Permits Foundation promotes the best practice of an ‘open’ work permit or authorisation for legally resident expatriate partners. This gives them immediate access to the employment market for the same duration as the main work permit holder, once they have obtained their accompanying family member residence status. They can then apply for jobs freely, and take temporary project work or part-time work, without the uncertainty and time consuming bureaucracy of a work permit application. It also reduces bureaucracy for the authorities and helps employers fill urgent and temporary vacancies.
Successes and challenges
Since we started our campaign, thirty countries now allow spouses to work and there are clear signs of a growing trend to recognise family needs, including the recognition of unmarried and same-sex partners, and also allowing children of working age to work.
We have created a global overview which, for simplicity, divides these countries into three groups:
1. Those where partners can work freely.
2. Those where there is a relatively straightforward work permit process.
3. Those where a work permit is difficult to obtain.
In practice, the situation is more complex and there are variations within each group. Even within the best practice group, partner employment authorisation may only apply to specific visa types and not all countries recognise unmarried or same-sex partners. The USA, for example, gives work authorisation to the married spouses of intra-company transferees and treaty traders, but not to other highly skilled visa categories such as the H1B and TN visas. By contrast, Brazil recognises partners of either sex but does give not them open permission to work. This very complexity is an additional hurdle for international organisations and the employees they need to transfer for business reasons.
So, there is still much work to be done and we have set up local sponsor networks in Brazil, India, Japan, Indonesia and Russia to expand on the work that we do from our international base in the Netherlands. Local steering committees also help us to plan an approach to the government ministries, taking the political, economic and social climate into account.
- Brazil: Our local representatives have met with government officials to propose an amendment to the Foreigners Bill, which would allow family members of foreign workers to work during an assignment.
- India: Our work has resulted in a change of regulations, permitting spouses of intra-company transferees to apply for an employment visa in India. We continue to advocate full access to employment and self-employment for spouses and have steadily built consensus on the need for change. Following elections in May 2014, we have written to the new Government of India to seek approval of our proposals.
- Japan: As a result of our efforts, improvements have been made to work permit requirements for professional spouses. We continue to promote full work authorisation.
- European Union: Provisions for non-European family members to work were included in the EU ‘Blue Card’ Directive and implemented by Member States taking part. We also campaigned successfully for family members to be allowed to work under the EU Directive on intra-corporate transfers. Member States have until November 2016 to transpose the Directive into their national legislation.
- UK: We successfully argued against a tightening of regulations for dependents of intra-company transferees.
- USA: We are promoting an extension of employment authorisation for spouses of all skilled work permit holders, as well as recognition of unmarried partners.
As success is achieved, we will set up new networks to promote change in Asia, Latin America, Middle East and Africa.
Each year, we organise round table events for our sponsors and government representatives in key locations. The next one will be in India. We also organise a biennial conference, which includes government representatives from relevant countries.