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Telecommuting from Japan to California - Is it possible? 75

Posted by Cliff
from the working-across-an-ocean dept.
clambake asks: "Well, the long and short of it is I'll be moving to Japan next month as my wife is returning to finish her Master's degree in Tokyo. I have an excellent job now in Silicon Valley, and I'd love to keep working here from abroad, but it looks like California lawmakers have it out for me. Despite my company's willingness to keep me on, the labor laws make it very difficult, if not impossible, to do so when I don't physically work in the country. I can't work as a contractor for my own company either, as there are laws in place to 'protect' me from my employer trying to demote me to contractor to save on paying benefits. Is there anyone out there who's been through a similar situation and who would be willing to post their success or failure stories?"
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Telecommuting from Japan to California - Is it possible?

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  • My company (Score:3, Funny)

    by p4ul13 (560810) on Wednesday August 20, 2003 @07:34PM (#6749736) Homepage
    My company is working to send a bunch of our jobs overseas. Keep waiting and your company may "Accomodate" you as well.
  • Could you possibly get around those laws by "quitting", and being rehired as a contractor?

    Just a thought.
    • Yeah, that doesn't seem to work, because as far as the labor office is concerned, I'm still doing the same work for the same company, but now without benifits... so supposedly they'll sue on my behalf, even against my will, for those benifits.
      • I bet if you also renounce your citizenship they won't.
        • If you're going to renounce your native citizenship, it's a good idea to obtain citizenship somewhere else first. From what I hear, that's no easier to do in Japan than it is in the US.
          • Getting citizenship in the Orient is impossible. Especially when so many of their own are jumping ship to Canada and the U.S.A. The mindset is "why would anyone do such a stupid thing?" There are exceptions to the rule: Hong Kong. But, do really want to do such a stupid thing?
          • It's quite considerably harder. On the books, they require 5 years residence, but in practice, the requirements are more like this:
            - 10 years or more living in Japan (with no breaks).
            - Married to a Japanese person.
            - 1 or more kids.
            It may be easier if you're a second or third generation Japanese descendant, but either way, the application procedure can take anywhere from 4 to 12 months to be approved.
      • So have them paying you to cover the benefits that you had when you were a regular employee... make sure that it's explicitly covered in the contract with your company. Perhaps they could even put into the contract that "anybody working for your company primarily on this contract will (subject to agreement) recieve benefits as if they were a company employee".

        Yhe state can't sue your employer for something that you're recieving.

  • by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 20, 2003 @07:37PM (#6749751) Journal
    TALK TO A LAWYER.

    Talk to a lawyer? Talk to a lawyer!

    Perhaps, if you haven't considered consulting with a lawyer, you may wish to talk to a lawyer. Alternatively, if you have some kind of problem with lawyers, you should talk to a lawyer.

    Talk to a lawyer. Talk to a lawyer. Talk to a lawyer.

    Someone needs to make a song about this.
    • Re:All together now: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by clambake (37702)
      Well, it's the lawyers who mostly say, "Sorry, not possible, bye bye." But I can't believe that it would really be THIS difficult to do a little telecommuting. Lawyers, even good ones, don't always have all the answers, so I was trying to see if anyone else had a similar situation and knew the "secret" to making it happen.
      • Oh, I don't mean your company's lawyers. I mean a lawyer *you* pay. Your company's lawyers' only interest is in reducing liability.

        I'm surprised it's so hard too. That's why I think a good lawyer with expertise in this area would definitely have an answer. Especially if you paid him to say more than "Sorry, not possible, bye bye."

        Sorry for the brush off. It is a legal question, after all.
      • Well, it's the lawyers who mostly say, "Sorry, not possible, bye bye." But I can't believe that it would really be THIS difficult to do a little telecommuting.

        No, what the lawyer says is, "That's illegal. Please don't ask me help you break the law, I could lose my license."

        In point of fact, this whole conversation we're having amounts to a minor criminal conspiracy. Not that I really care -- in a nation swarming with undocumented immigrants, I can't get worked up over a U.S. citizen pretending to be in

        • -In point of fact, this whole conversation we're having amounts to a minor criminal conspiracy.

