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Sending your contractor overseas
By Anonymous on Wednesday, January 02, 2002 - 09:58 am:

I have to create a simplified acquisition (less than 5K) to send a vendor overseas to do training on a piece of equipment purchased previously.

Other than making sure the base is ready to receive the vendor with the proper security clearances in place, are there any pitfalls to doing this I am unaware of? Are there specific clauses to be put in the order?


By Vern Edwards on Wednesday, January 02, 2002 - 11:58 am:

Unless your agency has special rules for work done in certain countries or under certain conditions, you don't need anything else.

If the vendor has to ship course materials, you need to allow adequate time for such shipment. If the vendor has to ship, it's best to mail via USPS to an APO or FPO address rather than ship via FedEx or UPS, since the latter could be delayed in foreign customs.

By formerfed on Wednesday, January 02, 2002 - 12:30 pm:

Some agencies also require contractors to travel in accordance with the Government Travel Regulations. This means the contractor can't claim expenses in excess of what a Federal employee is entitled to. I don't agree with this and think normal company practices should prevail, but it's something to consider.

By Vern Edwards on Wednesday, January 02, 2002 - 12:48 pm:

The travel regulations apply only if the agency is going to reimburse the contractor for its travel at cost. It should not be necessary to do that in a simplified acquisition for a one-time, short trip. The contractor should include its travel costs in its fixed-price.

By Anonymous on Monday, January 07, 2002 - 02:18 pm:

Thanks for all your advice. It was helpful.

By Anonymous on Tuesday, January 08, 2002 - 12:49 am:

An aside out of curiosity. Has anyone run into visa or entry problems with a contractor being sent overseas to perform work?

By Vern Edwards on Tuesday, January 08, 2002 - 09:57 am:

I travel overseas under contract very frequently and have never encountered visa or other entry problems in Europe, Asia, or the Middle East. Unless the contractor is going to reside in the country for an extended period, he or she travels like a tourist.

Not that many countries require visas anymore and many that do will allow you to obtain the visa at the airport upon arrival. Last May, I obtained a visa for Cambodia upon arrival at the airport, having bought my airline ticket from Singapore just the day before. However, I'm going to Vietnam this week and I had to apply for my visa well in advance; it took about ten days for the Vietnamese counsel in D.C. to process my application and it cost $65, not including the FedEx shipping charge.

Unless the contractor is being asked to travel on very short notice, there are few difficulies. The biggest problem for a contractor these days is clearing security in order to get onto U.S. military installations, especially in certain places in the Middle East. In some places, the security is scary.

Security arrangements for visitor entry control at military installations seem to change frequently, so make sure that you know when the contractor is expected to arrive at the gate and have someone available to talk to security personnel if necessary upon their arrival. Otherwise, they may not be able to get in. Discuss security procedures with U.S. security personnel before the contractor leaves the U.S. Don't wait until the traveler arrives at the gate.

You should think about how the contractor will get back and forth from his or her hotel to your base or office, unless you can arrange for them to stay on the base. If the traveler is inexperienced, you should advise them of precautions to take while off the base in order to be safe--places to avoid, etc. If you know of hotels that are more convenient, comfortable, or safe than others, provide the traveler with a list. Provide a reliable point of contact who can advise about shipping addresses and procedures, travel and accomodations, security procedures, etc. Provide that person's office, home and cell phone number, and email address.

Experienced international travelers will be able to take care of themselves for the most part, but a point of contact helps all the same. Inexperienced travelers will need all the help they can get. Sometimes, U.S. officials in foreign places are so accustomed to the strangeness that they don't think about how strange it will be for a traveler who has never been there before and leave the traveler to his or her own devices. Some help and hospitality will be appreciated. I have found U.S. officials in foreign places to be very kind and helpful in every case.

