International recruitment guide


  • Employers in Europe and North America are in need of employees, especially in tech-related fields.
  • In the case of a (part-time) on-site office strategy, talent acquisition professionals are searching for talent that is located in the employer's city.
  • Candidates who are willing to move to the city/country of the employer are often overlooked.
  • Many talent acquisition professionals are interested in international recruitment but see it as a challenge and seek more information on how to get started.
  • Relocating an employee to the city/country of the employer is easier than most talent acquisition professionals might think.
  • This guide covers international recruitment challenges and solutions, with the goal to extend the target group of possible future employees and fill open positions faster.
  • The target group is talent acquisition professionals who are working for a company in Europe and/or North America that internally speaks English, has currently unfilled tech positions, is challenged by a tightening labor market, and is culturally open to employees from other countries and cultures.

Initial elicitation

A good starting point for a discussion around international recruitment is asking questions within the HR leadership team:

  • How many positions are currently open?
  • What percentage of all roles is that?
  • What is our staff turnover in general / for specific functions?
  • How much are these open positions a threat to our growth plans?
  • What are we willing to invest to fill positions faster?
  • What are we willing to invest to fill a higher percentage of all positions?
  • What is our current recruitment approach?
  • What are the options to increase the recruitment speed?
  • What are the options to increase the percentage of filled positions?
  • What is our geographic recruitment reach?
  • Why have we selected this geographic recruitment reach?
  • What are the options to broaden our geographic recruitment reach?
  • What are the prerequisites to broaden our geographic recruitment reach?
  • What is our current budget for recruitment services?
  • Which recruitment firms/platforms can help us to broaden our geographic recruitment reach?
  • How do we compare the value propositions of these solutions?
  • What are the costs of these recruitment solutions?
  • How do we evaluate these solutions?

Stakeholder alignment

International recruitment is similar to "normal" recruitment, with the following exceptions:

  • International recruitment places international candidates with employers in Europe and North America.
  • The candidate isn't located at the employer's location at the beginning of the recruitment process and on the date the employment contract is agreed.
  • International recruitment/hiring is not(!) remote hiring, in which the employee remains at a remote location instead of relocating to the employer's location.
  • As part of the international recruitment process, the employer sponsors a visa for the candidate / new hire after agreeing on the employment contract.
  • After a visa has been issued, the candidate / new hire relocates to the employer's location.
  • The aim of relocation to a central office location is better collaboration between employees in the office, instead of working fully remotely.
  • With a part-time work-from-home agreement the employees work some days a week from home and get together for intense collaboration on other days.
  • An immigration & relocation service provider assists the employer and the international candidate with the immigration & relocation process.
  • International recruitment isn't a common practice for most employers.
  • Looking at the growing talent shortage in developed countries, one could highlight a significant business opportunity in international recruitment for employers, recruitment firms, and immigration & relocation service providers.

Fundamental decisions

Decision-making participants

The decision for an international recruitment initiative isn't too complicated but major stakeholders should be involved:

  • The head of HR explains the approach to the C-suite.
  • The head of talent acquisition explains the approach to the company's recruiters.
  • The head of people & culture explains the approach to the employees.

Office strategy

After the Covid-19 pandemic each company has made a strategic office decision:

  1. Work in the on-site office for increased collaboration.
  2. Work part-time on-site/remotely to provide freedom but also keep the social connection.
  3. Work remotely in similar time zones to maximize the talent pool and communicate synchronously.
  4. Work from remote time zones to maximize the talent pool and employ asynchronous work.

International recruitment is an option in cases 1 and 2.

Strategic decisions

Talent acquisition leaders should make a couple of decisions before jumping into international recruitment:

  • What is our work culture in terms of different cultures and colocation?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of international recruitment?
  • What are the cultural risks of recruiting international talent?
  • What are the legal risks of recruiting international talent?
  • Are we willing to cover the effort of international recruitment to fill our open positions?
  • How do we reduce the amount of work international recruitment requires in comparison to regional/national recruitment?
  • Which international recruitment solutions do we want to use?
  • Do we want to give international recruitment a try?
  • Where do we start with international recruitment?

Operational decisions

After strategically deciding to try international recruitment, talent acquisition leaders should consider some operational questions:

  • How do we structure our candidate interview process?
  • How does our international interview process differ from our regional recruitment process?
  • Which questions do we need to ask?
  • Which visa & relocation service provider do we choose?
  • How do we employ people until they are relocated?

