in most countries.

Make information like this easily available to your assignees by subscribing to Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center. 

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What can technology do?

Technology innovations, especially Apps, are rapidly filling the international business travel space.  And when you think about it, all our assignees are international business travelers by default. In fact, there are more than 20,000 business travel apps for iPhone and Android. They take the form of travel management, navigation and information.

Travel Management & Navigation:

You can easily keep track of your itinerary with Tripit Pro, find the best seats with seatguru, navigate through an airport and book ground transportation with uber, and hail and navigate local transit options with hopstop.

Information:

Aroundme shows what is close by where you are standing and could make your trip more interesting.  Lonely Planet and National Geographic have first class city guides for general travel, while DFA has Cultural Guides to go and Living Abroad is shortly launching our own App (go4biz.mobi) that helps business travelers be their most effective outside their home countries.

Everyday there seem to be more low-cost tools, and gradually these will become integrated to make getting around and getting familiar even easier for Travelers and Assignees…Now, if these apps could find housing, calculate tax, and navigate visas, they would be closer to helping assignees and HR.  Stay tuned to this spot, as you may not have to wait too long for these things to happen.

Who would have thought…

Which city is home to nearly 150 internationally-owned businesses representing 28 countries?

Would it help you guess if we named a few of its sister cities around the world… Zhengzhou, China; Zacatecas, Mexico; Saarpfalz-Kreis, Saarland, Germany; and Windhoek, Namibia? One more hint: William Byrd Park, William Byrd High School, and William Byrd Community House are just a few of the local places named for the city’s founder, Colonel William Byrd II.
The city is Richmond, Virginia.

Steeped in U.S. history, Richmond has been the capital of Virginia since 1780 and was the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Tourists rank Richmond’s historical sites high among its many attractions.

But what attracts businesses to the area? Companies from around the globe operate in Richmond: Koenig Technology of Austria, Gerdau Ameristeel US of Brazil, General Gene of China, General Cigar Company of Denmark, Alstom Power of France, Boehringer Ingelheim Chemicals of Germany, Sabra of Israel, Honda of Japan, and Reynolds Packaging of New Zealand, to name a few. And Germany-based ALDI has just announced plans to open discount grocery stores in the Richmond area in 2014.

According to Greg Wingfield, President of the Greater Richmond Partnership (GRP), there are four reasons why companies come to Richmond:

1) Location at the midpoint of the U.S. East Coast
2) Diversity of business culture
3) Outstanding education infrastructure
4) Quality of place

To hear more about Richmond from Greg Wingfield, click here.

Residents enjoy four distinct seasons and proximity to places like Washington D.C and Virginia Beach.

The average commute is 24 minutes, despite the lack of a commuter train.

Overall cost of living is slightly higher than the national average, but housing costs are lower.

For more information on what it is like to live and work in Richmond, Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center recently added Richmond to the list of 177 destinations available. For details on ordering Richmond contact Ed Barnhart, or for a free trial, click below.

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Employment Outlook: South Korea

 Employment Outlook: South Korea

Slated to be on the world stage as host of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, South Korea needs international talent and more women in the workforce in order to grow its economy, meet the demands of its people and combat its long-term challenges.

By Mary Anne Thompson, Founder and President, Goinglobal

South Korea boasts well-educated citizens, low unemployment and prowess as a world leader in information technology, automobile production and shipbuilding. However, the regional political landscape is characterized by serious tensions with and escalating threats from North Korea. The deterioration of relations between the two countries was underscored recently when South Korea was forced to withdraw 53,000 workers from a jointly run factory in the North Korean town of Kaesong. This situation has had more effect internationally than locally, and it has thus far not affected job recruiting, but it remains a major concern for the government and people of South Korea.

Job sentiment has been relatively flat this year as economic growth remains slow. South Korean businesses closely watch the US and Europe for hoped-for signs of recovery. Many companies downsized last year, and hiring is cautious this year. Permanent contracts are scarce.