By Anonymous on Tuesday, January 08, 2002 - 11:30 am:

I was thinking particularly of the strict work permit requirements in many countries. Travel to work as a "tourist" is not acceptable here and may make one liable for some severe sanctions abroad. Checking "tourist" when carrying tools or materials obviously related to business or work may be considered an attempt at illegal entry in some nations and may be even more difficult to get away with considering increased inspection of bags.

Government employees travel on an official passport that verifies they are on official business. Contractors who answer the purpose of travel question as "pleasure" or "tourism" then do business or have business related materials going through customs have a different problem.

I recognize work permits are generally for longer term stays in a country than a quick service call. Still, more than a few countries are quite touchy about someone entering to perform any type of business.

It has been a long time, but it seems contractors traveling overseas used to have some sort of official letter stating they were on U.S. business in accordance with bilateral agreements. What is the situation now?

By Vern Edwards on Tuesday, January 08, 2002 - 12:03 pm:


I don't know where you are, but in most countries short-term business travel does not require a work permit. I also do not know of any requirement in any country for an official letter. But it may be different where you are.

By Dave Barnett on Tuesday, January 08, 2002 - 02:46 pm:

Tsk, tsk Vern, isn't it Kampuchea? I just had to rib you...LOL. I have an in-law who works as a tech rep in the middle east and he pretty much stated what you did, you travel pretty much as a tourist or short term visitor.

By Anonymous on Tuesday, January 08, 2002 - 03:37 pm:

Interesting. What then are the purposes of things like the ATA Carnet to assist entry of professional items and samples? I also note that several advisories warn "The traveler should allow several weeks to obtain visas, especially if traveling to developing nations. Some countries that do not require visas for tourist travel do require them for business travel" in several business sites.

This question also prompted me to do some research on State's FOREIGN ENTRY REQUIREMENTS page: http://travel.state.gov/foreignentryreqs.html

That indicates it is not quite so simple (to be legal anyway). For example:

"BOLIVIA - *Passport required. Visa not required for tourist stay up to 30 days. Tourist cards issued upon arrival in Bolivia. A "Defined Purpose Visa" for adoptions, business, or other travel requires 1 application form, 1 photo, $85 fee and for business travelers, a letter from company explaining purpose of trip." (My emphasis)

Most of the European and other industrial countries seem to follow some variation of "Visa not required for tourist or business stay of up to 90 days," it is more third world and particularly some of the areas contractors might visit in connection with current events. I was also interested to find some of the nearby island areas are particularly strict. For Bahamas "Passport and residence/work permit needed for residence and business." They are apparently very strict to protect the highly limited work opportunities for their own populations.

I read of one country, Third World if I recall, made an issue of a "tourist" who was sending text back to the U.S. to be published as a travel column. The "tourist" was "working" - and perhaps not being complimentarty enough too.

It would be interesting to have someone from State chime in on the realistic possibility a contractor traveling on a tourist entry could run into difficulty.

By joel hoffman on Tuesday, January 08, 2002 - 03:47 pm:

You should check with the State Department for needs/restrictions for the Country(s) you, as a contractor, or as the Government, will be sending people to. They will tell you what Visa's, work permits, samples and professional items, etc. are necessary. DOD generally has Country to Country agreements for its staff and contractors. happy sails! joel hoffman.

By Vern Edwards on Tuesday, January 08, 2002 - 04:08 pm:

Gee, maybe I've been breaking the law all these years.

When I go to Great Britain to teach for the Navy, or to Italy, Bahrain, Japan, or Singapore, I do not obtain a visa. Upon arriving I fill in an arrival card on which I state that the purpose of my visit is business. The same for Panama, Argentina, Germany, Israel, Spain, Egypt and others--all countries in which I have been a contractor for the U.S. government or a U.S. or foreign business firm.

I have, on occasion, carried several large boxes of work materials with me. I have gone through customs and sometimes been required to explain what they were and what I was there for, and I have invariably been waved through without question. Now, however, I generally mail those things to the base or office that I am visiting.

