Top 6 Expat Legal Challenges and How to Overcome Them

No matter your goal in life, overcoming obstacles will be a part of the journey. When obstacles pop up, it is important to take a step back and think about ways to overcome them instead of letting them derail your plans completely.

Americans living abroad still have financial obligations to Uncle Sam, and filing correctly is critical. Filing with a tax service that offers a 100% accuracy guarantee is the best way to ensure compliance.

1. Visas and Work Permits

While working abroad can bring amazing opportunities, it is important to have a clear understanding of the laws and regulations that govern your new home country. One of the most common expat legal issues that they face is misunderstanding the difference between visas and work permits.

A visa is a document that allows a person entry into a country for a specific purpose and period of time. A work permit, on the other hand, enables an individual to engage in productive labor in a country for an extended amount of time.

Work visas are granted by the government to individuals based on their qualifications and the needs of the economy. For example, an employment-based “preference immigrant” visa is granted to individuals with extraordinary skills in science, arts, education, business or athletics. Employers must prove to the Department of Labor that they have a shortage of American workers in their fields to obtain this type of visa.

2. Health Care

There’s a lot of confusion about healthcare vs. health care. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines health care as “the efforts to maintain or restore physical or mental well-being by trained and licensed professionals.” But there’s an even bigger semantic debate over whether health care is a right or a service. Regardless of which side you’re on, the challenge of providing access to quality healthcare is one that affects all of us.

Free market principles have not failed healthcare, but the landscape has a number of unique moving parts that have been skewed by government and third party interactions. A first-party transaction that establishes a healthy patient-physician healing relationship is paramount for the best outcomes.

3. Immigration

Migratory movements are a global phenomenon driven by a variety of factors such as economic and social needs, family reunification, climate change, war and natural disasters. While most migration is regular and happens through regulatory channels, irregular immigration involves people moving into a country without proper authorization or documentation.

The challenge is to manage the positive socioeconomic outcomes of migration while avoiding pitfalls such as human rights violations, environmental degradation and the exploitation of migrants. There is a need to reduce the political polarization around immigration, destigmatize undocumented immigrants and stop the use of anti-migrant rhetoric in policy discourses.

Irregular migrants have a harder time adapting to return and face challenges such as finding work, navigating a new culture, and rebuilding social support networks. They are also prone to mental health issues like depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

4. Employment Contracts

Employment contracts are a critical component of the employer-employee relationship, and they protect both parties’ interests. However, crafting compliant employment contracts can be challenging for companies that recruit around the globe.

Contract issues generally arise from ambiguous wording or overly restrictive terms that are not in line with local law. Having a lawyer analyze your contract may help you avoid such issues.

Employment contracts can contain terms such as financial compensation if you leave early, mandated time periods, or stipulations that intellectual property created during employment belongs to the company. Such restrictions can limit an employee’s professional opportunities. Additionally, breaking a contract may result in legal consequences such as a lawsuit. Employment contract disputes can be resolved through arbitration or mediation, which are less expensive and faster than litigation. Employment contracts can also include noncompete clauses that impose restrictions on an employee’s ability to work for a competitor in the same industry.

5. Child Abduction

International child abduction is becoming an increasingly common problem for expats. It occurs when a parent or relative takes their child abroad in violation of a custody decree or visitation agreement. This is different from domestic family abduction, where the kidnapping occurs within one county or state.

If you suspect your co-parent will try to internationally kidnap your child, contact the Department of State as soon as possible. They have staff that specialize in resolving this type of case and can direct you to organizations that help with child abductions abroad.

A consular case management officer will work with you to gather information about the location of your child. They can also provide you with lists of resources and lawyers in the country where your child has been taken. They can also explain whether laying criminal charges is an option.

6. Employment Contracts with Restrictive Clauses

In some industries, a business needs to protect itself from client poaching and intellectual property theft by imposing restrictive covenants on employees. These clauses may prohibit an employee from competing with a former employer, or using their confidential information, after employment ends, usually for years.

Non-competition clauses are the most onerous as they prevent an employee from working in their field of expertise for a certain period of time. However, courts have ruled that these clauses must be reasonable in scope and not excessively burdensome on the former employer to be enforceable.

Non-solicitation and confidentiality clauses are generally easier to enforce as they restrict an employee from soliciting their former employer’s customers or employees, but only if the clause is not too broad in scope. It is also important to ensure that the terms of a restrictive covenant are clearly drafted and reasonable when the contract was entered into.