The country’s young people are disproportionately unemployed. Most of the jobs go to middle-aged or older people, and the country’s inflexible labor system makes it difficult to fire people. South Korea’s women are also under-employed.

The country faces long-term challenges: a rapidly aging population, an inflexible labor market, and overdependence on manufacturing exports to drive economic growth. In spite of South Korea’s domestic and international challenges and its stubbornly low economic growth, consumer sentiment is rebounding as the Bank of Korea lowers interest rates and the government introduces a stimulus package intended to spur growth and create 40,000 jobs. Continued growth will require more international workers and women to join the workforce among other solutions.

Part-time Jobs Increasing

The South Korean government is creating more part-time jobs in an effort to increase employment.

Unemployment is only 3.2 percent, compared to 7.5 percent in the US and 27 percent in Spain.

Foreign workers

The number of immigrants has increased dramatically in the last decade, to 1.5 million, or 2.8 percent of the population. Although Korea’s quota system for foreign workers is still rigid, it is easing, and that trend is likely to continue.

South Korea’s visa system distinguishes foreign professionals from factory workers and other immigrant workers. Moreover, South Korea requires different types of visas for foreign professionals to work in specialties, including management, research, education and technical training.

Visa procedures are easing for foreigners involved in foreign direct investment (FDI). Domestic Korean companies are now recruiting science and engineering professionals from China, India and Russia as well.

In addition, South Korea offers special tax support to foreign engineers and workers. Foreign engineers are entitled to a 50-percent reduction of income tax on income earned either from a South Korean firm in South Korea or a foreign company exempted from corporate tax by the Foreign Investment Promotion Act. Other foreign workers can also receive special exemptions or reductions.

Women

Women’s rate of participation in the workforce is one of the lowest in East Asia. However, more women are joining or returning to South Korea’s workforce as the government introduces measures to encourage more participation. In fact, women in their twenties now outnumber men in that age group in the workforce.

Women are now beginning to climb the male-dominated corporate ladder. Although the vast majority of decision-makers and leaders in South Korea’s businesses continue to be men, more women are being promoted to CEO and other senior positions, according to executive recruiter Heidrick & Struggles.

Talent Shortages

Competition is high for skilled professionals, especially those with international experience and bilingual skills. In addition, demand for specialists in human resources is increasing dramatically. South Korea’s employers will focus on hiring specialists rather than generalists.

International talent needed

Multinational companies in South Korea are still generating demand for professionals with global experience. Employers are experiencing increased demand for bilingual professionals able to perform both strategic and conventional duties. South Korea’s recent free trade agreements with the US and Europe are creating increased interest from MNCs, and South Korean businesses are adopting more Westernized environments.

Bilingual skills

The level of English proficiency is generally lower than that in many other Asian countries. Professionals with bilingual skills, particularly in English, are difficult to find. Candidates with these skills are likely to be able to command higher salaries.

Salaries

Most salary levels for South Korean employees are likely to remain stable this year, according to recruiter Robert Walters. However, bilingual professionals with international experience will likely receive large salary increases for changing jobs.

In the past, compensation practices in South Korea have traditionally been based on seniority. But in the last few years, businesses have increasingly included performance-based pay and profit sharing in employees pay packages.

Conclusion

South Korea faces a number of challenges both domestically and internationally, but the country is implementing programs and strategies to solve the issues that are hampering its growth. Bringing in foreign workers and bilingual or multilingual professionals, while making women a more prominent force in the work place will move South Korea forward as it prepares for the world stage in 2018 when it will host the Winter Olympic Games.

Goinglobal is a location-specific career database used by over 600 institutions to support career transitions across borders.

How can you find reliable medications when traveling and living internationally?

While traveling, safe and reliable medications can be difficult to find.  Expatriate Prescription Services (EPS) is a solution that provides a unique and high quality prescription concierge service, ensuring that expatriates always have access to high quality medications, delivered from countries with the most stringent prescription medication regulations.