HR role definition

The internal HR operations should support international hires, as starting a new job on another continent is a much bigger challenge compared to usual job changes.

  • HR determines the recruitment, hiring, and onboarding processes.
  • HR selects the external immigration & relocation service provider.
  • HR connects the involved departments for setting up the international recruitment process.
  • HR guides candidates / new hires through the whole process and ensures a good start with the new employer.

Immigration & relocation service provider selection

Employers select an immigration & relocation service provider to execute the required tasks.

  • Many immigration & relocation service providers exist. The HR department selects one with a request for a proposal (or a request for a service catalog).
  • The HR department decides which tasks it wants to execute itself and which to outsource to the service provider.
  • The HR department decides which tasks it wants to source from one service provider (all together vs. specialized service providers).
  • The HR department researches a number of service providers and sets up introductory calls to understand the immigration & relocation service industry and its service structure.

Immigration & relocation service components list

Typical services in Germany include:

  • Visa & immigration pre-check
  • Visa & immigration process before relocation
  • Immigration process after relocation
  • Relocation travel booking support
  • Registration at the registration authority
  • Temporary or permanent accommodation search
  • Electricity & gas contract support
  • Mobile phone & landline internet contract support
  • Health insurance application support
  • Personal liability insurance contract support
  • Child allowance application support
  • Maternity/paternity allowance support
  • Kindergarten & school search & admission
  • Babysitter search & hiring
  • Car registration support
  • Resident parking permit support

German immigration & relocation service providers

We recommend the following immigration & relocation service providers in Germany:

United Kingdom immigration & relocation service providers

We researched the following immigration & relocation service providers in the United Kingdom:

  • 4 Corners Relocation
  • A & Y Law Ltd
  • Absolutely Relocation
  • Accent Relocation
  • AGS Relocation
  • Anglia Immigration Law
  • City Legal Services
  • Citrus Relocation
  • Danielle Cohen
  • Dentons
  • Dovetail
  • Edmans & Co
  • EMS
  • Executive Relocation
  • Gerson Relocation
  • Gherson
  • Gosselin
  • Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors
  • HCR Relocation Services
  • ITN Solicitors
  • Jigsaw Conferences
  • Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward
  • Latitude Law
  • Law Firm Ltd.
  • Lexlaw
  • Lexvisa
  • LSS Relocation
  • Morgan Randall
  • OTS Solicitors
  • Pavilion Relocation
  • PK Immigration Law
  • Plus Relocation
  • Reiss Edwards
  • Relocate UK
  • Relocation Support Services
  • Relocation Unlimited
  • Seraphus
  • Setfords Solicitors
  • Simply London
  • The Relocation Consultancy
  • UK Migration Lawyer
  • Vantage Relocation
  • Visa Solutions
  • Welcome Home London
  • Westkin Associates
  • Withersworldwide

Talent platform selection

Talent platforms use a distinctive interaction model between candidates and employers:

  • On talent platforms, candidates create a profile determining the city they would like to work in.
  • Talent platforms feature the same people who also send applications via job boards and can be reached on LinkedIn via direct outreach.
  • Talent platforms work well for candidates who want to work in one specific city or remotely.
  • Talent platforms don't work well for candidates who are interested in a number of foreign cities.
  • Employers cannot find high numbers of candidates who are willing to work abroad in a high number of cities.
  • Talent platforms work for the usual talent acquisition process but don't improve the international recruitment process, where companies source people who are willing to work in a number of cities abroad.

Talent acquisition leaders differentiate between the following parameters of online talent platforms:

  • Contracting vs. fixed employment
  • Temporary vs. permanent
  • Remote vs. on-site
  • Freedom of choice vs. managed selection (does the recruiter have access to all profiles or do they get a small selection of candidates after defining their requirements?)

International job ads

  • The traditional approach to finding employees is through posting job ads on common online platforms.
  • The challenge is that the search is based on job title and one location.
  • Employers can hope that candidates also search in their city for potential employers.
  • Employers can place job ads in many more cities around the world by mentioning the "true" job location in the job title and relocation approach in the job description.
  • Many job platforms forbid the creation of job ads for other cities than what the data field includes.
  • This approach is also inefficient because the percentage of people who want to relocate to another country is only 3%, and the percentage of people who are willing to relocate to another continent is somewhat lower.