          If he in fact was attempting to defraud the California government or the Feds for the purpose of gain, I would agree with you. If there is no profit (real or imaginary) or attempt for profit, what we have here is a guy looking to live his life in spite of some dumb ass laws. Happens all the time in other countries (you should have been there my last few trips to Russia - no offense to the Russians) but by and l
          • If he in fact was attempting to defraud the California government or the Feds for the purpose of gain, I would agree with you. If there is no profit (real or imaginary) or attempt for profit, what we have here is a guy looking to live his life in spite of some dumb ass laws.

            Breaking a dumbass law is still breaking a law. When people conspire to break a law, dumbass or not, it's a criminal conspiracy. If you choose to ignore laws you consider stupid, well, that's your choice. But don't get all sensitive ab

      • It's very funny how they suddenly are on your side when you sign the check. You don't call up the state employment commission and ask this question. You tell a lawyer, "Figure out how to do this legally." and they do it! Amazing!
    • Someone needs to make a song about this.

      Sing it to the Tubes' song Talk To Ya Later. That works!
    • TALK TO A LAWYER... Someone needs to make a song about this.

      Substitute the word lawyer for Malkovich and just watch the scene in Being John Malkovich where he himself goes down the shaft and experiences what it's like to be John Malkovich.

      Very entertaining film.
    • Someone needs to make a song about this.

      You just did. Although the rhythm is a little quirky, for Slashdot, it's just fine. However, please don't ask us to clap along.
  • Could you use a friend's or family member's address for a bank account and legal residence in California, and your employer could auto-deposit your checks into the account?

    Just treat this like college students do when they go to school in a different state and keep their parents' house as residence.

    Alex.
    • Well, it sounds logical to me and you, but supposedly it actually matter where you physically do the work, not where you live. I could easily keep an address here and do direct deposit, but the lawyers seem to think this wouldn't stop my company from getting sued by the labor office if they found out.
      • What exactly is the obstacle to you being a full time employee working in Japan? You say it's "very difficult, if not impossible, to do so," but is it just a matter of a lot of paperwork and figuring it out? Can you negotiate with HR? If you agree to do all the filing you can and possibly even take a paycut in exchange for them jumping through the legal hoops they have to to "open an office" in Japan? Alex.
        • Well I think to do it legally from California, they would have to set up a "business presence" in Japan, which would mean paying a nice hefty sum to the Japanese governemnt (way more than my own salary is worth). I would certianly be willing to take a pay cut for them, they really are a great company, but I think it is more than an issue of just jumping through hoops.
      • supposedly it actually matter where you physically do the work, not where you live.

        My old company used to send me all over on business -- to India, Brazil, and other places, for extended stays, yet never had any trouble with simply continuing my pay and benefits as usual. Granted that I'm not in California, but surely Californians face the same situation all the time? I've never run into anyone who stopped getting paid over a business trip.

        You're going over, and you're going to do business, right? So it could be a business trip of unusual duration.

        • That was pretty insightful (you can tell I am out of points.)

          How about they send you to Japan on a fact finding mission in addition to your normal job duties, perhaps a feasibility study to determine whether or not they could survive in that market.

          Then again this of course means that all your travel expenses are tax deductible as the company isn't paying for them!
      • supposedly it actually matter where you physically do the work

        I've heard of this being an issue in the reverse direction; say you live in Washington state and work as a contractor in California; you want to keep your CA time below a certain number to avoid having to pay CA for nexus in that state.

        I've never heard of it being a problem in the other direction. If you're paying CA taxes as if you're a resident, why would the state care where you really are? The CA Franchise Tax Board (the most vicious coll