EPS is an international prescription concierge for expatriates. High drug costs, exorbitant shipping fees, and customs delays make obtaining needed medications difficult and often inconvenient. These difficulties cause many expatriates to be non-compliant with their prescribed medication regimen and thereby risk poor health and increased medical plan costs for themselves and their employer.

Expatriate Prescription Services is designed to provide expatriates convenient access to high quality, low cost prescription drugs using an efficient and reliable delivery system to over 160 countries worldwide.

Savings:

This is a value-added service that can be added to an existing health plan. EPS provides overall plan savings up to 30% on medications by utilizing international pharmacies in developed countries with the highest standards.

Service:

Our prescription concierge experts are well trained and dedicated to providing accurate and helpful information to our members. The EPS Staff offers each program participant their commitment to providing one-on-one personal attention and superior customer service.

Convenience:

EPS has access to a wide variety of maintenance, specialty and refrigerated medications at competitive prices.  Medications are safely delivered directly to the customer’s door.  An EPS representative will provide tracking information and track the delivery up until it reaches the customer’s hands.

The Customer Experience:

“I want to thank you SO much for all the help you provided me in getting a medication shipped to one of our Members in New Zealand.  The Member tried to get this medication prior to leaving the US from a Specialty Pharmacy, but they were unable to get it out to her in time for her departure. This Member had to leave the country without her medication. It was up to me to get this medication expedited.

This was the absolute BEST Customer Service I have ever received in all my years of working…If it weren’t for EPS and your sense of urgency in this matter, we would have a Member away on vacation without her medication that is detrimental to her health.  It turned out to be such a positive experience that I will continue to brag about Expatriate Prescription Service in years to come.”

–        EPS Client Health Plan Administrator

I have been so pleased. Your company has been great, so efficient in all manners. Plus, everyone is so helpful…You don’t see that very much in companies anymore. Thanks again for your quick response.”

–         EPS Member

If you are interested in providing EPS services for your employees, please visit our website at www.expatps.com to contact our sales team for a customized proposal that best fits your organization’s needs.

When in Rome…or Augsburg

I once worked for a German publisher here in the States. My bosses spoke in German to each other around us every day. When they offered us German tutoring at the office, early in the mornings before work, I jumped at the chance. The tutor spoke nothing but German to us, so it was sink or swim: learn the language or slap the notebook shut and give up. I learned.


After a while, I began to understand what my bosses were saying around me. It was like a door opened.  What before had been meaningless,  incomprehensible talk was now a stream of marketing ideas, business strategy, and glimpses into their personalities.


The language lessons paid off when a group of us traveled to Augsburg, outside of Munich, for meetings. Excited for the opportunity to practice my German, I was surprised that more often than not the Germans I met were politely eager to speak English with me. More than one actually apologized for not speaking English better, but when I pointed out that I was in their country and should be speaking their language, most appreciated my feeble attempts at conversation in German.

That was 22 years ago. Business travel has surged since then, as has the number of people living in foreign countries.  Thank goodness the number of ways to learn a new language has also grown.


For example, there are:

  •  traditional teacher-led classroom courses
  • distance learning courses offered by universities
  • combinations of computer-based programs with web connections to teachers
  • private tutors
  • web programs that pair language students and help them teach each other in a structured environment, like  MyLanguageExchange

There are mobile language apps, free and paid programs, courses that concentrate on terms of business or technology, and other criteria you can meet to find a program and style most useful for you.


Keeping a phrasebook or translation app on hand can only get you so far. What happens when your neighbor or colleague answers your basic question by sharing more detail than you can understand? You miss the chance to make a connection; the conversation is stunted. Worst case, some critical information does not get through to you.


Even in countries where the native population can speak in your language, there is so much you can miss if you don’t speak the local language. And there is so much to be gained if you give it a try. Not only do locals appreciate your effort, you can do your job and live your life that much better.

