10 November 2021, Virtual
London, UK - November 2021
London, UK - December 2021
role of the travel manager appears to have mutated yet again thanks to
macro-trends which stretch well beyond the business travel sector. Step forward
the mobility compliance manager, a role accelerated certainly by myriad new border
controls in response to Covid-19 but which was emerging anyway thanks to
increased checks and restrictions on international freedom of movement for
several other reasons.
Those controls include
tightened enforcement of taxation rules for short-term business visitors,
increased scrutiny of work visas, A1 social security certificates and Posted
Worker notifications in the European Union, and Brexit restrictions on EU-UK
Stephen Swift, the
UK-based EMEA and APAC travel manager for Ford Motor Company, is clear his job
has changed as a result. “It’s so much more than managing the travel management
company and the policy,” he says.
“You have to have
a broader mindset for immigration and tax issues, as well as health and
security. Saying ‘here’s your passport and e-ticket and off you go’ is a thing
of the past, at least for the next few years.”
It’s not only
mindsets which need to be broader – so do the accompanying tools and processes.
Swift has collaborated deeply with a series of stakeholders, both internally
and externally, to build a pre-trip approval process which equips travellers
fully with the paperwork, permits and information they need to cross borders
without breaking any rules.
Swift started his
moblilty compliance project at Ford three years ago, initially to handle
increasingly complex immigration and taxation rules around relocations and
longer-term foreign work assignments.
It was a project
made more pressing by Ford switching to a globalised structure instead of
building vehicle models country by country. The new strategy meant a jump in
international travel, resulting in 240,000 trips by 26,000 different travellers
to 140 different countries in 2019, on a spend of US$160 million.
It wasn’t enough anymore to go in on a visa or visa waiver – people were being stopped at borders, turned around and sent back
“We were finding
immigration was being used by more and more countries as a political tool to
show they were protecting their population above workers coming in and
potentially taking their jobs,” says Swift.
“It wasn’t enough
anymore to go in on a visa or [visa waiver]. People were being stopped at
borders, turned around and sent back, because most types of visa only allow you
to attend a few meetings and do a few basic things. They don’t allow you to
In addition, Ford
became increasingly aware through work with its tax adviser Deloitte that
overseas visits were creating a potential tax liability for the company and its
More recently, says
Swift, immigration issues are “something that we’ve noticed creeping more and
more into general business travel. It’s something we found authorities were
picking up on and asking us to get a different immigration status for.”
visits by UK-based employees to Turkey, whose authorities no longer tolerated
visas for work trips being obtained on arrival; and repeat trips by individuals
to the same destinations. Swift adds that he is also seeing more pressure for compliance
checks on business trips because of Brexit and growing paperwork demands within
“The EU is
stepping up its requirement that you have posted worker registration if you
move between member states,” Swift says. “Some of those states are also asking
you to show your A1 certificates to prove you pay social security in your home
identified a clear problem confronting travel for his company. But finding
resources both internally and externally to create a solution was far from
Internally, as is
so often the case for a challenge that requires interdisciplinary
collaboration, “no one was putting up their hand to own it,” says Swift.
As he is
responsible for relocation as well as travel, Swift decided to drive the
project himself. He reached out to Ford’s legal office and human resources, but
he also found support within the very core of the business.
“We spoke to the
leaderships of the teams doing the travel – our product development and
manufacturing leaderships – and they recognised the need for this,” says Swift.
“As much as it was a push from us, it was a pull from those parts of the
organisation. They had seen this arise as we started to travel more to support
our global products.”
found his regular travel service providers not as well equipped as he would
have liked to handle tax and immigration issues. Instead, he turned to Ford’s global
relocation service provider Weichert Workforce Mobility.
In turn Weichert
connected him to the Irish company Tracker Software Technologies, which offers
a tool called GT Global Tracker that ensures travellers have the right work
permit and other permissions to enter a country, and tracks days spent in
different countries from a tax perspective. This information is also routed to
Deloitte, to raise the alarm if it spots any potential tax compliance
travellers are required to submit for the assessment include the trip destination,
duration and a selection from a highly detailed drop-down list of trip reasons,
often the key determinant of how much immigration paperwork will be required.
“People try and
game the system by saying they’re going for a meeting because they know it will
be easier,” says Swift. “But if someone puts that more than once, we’re going
to flag it so they must at least have a conversation with someone from an
Swift is also
working with Ford’s HR communications team to explain to travellers why it's
important they complete the pre-trip admin correctly. “We’re communicating that
the world is changing, immigration and tax rules are changing, and therefore we
need to make sure they’re protected as travellers and we’re doing the right
thing as Ford Motor Company,” he says.
“refining and Ford-ising” his company’s version of Global Tracker to minimise
the work required of travellers. This will include pre-populated information
such as employee number, passport number, nationality and country of residence.
and expense data will also be loaded to allow an automated determination of any
immigration or tax compliance measures that need to be taken. Additionally, travellers
will be informed about Covid requirements relevant to their proposed trip.
The big frustration
for Swift is that he sees no ability to connect the compliance process he has built
with Weichert and Global Tracker to his company’s online booking tool or TMC. “Until
TMCs get in the game here, we’re having to create these processes ourselves,”
Ford is far from
being alone in the approach it is taking to improving mobility compliance,
according to Tracker Software Technologies CEO and co-founder Liam Brennan. “We’re seeing a huge surge in
multiple-stakeholder teams, including travel, HR or mobility, tax, and legal,
going out with global bids to standardise this,” he says.
Exactly the same trend is also identified by
David Livitt, director of business traveller services for the mobility tax
consultancy Global Tax Network. “Travel managers have always been
involved in this, but very much on the periphery,” he says.
interested in compliance only as far as budget and duty of care. Now they are
being brought into a multi-disciplinary process. The direction for travel
managers is going to be much more around that approval process.”
But what should travel managers do if they
identify a need for mobility compliance that no one is taking the lead on in
their organisation? The answer, in Swift’s view, is to take the initiative
your case and get the relevant people together – HR, legal, maybe health and
security teams – and present the fact that this is the new normal in the travel
world,” he says. “You have to make them aware there’s an additional layer of
complexity, which is tax, immigration, social security compliance, and that you
need to create the processes and policies around it.”