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Inbound to Canada: The Assignee Perspective

CompassGUIDES - November 2006

By Diana Matwichuk, Assignment Planning Specialist

Western Canadian companies are importing talent from abroad in record numbers in response to the current shortage of labour. In our last issue of CompassPOINTS, we focused on some of the assignment planning issues that accompany this staffing solution. This month, we share with you the inbound assignee perspective, as noted in first-hand conversations with some of these individuals.

Personal Opportunity

While we as Canadians may be prone to grudging and complaining over the state of healthcare and education in Western Canada, the rest of the world views our country as a land of opportunity. Let’s face it – we live in a great country with a social system that surpasses many the globe over. Companies recruiting internationally will likely be finding that they are having no problem attracting individuals who are interested in working in Canada.

Inbound workers are particularly interested in the career growth potential that a Canadian assignment will afford them, and since work permits to Canada are difficult to arrange on their own, to have a company vouch for them in the immigration process is a dream come true. As with any international assignment, they also look forward to improving their English, meeting new people and experiencing a different culture.

Downside – the Climate!

Imagine for a moment the culture shock involved with a relocation from Ecuador to Fort McMurray. In a recent conversation with a South American engineer who made such a move in September, he could not progress from this topic – every other sentence ended with “and it’s so cold here!”


It is quite possible that assignment managers will notice a difference in the expectations of inbound assignees as compared to those departing Canada, in terms of the amount of documentation expected or required to answer their questions. Canadians are accustomed to information and they want the answers – immediately. Other cultures may be less demanding, depending on the country of recruitment. Our Ecuadorian client was quite happy with the minimal, albeit accurate, assignment preparation that he received (although a parka might have been appreciated upon arrival).

Inbound Assignee Needs

However, it is equally as likely that the need for information is the same. The typical inbound assignee, for instance, has no idea that the Canadian tax system is complicated, and is likely naïve to the ins and outs of navigating the healthcare system in major Canadian centres. Forward-thinking corporations bringing assignees to Canada will anticipate that these assignees will need to know information about their assignment to Canada, and provide it to them in advance.

One of our model client corporations includes orientation sessions for its inbound assignees, not only regarding their Canadian assignment tax program, but also from the social perspective, so that the assignees can meet each other, form a support group (including spouses), and discuss their adaptation to the Canadian culture.

Canadian Tax

With all of the opportunity and adjustments that your inbound assignees are experiencing in Canada, the last thing that might cross their mind is Canadian tax. When we first spoke with the delightfully keen Ecuadorian engineer in Fort McMurray, he had no idea of his Canadian tax obligations, and was expecting that his company would take care of it all for him. Fortunately, that is how we met him, as his pro-active employer had enlisted us for that very reason.


Inbound workers to Canada may be some of the most enthusiastic you encounter as assignment managers, but their assignments also require a significant amount of preparation to ensure that they are made aware of the differences from their host country and the complexities of certain aspects of living and working in Canada.

And a special note from Fort McMurray … be certain to warn them that “it’s so cold here!”

About Us

At CompassTAX ™ , we develop cost-effective assignment tax programs for Canadian companies sending employees around the world and bringing international consultant expertise to their Canadian projects. These Assignment Tax Programs provide detailed advanced tax planning, including policies, procedures and employment contracts, which serve to minimize costs and mitigate any risk of litigation.

In concert with this strategic assignment tax planning, at CompassGUIDES ™ we assist multi-national employers with their preparation and provision of assignment documentation, including the possibility of offering these guides online to employees anywhere in the world with internet access. Visit our International Assignment Planning Help Desk for more information about international assignment planning.

The author wishes to thank Peter Simpson, CA of CompassTAX (403-531-2000) for his contribution to this article, and to several of our clients who allowed us to speak with their inbound assignees about their relocation experience .


Tel: (403) 531-2200 
Fax: (403) 263-1826

Suite 600, 1333 8th Street SW
Calgary, Alberta Canada  T2R 1M6

Tel: (403) 531-2200 
Fax: (403) 263-1826

Suite 600, 1333 8th Street SW
Calgary, Alberta Canada  T2R 1M6