Written by Ellen Harris, Living Abroad’s International Product Director

Learning the language is not all you need to know.  To find out more, try a free trial to Living Abroad’s International Relocation Center. 

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How One Afternoon Can Lead to Assignment Success

While many of the tasks related to preparing for an international assignment take you out of your ordinary routine, some can be built into it. Here are four things you can do in one afternoon that might dramatically improve your relocation experience.

Go to the dentist.

Standards of dental care can vary widely around the world, and it’s important to be prepared. Even if there are excellent dentists in your destination country, there will be plenty of things to keep you busy after your arrival. A dental checkup before you leave might prevent an emergency, and will also allow you more time to research dentists in your new country.

Ask your physician or pharmacist to write down the generic names for your medications.

Brand names of medications can vary dramatically from country to country, and doing this will allow a pharmacy in your new country to make the appropriate match. This may also be a good time to obtain any necessary paperwork your new country requires regarding your medications, and to order a medical bracelet with information in the destination country’s language, if needed.

Get a copy of your corrective lens prescription.

Eye doctors should be able to provide a copy of your current prescription with short notice, and it can be very useful to have in your destination country when your glasses are broken, or you’ve lost a contact lens. Consider ordering a spare pair, prescription sunglasses, and any special solutions or eye medications that you might need.

Get extra passport photos.

Passport photos are useful for much more than passports! Many countries use them for permits, licenses, bank account applications, and academic files. By having passport photos already available in advance, you can cut a sometimes frustrating and tedious step out of various registration processes in your destination country.

What American Expats Need to Know About Taxes on Foreign Income

The United States is one of the few countries that taxes citizens on foreign income, even money earned abroad while living abroad. As an American expat, you will likely need to file taxes both in the United States and in your host country. This article is intended to give you a brief introduction to the key areas of your US expat taxes.

Filing Obligations

Dates for Filing

While the typical US filing deadline is April 15, Americans living abroad receive an automatic extension until June 15. However, all taxes on foreign income still need to be paid by April 15 to avoid penalties or interest. Additional extensions may be requested via Form 4868 or Form 2350 (if you need more time to meet the Physical Presence Test).

Foreign Bank Accounts

Americans who have financial authority over one or more foreign accounts may need to file the FBAR if the cumulative balance of these accounts exceeded $10,000 at any one time during the calendar year. Form TD 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts or FBAR, must be received by the US Department of Treasury on June 30.  There are no extensions for the FBAR, even if you have an extension on your US expat taxes.

Tax Savings on Foreign Income

 Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

Qualifying US citizens living abroad may elect to exclude up to $97,600 of their foreign income on their 2013 US expat taxes (or up to $95,100 for tax year 2012). This exclusion is claimed on Form 2555, and attached to Form 1040 with your US expat taxes. This exclusion also impacts the Foreign Housing Allowance, which enables you to deduct 30% of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion you claim on qualified housing costs in a foreign country.  In higher cost cities you may be able to exclude even more of your foreign housing costs, based on the IRS cost of living estimates.

Foreign Tax Credit

It is likely that you will need to pay taxes in your host country as well as the United States while living abroad. The Foreign Tax Credit is designed to reduce the burden of double taxation on your foreign income. US citizens may elect to claim a credit for foreign income taxes paid.

Other Key Information

  • Dual Taxation and Social Security – The US has arranged tax treaties with more than 50 countries in an attempt to avoid dual taxation of US citizens on their foreign income and has agreements with many countries about Social Security taxes and benefits. You can obtain detailed information on how tax treaties impact expat taxes from IRS Publication 901, and can find country specific information on the Social Security Administration’s website.
  • Married to Non-US Citizen – A US citizen and their non-citizen spouse may choose to file jointly if both spouses elect to treat the spouse as a resident (remember that you will have to file jointly on future returns as well). While this election allows the US to tax the non-US spouse’s foreign income, it also allows the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion to be utilized by each spouse.
  • State Taxes – Each state determines their own filing requirements for US citizens living abroad. It’s important to check with your last state of residence to learn whether you are expected to file returns on foreign income.

