If I were an Expat (9/10): The return

It is advisable to start preparing your return a few months before the end of your assignment. In most cases, the Expatriation is agreed for a maximum of 2 or 3 years. Then, you may be offered an extension but the total length is normally 5 years or less. Talk to your bosses and find out what they have in mind before you start planning for your return.

If you are asked to stay and you reach an agreement to continue the assignment, all you have to do is make the necessary arrangements to extend your stay:
  • Sign an addendum to the Assignment letter
  • Confirm the validity of the visa during the extended period
  • Notify the landlord of the lengthening of the rental, register your kids in the following school year,  etc.
Once the extension has been ruled out, the time is ripe to plan for the return.  In regards to personal and family matters, remember:
  • Giving advance notice to your landlord and preparing for your house and school at home, etc.
  • Confirm if there is any tax or mandatory migration arrangement (for example, in some countries you have to do a tax return at the time of departure)
  • Contact the agency that will help you with the moving, etc.
From the professional perspective, there are two possible situations :
  •  If your expatriation period is subject to the completion of your project, you have to plan the closing activities.
  • If your assignment is temporary but the work you are performing is not, you should plan on preparing a successor and sharing your know-how before you leave. This is an important matter that can cause tension towards the end of your assignment. Remember that being an Expat usually involves some unique know-how . You will have knowledge about the project, country or organization that probably nobody else has. For this reason, it is important that you document and share your experience as it will be very valuable for other colleagues.
In addition, you may be offered a new expatriation, to a different country or within the same country.
  • If in the same country, remember that there remains a need to review the visa and you may not be considered a new Expat for legal purposes (check tax and social security potential issues).
  • Should an opportunity in another country arise, in most cases the counters are set to zero, that is, a new expatriation will normally be considered for social security and tax purposes.
Another possibility that can arise is a localization, which is characterized by:
  • a permanent transfer, which usually means resigning in the home country
  • with economic and labor conditions similar to a local employee in the country of destination (this is why it is also called "localization")
  • in some cases, companies offer some allowances for a limited period of time to encourage the  move and this means a progressive loss of your expatriation benefits.
Finally, remember that if you return or arrive to Spain after more than 10 years working abroad, you may be able to apply the favorable taxation that has been named also as "Beckham Law", which is an optional regime for individuals who become tax resident in Spain as result of moving to Spanish territory following an employment contract . There was a recent article on the press that explains this regime. (Articulo sobre el Regimen Fiscal Especial del Impatriado, sorry in Spanish). Currently, it does not apply to yearly earnings above 600.000€.

On the professional front, it is time to assess how much you have learnt, improved your management capabilities, languages, etc. In most cases, the experience will be very positive for your employability and you will be in a much better position to face new professional challenges.