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International Assignments


Until 2015, the majority of firms overall reported international assignments were typically 1-3 years in duration. The percentage dropped from 59% in 2014 to 44% in 2015 and remains lower for the fifth straight year at 43%. Assignments of less than a year (36%) are almost as “typical” as those lasting 1-3 years, with longer engagements falling out of favor (21%).

  • Trending similarly to the last three years, small and mid-size firms favor shorter durations far more than large firms do (48% and 45% vs. 21%). Use of short assignments overtakes standard lengths at small firms for yet another year (48% vs. 30%). At large firms, short assignments are still less common than they were four years ago (21% vs. 30%) but they rise above historical norms. Overall, use of shorter assignment types by mid-size and small firms remains roughly double or more compared to 4-5 years ago.
  • Standard assignment lengths of 1-3 years are reported by 49% of large firms and 43% of mid-size firms, far more than by small firms (30%).
  • Overall, firms estimate around five in ten assignments were 1-3 years, one fifth were short-term, and roughly a fifth were longer. Very few belonged to another type of assignment (commuter, rotational, etc.). More than half of mid-size and 40% of small and large firms expect their use of short-term/temporary assignments to increase during 2019; only one in ten across size anticipate decreased usage. Half of small and large firms expect stability in frequency for this type of assignment.
Question 46-c
What is the typical international relocation assignment duration for employees at your company?
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Question 46-d1
In 2018, what percentage of your international relocations were...
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Question 46-d2
In 2018, what percentage of your international relocations were...
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Question 46-e
Do you expect the number of international short-term/temporary assignments in 2019 to...
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Despite stricter immigration enforcement and a challenging political climate, the United States was a top international destination again in 2018. The five most-frequented destinations for relocations between the U.S. and other countries/regions were: United States (38%), Canada (35%), Western Europe (28%), United Kingdom (28%), and Asia (27%). The United States was again first in intraregional transfers of expatriates; both immigration to the U.S. and movement of foreign nationals within the U.S. remain markedly higher for a fifth year (38%+ vs. 18% in 2013). Asia ranked second for intraregional transfers (29%), followed closely by Canada (26%) and Western Europe (26%). The United States was the top destination for interregional transfers (45%), followed by Western Europe (31%) and Asia (30%).

  • Across all types of international relocations, European destinations combined (U.K., Eastern & Western Europe) continue to eclipse most other regions, with more than half of firms citing this geographic block as a most frequent destination, whether outbound from the U.S. (54%) or inbound from another country (52%). Only North America (U.S. and Canada combined) generates similar percentages for international origins and destinations (60% & 56%). This region saw much greater intraregional activity last year compared to 2017 (56% vs. 40%). More than a third of firms overall cite an Asian Continent/Australian/Pacific Rim destination for outbound moves from the U.S. or another foreign country, and 34% report moves within the Asian Continent/Australian/Pacific Rim happened inter-regionally.
Question 10-b1
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Question 10-b2
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Question 10-b3
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Most firms, regardless of size, average two tiers within each international-policy type (overall, permanent transfer, localization, and intraregional). For tiers in the overall policy, two of the top three criteria are job/grade level (56%) and position/job title (46%), similar to domestic policy (56% and 53%). Assignment length is third overall across company size internationally, other factors play lesser roles internationally for small and large firms (compared to domestic policy).

  • For international policy, job/grade level outstrips all other factors at large firms, but it is essentially equal in weight to position/job title for mid-size firms.
  • For small firms, assignment length is equally important to job/grade level (33%), while position/job title is the top factor (46%).
  • Assignment location/region, homeowner/renter, and employment status (new hire/current employee) each carry more weight in international policy for mid-size and large firms compared to small firms (similar to domestic policy).

For the fifth year in a row, the vast majority of firms, near the highest percentages historically, report differences between domestic and international policies. Generally, the percentages of firms offering specific policy allowances fall roughly at or slightly above last year’s levels, with many individual offerings remaining near historical lows. We note these exceptions:

  • Far more firms offer additional leave time with a visit home than did last year (45% vs. 36%), closer to the previous seven-year historical mid-ranges (42%-48%).
  • Financial-services assistance is near historical highs (35% vs. 39%), similar to the past six years and above the low (18%: 2012).
  • Additional leave time is similar to that over the last four years (35% vs. 28%-33%) and above historical lows (16%-18%).
  • Extended per-diem charges falls in the mid-range (22% vs. 11%-28%) of the last 16 years.
  • The percentages of firms offering certain benefits also remain similar to the past four years, albeit far lower than five years ago: additional tax considerations (43% vs. 41%-46% (2015-2018) & 61% (2014)) and allowances for children to attend certain schools (42% vs. 35%-42% (2015-2018) & 54% (2014)).
  • Additionally, a policy consideration we first surveyed three years ago—international transportation allowance (rental car, commuting costs, etc.)—finds a third of firms offer it (34%), similar to the last two years (33%-36%).

For the first time, we asked if stronger data privacy protocols/protection rules for service providers were being incorporated into international policy compared to domestic—one in five firms across size are doing so.

Question 46-i1
Comparing your international relocation policy to your domestic relocation policy, does your company’s international relocation policy offer
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Question 46-i2
Comparing your international relocation policy to your domestic relocation policy, does your company’s international relocation policy offer
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