  • by Hungus (585181) on Wednesday August 20, 2003 @07:44PM (#6749800) Journal
    You are going to be gone for how long? If its less than 3 years then move your official residence to a friends house or a P.O. Box. So long as you pay your taxes in the US and deal with whatever taxes you will have to pay in .jp nobody will care. Now you will get double taxed because of this and you should set up direct deposit if you haven't but thats pretty much it. Note: This was legal when we did it back in 1988-1990 Laws may have changed, but I doubt it.
    • Was it legal in California? I did mention this to the lawyers but they seemed to think it wasn't workable becuase it mattered where I actually did the work, not where I lived.
      • The company was in California at that time, it has since moved though. Since you would be telecomuting one could argue that your work was being done on a remote machine its a bit streatchy but again so long as you pay all your taxes teh strong likelyhood is that noone will care one way or another. Furthermore how would the state ever know you moved out of state? It should still be legal by bother the letter and the ideal of teh law though, if not then you have to weigh teh outcome of each possibility.
    • by Zachary Kessin (1372) <zkessin@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 20, 2003 @08:41PM (#6750248) Homepage Journal
      IANAL (or tax expert) but I am an american who has lived outside the US, (UK, and as of next week Israel) And if you are living outside the USA you still have to file a tax return but you get a major tax discount, (the first $70,000 or so is tax free). Even if you are being paid by an american company in american dollars via an american bank. If you look at the IRS web site www.irs.gov [irs.gov] you will find some very helpfull information.

      Good Luck to you and have a safe trip!
      • I seem to remember that being mentioned during the last Bush tax cut and that that little loophole was going to be closed so citizens working abroad would be taxed normally like local citizens.

        Enjoy it while you can, because it may get pulled out from under you next year or the year after...
      • Problem then would be that to get this benefit ( and I now think its just the taxes you paid to the foreign country are not taxed) He would have to file his state taxes from a foreign address .. which he cannot do . Thus he would have to pay full taxes on both sides. And Yes My experience was also in the UK
  • by jfruhlinger (470035) on Wednesday August 20, 2003 @08:05PM (#6750046) Homepage
    I worked for 8 months from Germany, but my legal address was a Mailboxes Etc. box in Berkeley, CA. This is a better option than a US PO Box because your address will look "real" -- mine was "1536 Solano Ave. #248" -- 1536 Solano Ave. being the location of the Mailboxes Etc. and 248 being the box number. I set the box up near a friend of mine who agreed to collect my checks, deposit them by mail, and forward the interesting stuff to me, but Mailboxes Etc. will be happy to forward everything to your overseas address once a week or whatever for a fee.

    In short, I had a legal address in CA and no one asked any questions. Since I am a freelancer and work from home anyway, the administrative end of the comanies I worked with didn't know the difference -- to them, it just looked like I had moved somewhere else in CA -- and the IRS and California Franchise Tax Board didn't care either.

    From other posts you've made responding to similar suggestions, it sounds like your comany lawyers are a little uncomfortable with the idea, and they will obviously have the final say. But really, I think if you find a friend with a CA address who is willing to say that you live with him or her, and who will do little things like put your name on their mailbox, I don't think anyone can touch you. Pay a nominal fee to your friend for rent. Make sure you come back to CA several times a year, and be sure to stay at "your" home when you do. Register to vote at your new address, and do so, by absentee ballot if necessary. Get everything in Japan in your wife's name. It seems to me that if you do all this it would take a determined effort to prove you're doing something illegal.

    jf
    • I worked for 8 months from Germany, but my legal address was a Mailboxes Etc. box in Berkeley, CA. This is a better option than a US PO Box because your address will look "real" -- mine was "1536 Solano Ave. #248" -- 1536 Solano Ave. being the location of the Mailboxes Etc. and 248 being the box number.

      Unfortunately, thanks to a bunch of paranoid freaks worried about identity theft, that's not allowed any more. According to a rule passed March 25 [sba.gov], 1999, you have to use PMB in your address in order to r

    • nice shameless promotion of our beautiful city.

      Go Bears :)
  • Your wife telecommutes to you instead? =)

    I mean... if you have a great job that pays well, you should probably not rock the boat... who pays the bills? Stay home, make some dough and pay for a trip every 20 days or whatever you guys need.

  • You state...
    • I can't work as a contractor for my own company either, as there are laws in place to 'protect' me from my employer trying to demote me to contractor to save on paying benefits.

    That would lead me to two conclusions... first, that your company finds you valuable and thus would work with you on a possible solution. Second... that if you QUIT your job to start your own company... that is entirely different matter. So quit your job with an official resignation. Setup your own corporation (Su

  • ... if your company paid for your wife's MS? Perhaps they should consider some kind of incentive for your wife to keep her in the U.S.?
  • by FattMattP (86246)
    Have you considered just staying in the states while she works on her degree? Can't she get a degree in the US?
  • I've continued to contract for a company in California despite the fact that I moved to Canberra, Australia during my tenure (though I've always been a contractor for them). At times the logistics of the time difference are a bit of a pain (especially with daylight savings, as currently CA's work hours are during Canberra's sleeping hours) but aside from this all has gone well.

