Types and Challenges of Expatriation

Types and Challenges of Expatriation

Carla Freitas Morence (University of Aveiro, Portugal), Marta Ferreira Esteves (University of Aveiro, Portugal), Núria Rodrigues Silva (University of Aveiro, Portugal) and António Carrizo Moreira (University of Aveiro, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3473-1.ch175
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Although corporate expatriation, especially involving multinational firms, has been receiving the main focus of attention in the academy, this chapter seeks to complement this narrow perspective embracing the analysis of complementary approaches involving migration, assigned expatriates, self-initiated expatriates, lifestyle expatriates, and expat-preneurs. For that a literature review was carried out taking into account those different approaches to expatriation. Clearly, this chapter embraces the explanation of those five main approaches that complement the classical view of migration and expatriation through multinational companies.
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Based on the Latin etymological root (expatria, outside of the mother land), expatriation comprises all individuals residing temporarily or permanently in a country other than the one in which they were born (González & Oliveira, 2011). However, the management literature clearly differentiates terms as expatriate and immigrant, in which the former is associated with individual sent abroad by the firms they work for, and the latter with individuals that left their countries, normally for socio-economic conditions (González & Oliveira, 2011).

The thriving economic globalization process has led to a clear increase in the number of migrants, expatriates and mobile employees, which has led the academic community to focusing on the expatriation phenomenon, especially in the process of adaptation of those expatriates to the countries of destination (Black & Mendenhall, 1991; González & Oliveira, 2011; Shaffer, Harrison, & Gilley, 1999; Wang, 2002).

Expatriation has been studied based on the interest of many multinationals in sending their managers/executives abroad, since qualified and skilled expatriates are major intangible assets to their companies when it comes to compete in the global market. (Black & Mendenhall, 1991; Shaffer, Harrison, & Gilley, 1999; Wang, 2002; Bonache, Brewster, Suutari, & Cerdin, 2018; Tahir, 2018). However, expatriation has also been studied from the point of view of small and medium-sized enterprises, although with less intensity (Ribau, Moreira, & Raposo, 2018). From the managerial point of view, the expatriate lives temporarily in a foreign country. Expatriation is the act of transferring an executive, eventually his/her family and children, to another subsidiary of the company, located in a different country and culture (Bonache et al., 2018).

When internationalizing a company, expatriation works as a way to solve the problems of lack of professionals with technical and managerial skills. Expatriates are also of added value to the company in the implementation of new projects.

When one experiences times of crisis, the tendency is to seek a better life in another country, yet expatriates tend to do it in ways different from what the ordinary migrants do. They are more adventurous, fearless, and willing to take more risks, bearing in mind that expatriation is seen initially as a temporary experience, something enriching and less like a necessity. Expatriates’ performance is a multidimensional construction that encompasses the dimensions of cross-cultural adaptation and requires success of the international mandate, i.e. achieving the goals proposed, managing local employees, leading the foreign affiliate, scanning the economic environment and appropriately dealing with important international counterparts.

With the globalization process, expatriation has been growing and tends to be seen as an important step in the development of an international professional career. As a worldwide phenomenon, expatriation is guided by a constantly dynamic working relationship between employer and employee (Jokinen, Brewster, & Suutari, 2008).

Although there is extant research on expatriates, it addresses career-based and business-based expatriation as “business expatriates, defined as, legally working individuals who reside temporarily in a country of which they are not a citizen in order to accomplish a career-related goal, being relocated abroad either by an organization, by self-initiation or directly employed within the host-country” (Selmer et al., 2018, p. 136).

The expatriation process ends with repatriation and means that the international assignee returns to his/her home country with family members with whom he/she had expatriated in first place. Regarding this final phase of expatriation, that can be alone a very complicated process, there are already many studies trying not only to understand its complexity but also seeking improved strategies to solve difficulties that the repatriates may face (Chiang, Van Esch, Birtch, & Shaffer, 2018).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Immigrant: A person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence.

Expat-Preneurs: An individual temporarily living abroad who initiates an international new venture, based on a self-employment opportunity in a host country.

Lifestyle Migration: This concept involves melting migration (as individuals who move from one country to another, seeking better living conditions) with Lifestyle (a ‘free choice’ to pursue a particular way of living through migration). It normally involves identity-making projects of individuals who approach migration as a form of consumption in contrast to the typically production-orientated migration flows.

Expatriate: A person who lives outside her/his native country.

Self-initiated Expatriate: Is an individual who initiates and usually finances her/his own expatriation and are not transferred by organizations. Ii is an individual who relocates to a country of his/her choice to pursue cultural, personal, and career development experiences, often with no definite time frame in mind.

Company-Assigned Expatriates: Individuals expatriated through the organizations they represent and for which they will perform a particular function outside their country of origin. Normally, their assignments are clearly defined in terms of managerial tasks to be performed abroad and time horizon of the assignment.

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