People travel all over the world on business every day without obtaining special visas or visas of any kind. But different countries have different rules and perhaps we can't talk about this in a meaningful way unless we speak in terms of a specific nation. It is my impression that it is mainly developing countries that require visas.

Contract with the contractor and let the contractor worry about these things. Those are its problems, not yours. A smart contractor will check the visa requirements of the country it is visiting before sending someone to do the work. If the contractor needs something from you in order to get into the country it will ask for it.

By joel hoffman on Tuesday, January 08, 2002 - 05:03 pm:

I mentioned checking with the State Department because of my experience living in Saudi Arabia, and Germany, back in the 80's. Saudi has VERY strict visa requirements and very strict import restrictions. Until recently, there was no such thing as your normal "tourist visa", there. I went to Bahrain, but don't recall whther I needed special clearance to get in or if it was to get back to Saudi on the Causeway. I was all over the Persian Gulf, during the Gulf War, but we pretty much had free entry, everywhere at that time. I don't know what the normal requirements are.

In the 80's, there were also at least a couple of European countries which required some type of visa (only if travelling on Official Passport), although the EU may have changed all of that.

When I worked in Mobile,Al.in the early to mid 90's, our District handled construction for all of Central and South America. DOD had some country to country agreements for exemptions to import duties, etc. I believe I had to get a visa to get into Panama in the 90's, but don't remember, anymore.

I would agree that the Contractor should normally handle their own arrangements. If they need something, they'll usually let you know. happy sails! joel

By Anonymous on Tuesday, January 08, 2002 - 06:50 pm:

This is interesting. Vern mentions Bahrain which has specific business visa requirements in the State Department's listing. The others look pretty much like Europe's situation. With a few exceptions I'd also guess there would not be serious consequences for violation so I doubt he would spend time for a minor violation (as someone I knew did) down in a dripping, rat infested sub-dungeon until we could get him out a day later.

There are countries where any violation can be an excuse to begin a Kafkaesque or even grim dance with authority. That sometimes has the undertone (even overt) of corrupt dealings in the background. Joel has good advice to both contractor and government. Find out what the specific country requirements are, check with State for anything unusual, then let the contractor work the details.

By Anonymous on Tuesday, January 08, 2002 - 06:56 pm:

Vern is correct that meaningful discussion of a particular case is menaingless without a country name.

I don't think his impression about who requires visas is entirely true though. Several countries I used to visit without visa now require an exact mirror image of the U.S. visa their citizens must obtain to visit the U.S. I would not be surprised if the situation gets worse now that everyone is more concerned about the previous near free movement of people across borders.

By Larry Edwards on Wednesday, January 09, 2002 - 01:12 pm:

Yes, Verne, you may have been breaking the law. Rules for US contractor employees working under a contract for the US Government may be dictated by a status of forces agreement (SOFA) with the individual country and may be substantially different from commercial practice in that same country. A case in point is Germany, which has particularly onerous rules. Germany wants jobs for its own citizens or, failing that, taxes. The US Army has had to set up an organization to deal with the complex requirements. No one should send a contract employee to Germany without reading the rules and understanding the implications. It has made contracting there very difficult. Here are a couple of links addressing some of the issues there:
For this second site, then click on “DOCPER information”.

By Vern Edwards on Wednesday, January 09, 2002 - 01:34 pm:

Wow. And I've been to Germany for different Army organizations and for U.S. firms without any difficulty.

By curious anonymous on Thursday, January 10, 2002 - 03:23 am:

Good grief! The German situation does seem to be a potential can of worms. The thing about taxes being due for the full time if one works one extra day is not nice at all.

I guess the answer to first anonymous has to be check with State and any of your own agency's international specialist for the country where the work will be done. Having your contractor call that some of their people are caught up in an international mess, even if the odds are fairly low, would probably be unpleasant. I get the impression from those Army pages the Army expects its contracting people to be aware of the German situation and follow procedures.