    I even picked up another short term contract in CA while I was in Oz (which I found truly ironic, seeing as how I moved to Oz prima

  • ...A lot of state workers "retire" then shortly there after contract back with the state into their same or simular position (least in Cali). So there must be some way to sidestep the laws that are there to protect you =)
  • by Wavicle (181176) on Wednesday August 20, 2003 @10:51PM (#6751045)
    Move to japan and incorporate a business there where you are the only employee. Have the california company contract out to the company in Japan. Now they aren't paying you, they're paying your company who is paying you.

    No, I don't know if it is practical for a resident alien to incorporate a business in Japan... Just an idea (you should talk to a Japanese lawyer).
  • You're making a lot of fuss over nothing. If you simply move overseas and keep your U.S. bank account open, get your paychecks direct deposited, and don't cause any fuss, the state of California will never know or care where you live. No one will investigate or sue on your behalf against your will. You file your tax returns and I promise the IRS and Calif. Dept of Revenue don't care where you live as long as you pay.

    Getting money out of your U.S. bank in Tokyo is easy: just use your ATM card, or transfer t
    • Dammit! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Glonoinha (587375) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @09:53AM (#6754041) Journal
      Man this was my advice, I just needed to read this thread from top to bottom to see if it wasn't already said.

      Don't ask, don't tell. Just go. Have a friend's address become your address for a year and send all your mail there. Pay your friend in beer, cash or goodwill to have him do it for you, don't just assume he will.

      You are not going to get the $70,000 tax exemption for working out of the country and you will still have to pay California income taxes, but if it is important to you, you will do it.

      Another way to do it is to move to Texas first and telecommute from there for a month or two, then move overseas. This will accomplish two things : prove to yourself and to your company that it can work, and quite honestly Texas could give a fsck if some California transplant wants to move to Japan and work for his company from there.
      • You got it! Move to Texas first [So. Padre Island is a good beach place], telecommute for a bit while you enjoy the sand, then head for JA land! One huge advantage is that you lose all of that California income tax! Don't form a corporation in Japan! The paperwork is beyond incredible! Simply doing business as "Some snazzy name" is okay in Texas and elsewhere. If the lawyers really want to push you on this point, form an LLC. It's cheaper, fewer forms and stuff, no registered agent fees, etc. and no tax com
    • I lived abroad for a couple of years and worked for a local company. My former employer (US) would occassionally contact me with questions/issues/new dev and pay me as a contractor for that time.

      On top of that, I moved back and forth in the middle of the year. Hence, I earned half my income in the foreign country and the other half here. Other than them (foreign IRS) stiffing me for my tax refund (1500 EUR) when I moved back to the US, I had no issues.

      My US money was taxed in the US and my foreign in that
    • If you're going to Japan with your wife for an extended period, it'll work out that your wife gets a student visa and you get tacked onto it. (In computerese, your visa will reference hers.) Your wife's visa will say that she's not allowed to work in Japan, just go to school, and your visa will say that you're not allowed to work or study in Japan.

      Now, it is very likely that no Japanese officials will ever find out if you never tell them, but you and your wife will have to lie every time you enter/leave

      • Note that the "no work" restriction on student, tourist or foreign spouse visas only really applies to working for a company with a presence in Japan. If he's telecommuting to the States, the immigration office doesn't really care (unless he goes out of his way to make it obvious).

  • IANAL and all the good stuff... you could start a company in Japan, and have your CA company outsource work to it. Or, have your CA company open a one-man 'branch' office.

    Or, you could give me your job :-) What do you do again?
  • Despite my company's willingness to keep me on, the labor laws make it very difficult, if not impossible, to do so when I don't physically work in the country.


    This sounds like you need a visa to work in the United States. Is this the issue? If so, you're probably out of luck. In any case, I agree with another poster -- talk to a lawyer.

    I telecommuted from Japan to California for a year. I'm an American citizen. The only difficulty I had was in obtaining a work VISA in Japan and the only real diffic

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