International talent sourcing

  • Actively sourcing candidates means contacting them with personal messages on LinkedIn.
  • With a personal message, recruiters inform candidates about the job and build a personal relationship with the candidate.
  • Job ads are highly competitive, whereas personal messages build a more direct connection between the candidate and the employer.
  • The number of candidates who are willing to relocate to the employer's location is relatively low, but taking the rest of the world into account it is very high.
  • The challenge lies in filtering the candidates who are willing to relocate to the employer's location.
  • LinkedIn Recruiter provides the option to search for candidates who are willing to work in other specific(!) cities.
  • With LinkedIn Recruiter, employers find people who are willing to move to the city of the employer.

Employment contract design

The employer's HR team should understand the opportunities and challenges of designing the employment contract with the international hire.

  • The job position in the contract should match the academic qualifications of the hire.
  • Rare exceptions are special visas for people with exceptional skills, or skills gained without a higher education degree.
  • International hires should earn a reasonable salary.
  • Following usual market salaries should ensure that the employer meets the legal requirements on minimum salaries.
  • Employers should consult their visa & relocation partner for detailed information about minimum salaries in the corresponding jurisdiction.
  • Visa bureaucrats like to see unlimited employment contracts, but usually also those with a reasonable limitation of not less than one year.
  • Limited contracts also don't make sense in combination with the comparatively complex process for immigration & relocation.

Employee immigration

  • An immigration & relocation service provider leads the process of applying for a visa and finding a home.

Temporary remote employment

  • If the employer and new hire want to start working together before relocating to the employer's location, an "employer of record" (EOR) service provider may help.

Employee relocation

  • The visa & relocation partner guides you through the steps and informs both sides about the necessary preparation.
  • The travel itself isn't a big issue, with many flight connections even despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • After arrival, the necessary bureaucratic steps must be executed by all sides. This should all be covered by the visa & relocation partner.
  • The employer's HR team should fulfill legal requirements (e.g., resident permit, insurance, bank account) and make an effort to support the new employee.
  • This includes a cultural onboarding with information about good practices and cultural idiosyncrasies.
  • Many visa & relocation partners provide documents for internal distribution.
  • The employer's HR team should create its own culture guide, which will demonstrate its commitment and dedication to the international hires.
  • A buddy program can appoint a colleague to support the new employee and ensure inclusion into the social structures of the company.
  • If the employer has a people culture team, this should be part of the international hiring process.
  • Both sides must acknowledge that placing an international hire can take longer than a new employee already located in the city of the employer.
  • It's important that the HR team conducts some expectation management so that neither party will be disappointed during the immigration & relocation process.
  • The HR team keeps in contact with the immigration & relocation provider, which can provide timeframes for each process step.
  • The best accelerator of the process is the early preparation of required documents.
  • Missing documents is the most common reason for delays in the visa & relocation process.

Employee welcoming

  • International recruitment only works when the employer has a structured employee onboarding process in place.
  • International hires from distant countries can expect a culture shock in the destination country.
  • In the case of relocations from emerging countries to developed (Western) countries, the higher living standards and developed infrastructure outweigh the negative experience of anonymous cities and complicated bureaucracy.
  • Major cultural differences should be communicated in the interview process.
  • This includes freedom of speech and religion, a more open and diverse society, and the equality of women and minorities.
  • In the case of cultural incompatibilities, the interview process should be aborted.
  • The integration of the new employee into a social life outside of work is important.
  • The employee's close colleagues, including the team leader, should set up and participate in team events inside and outside of work times.
  • The HR team must support the international hire's new team with ideas and the planning process of team activities.
  • Losing the new international hire soon after his/her employment would cost the company not only the expense of the visa & relocation process, but also another open position.
  • Failing at social integration could also be bad for the reputation of the team leader and the HR team, as well as the corporate culture team.

Cultural onboarding

Additional new hire support

  • New hire support includes connecting with the selected visa & relocation service provider and the special attention of the internal HR team.
  • Employers normally pay for the visa & relocation process.
  • Many employers also pay for the flight to the destination country.
  • Many employers provide an additional budget for their new international hire for additional costs not covered by the visa & relocation service provider.
  • A cash amount for the new hire is easier than the coverage of single services, for which an invoice would be required for the employer's financial records.
  • Close collaboration with culture leaders and knowledge managers ensures that this extra support becomes more time-efficient with more international hires.