Late Filing

If you are behind with your tax returns, you are not alone. Many US expats are unaware they must report foreign income to the IRS and fear the worst – big fees and penalties – when they realize they are behind. The good news: The IRS has programs set up to allow late filers to catch up while minimizing the possible penalties they will owe. Two such programs are the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program and the newer streamlined process for late filers.

Confused by Expat Taxes on Your Foreign Income?

If you have any questions about your expat tax obligations, or if you’d like to help completing your returns, please contact the Greenback Expat Tax Services team.

 

 

About Greenback Expat Tax Services

Greenback Expat Tax Services specializes in the preparation of US expat taxes for Americans living abroad. Greenback offers straightforward pricing, a simple, hassle-free process, and CPAs and EAs who have extensive experience in the field of expat tax preparation. To learn more, visit our website at www.greenbacktaxservices.com.

Global Mobility + Global Talent Development = Global Leadership + Global Success

Becoming a truly global company includes the effective development of global talent.  Assignments should be viewed as cycles, starting with candidate selection and completing at the end of repatriation.  As global markets constantly change, the skills people need to be successful must keep pace with the demand.

Combining the efforts of HR, diversity, global talent management, and learning and development will result in global leaders.  This may be easier said than done, but building a talent management strategy lays important groundwork for the future.

How do global leaders learn and grow? Many see an expatriate assignment as a perfect developmental opportunity.  Living in another culture, the length of the assignment, immersion in the business culture, and necessary resourcefulness all contribute to the growth of a global leader.  Other ways to develop global leaders are short-term assignments, frequent business travel, global teams, and global projects.

Global leaders must be able to build by collaboration and creative innovative solutions.  Through training and education, global leaders can be change agents for the organization.  How can global leaders learn these skills, especially while working in another country, often without organizational support?

Learning opportunities on the job are excellent ways to develop a global mindset.   When the organization supports those experiences, knowledge transfer and organizational development occurs.

However, formal training should not be neglected.  Learning on the job can often be unpredictable. Formal training provides key support, and this has a positive effect on people and their organizations.

Living Abroad helps train global leaders. We support formal training by giving them good foundations on their destination countries.  Since all of our information is online, it’s easy to learn about the business culture, housing, and schools from a link on your intranet.  You can support your short- and long-term assignments, frequent business travelers, global teams, and global projects with this information, too.

7 Tips to Keep your Expats Happy!

Given all the stresses surrounding a relocation, what are some strategies to ease the strain on your relocating employees?

1.  Encourage research

Information has never been easier to access.  Make sure to recommend a reliable and trusted source for their pre-departure review.  Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are not considered trustworthy resources.

2.    Provide a look-see trip

If your company policy allows a trip, encourage them to visit.  Visiting the host country is one of the most important preparation steps for a successful move.

3.    Support reaching out

Concerns change dramatically from pre-departure to settling in after relocation.  Suggest they reach out to both the local people and contacts within the expat community.  


4.    Encourage neighborly behavior

Encourage them to get to know their neighbors.  At the very least, these people can inform them about amenities in and around the area.  Even more, they can assist with practical necessities and provide insight into local customs.

5.    Connect with clubs

Organizations can be a great way to make friends abroad, even for those who were not “joiners” back home.  Area clubs and organizations are often listed in local publications.  Often, the recommended country information resourceswill offer this information, too.

6.    Promote integration

Suggest they interact with the locals.  Native residents are often proud of their country, and love to share its details with new expats.  By learning from the locals, expats are able to develop their own perceptions about the country.  Making an effort to integrate rather than isolate will go a long way.

7.    Make it all add up

Use all the available resources.  Spur them on to absorb as much as they can from many directions.  By using a vetted country resource, mingling with the locals, and making friends of their neighbors and at local clubs, your expat will be well on his/her way to a happy and successful relocation!