Seven key tips for working overseas
1. Get to know the location
Before you start any new project abroad, the first step you need to take is to familiarise yourself with the working customs in the area. Check the visa requirements for temporary and permanent working contracts and make sure you are up to date with any new regulations relating to foreign workers.
2. Get connected
In many countries, having access to a reliable and knowledgeable local contact can be a huge benefit both in winning work and securing permissions to initiate projects. Local connections or sponsors can also be useful advisers when it comes to understanding local cultural customs, overcoming language barriers and sourcing local suppliers.
3. Understand local tax and residency laws
Obtaining specialist advice in the country you are working in is a must if you don’t want to fall foul of the law. To avoid being taxed in two countries, you might want to consider opening up a local presence overseas. You can usually claim Foreign Tax Credit Relief when you report your overseas income in your tax return, but how much relief you are entitled to depends on the UK’s double-taxation agreement with that country.
4. Secure a competent supply chain
If the project you’re working on requires contractors or a specific supply chain, you need to consider factors such as accommodation, meeting visa requirements and securing health insurance. Avoid customs and regulatory pitfalls by keeping on top of all paperwork when it comes to working visas and securing your supply chain.
5. Familiarise yourself with payments and currency risk
In the UK, construction payments are protected by law through the Construction Act. However, this legislation will not apply overseas. In Middle Eastern countries, for example, there is no statutory framework governing payments, leaving companies that are owed cash having to seek recovery themselves.
Currency fluctuations are another important consideration, especially if you are settling the contract payment in a different currency.
6. Health and safety issues
Regulations can vary hugely in different countries, and as such, risk assessments need to reflect this and legislation researched and complied with. However, many countries use British legislation as a guideline, so UK contractors should be well-placed to meet local standards.
7. Cultural and religious sensitivities
Local festivals and holidays will have an impact on your overall construction schedule while certain customs and practices could affect your employees’ working practices. In Islamic countries, for example, the religious festival of Ramadan can have an impact on normal working hours and overall productivity.
By James Williams, a partner specialising in construction matters at Acuity Legal. He has worked in the UK, Australia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi