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The tech company in Costa Rica I work in started work from home just a couple of months before the pandemic started and we've been doing that ever since except a few instances where I have had to go into the office for a few meetings although in hindsight these meetings could also have been done virtually. The last time I went for such a meeting was about 4-5 months ago and haven't been to the office since and continue to WFH. Recently I wanted to travel for a couple of weeks to the US. My flights are on weekends and I did not want to take days off as I planned to work from there. However, when I informed my boss about it, they weren't not happy because apparently it was breaking certain protocols of WFH.

My question is, do other companies (software companies specifically) force or make it mandatory that work from home means that you stay at home and no other sites or are employees free to work from anywhere in a WFH setting? The question maybe broad but I want to understand the general consensus on how things work. I tried to check online but nothing explains this specific point of whether they "have to" be at home and no other place.

It is a company protocol in my case and I am not asking if I'm in the right or not to work from anywhere as I see fit. What I want to know is what is generally allowed elsewhere and if this restriction is only in my company or do others also have this. Because certain places I have interviewed with said I could work from the beach or a hotel or my home or my car as long as I am reachable.

UPDATE: Based on some comments about whether I am allowed to work in a country that is not foreign, I am from Asia and as per my contract I am offered a flyback once a year for about 3-4 weeks and this has existed for more than a couple of years before the pandemic. During this flyback, I do work from my home country as per the Costa Rican time, I worked at night.

So far the concern that I understand from my boss's perspective is that this is not something that is offered for everyone. So, if they allow me, the soon others might follow suit and that apparently could be a problem for them in terms of insurance etc.

Also some answers are pointed at what I mentioned "Not asking if I'm in the right" or also "If it is ok". My question is mainly to understand what it means to Work from home for other companies/countries in general and what is allowed. The answers are truly interesting.

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    This is entirely dependent on company. Some companies expect people to have specific offices in their homes for this purpose. For me, I don't care if they're on the moon as long as they have a solid internet connection and can participate. Jul 15 at 17:14
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    There could be tax issues which the company would have to worry about if you're working from somewhere else.
    – brhans
    Jul 15 at 17:16
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    There could be customs issues at play here. It's one thing to go work at the cafe down the street, entirely another to go to a different country. I have no idea what the regulations are for a Costa Rican coming to the US and doing work while on a tourist visa. Do you?
    – Seth R
    Jul 15 at 19:03
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    Working from a different country comes with lots of problems, regardless of whether you work remotely or not. Have you checked if you’re even allowed to work under the terms of your visa to visit the US?
    – Kaz
    Jul 15 at 19:54
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    Your company may have its firewalls and security set up to block anyone from connecting from outside the country to reduce the possibilities of data leaks... You might get to the US and discover that you can't connect to your servers anymore
    – schizoid04
    Jul 15 at 20:47
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It's all company dependent, as you state in your question. Depending on your role, it may be preferable to have you be able to come to the office in person periodically as opposed to always being remote.

There's also implications of tax when you reside in other countries and work from another one that your current company may not be willing to take on, which may explain their rationale.

There's also issues with timezones and common work hours that come up that the team needs to agree on and be able to suitably work with so that no one feels like you're not reachable when you're needed (because you work in a slightly different time zone).

So it largely depends. You're not going to be able to get a consistent, across-the-board answer for something like this, since every company and every manager operate slightly differently in this arena.

The one thing you do know is that your current employer is not a fan of your current "WFH" plan, so you should hammer that out with them.

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    I don't think the US government is going to make OP file a US tax return with the IRS for a Costa Rican national working remotely for their Costa Rican based company for 2 weeks.
    – Ertai87
    Jul 15 at 20:22
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    Costa Rica might. I don't know that since I don't work there. But it sounds like this is something that needs to be arranged with the OP's place of work, and if they say "no you can't just work from there", then it's a two-week vacation as opposed to a two-week work remote session.
    – Makoto
    Jul 15 at 20:26
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    I would add legal issues to the list. How much of an issue that is depends on where in the world you are but if say you are a Bulgarian working remote for a Bulgarian company but are located in Germany, the German government might want to enforce German labor laws on you, starting with German minimal wage. A Bulgarian company would not want to let you work from Germany if you have a Bulgarian work contract.
    – quarague
    Jul 15 at 20:27
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    @quarague To add to the legal issues: there might be laws regarding accessing data from abroad, privacy issues, etc. I know that the university I work for does not allow people to work from abroad (I think because of data and privacy laws).
    – zmike
    Jul 15 at 22:15
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So, you equate WFH to include going to a separate country, hoping that your VPN will work, that medical and taxes are all okey-dokey, data-protection laws between home and away country are compatible, physical protection of work laptop, and time-zone differences are of little relevance? Does that sound about right?

If you were a small-business owner, would this all be okey-dokey for one of your own employees? What risks can you identify to a business-owner?

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    You forgot the part where “home” for most people is within a reasonable distance of the office, so that if someone was needed at the office they could get there on the same day. Working from home is not exactly the same thing as working remotely.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 15 at 17:33
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    @ColleenV And to expand on your excellent comment, working remotely is not the same as being a nomadic worker. Even remote workers have expectations on where they should be, which is often "local to their hometown".
    – Edwin Buck
    Jul 15 at 18:16
  • -1 I don't think that an all-question answer is optimal. Jul 15 at 20:41
  • @paulj I reiterate that my question is not "whether it is ok for me to work outside of Costa Rica". It is more to know what is generally permitted as part of WFH.
    – PKU
    Jul 15 at 20:58
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"Work from Home" isn't some sort of legal definition; it is just the latest fashionable term for any kind of remote-work/telecommuting and all the complex multi-jurisdictional contract and employment laws that has always entailed.


While telecommuting from your couch, your back porch, the park down the street, the next city over, the next state over, or the next country over might all feel materially equivalent in terms of "same employer, same worker, same contract" there are almost certainly going to be political differences at play... especially as you cross jurisdictional borders separating increasingly large sovereignties.

Crossing a border may very well mean that you (and/or your employer) now owe taxes to the new country/state/city that you're currently telecommuting from in addition to the old country/state/city where the employer is and where you originally signed the employment contract.

To proactively avoid these kinds of issues (and more importantly the expenses of dealing with them) most employment contracts define exactly when/where you will be working so that they decide whether learning (new-to-them) employment laws for some new jurisdiction (e.g. Costa Rica) simply to hire you is worth the effort compared to some other candidate who lives down the street from the company office.

Different companies will have different amounts of legal experience regarding employment contracts across varying levels of jurisdiction. So when you mentioned other companies have said you "...could work from the beach..." what you were hearing was not some sort of "United Nations Work-from-Home Law", but merely a statement that those companies' lawyers have worded their contracts in such a way that your "telecommuting from other countries" typically won't constitute "working in other countries" for tax purposes, etc. (At least as far as they are legally liable; do read the fine print as to whether they've simply made you personally responsible for figuring out all those local legal details.)

Your current employer likely hasn't written their contracts in the same manner which is why they're upset that you've unexpectedly put yourself in-breach-of-contract now.

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  • '"Work from Home" isn't some sort of legal definition' - maybe not for the OP, but depending on country it might be. I am in Germany, and here, "Work from Home" means that you have some sort in office at home that complies, in terms of ergonomics etc., with the „Verordnung über Sicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz bei der Arbeit an Bildschirmgeräten“. That's opposed to "mobile work", which you can do from anywhere and which comes with a lot less regulation, but is supposed to be a temporary state of affairs. Jul 15 at 22:01
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OK so, you're a Costa Rican national (citizen/PR/whatever) working for a Costa Rican based company, remotely, while on a 2 week vacation (tourist visa) to the USA. The rest of my answer is predicated on this assumption.

I see no problem with this, in general. Most countries will allow you to work remotely for your company based in your home country while on vacation in their country, provided it is for a short period of time and you are not actually "doing business" (e.g. meeting with clients, engaging in business transactions, etc) on their soil. This (usually) does not need a special visa or have any tax implications.

However, while you are in the US, you will be subject to various other concerns, the most important of which is infosec; how confident is your company that whatever wifi you will be using in the US will not be tapped or otherwise compromised and you could leak secrets by doing business over their wifi? Of course, the likelihood of this happening is near-zero, but this may be what your company is concerned about.

Homework for you:

  1. Email your Costa Rican-based US embassy/consulate to ask them what the rules and regulations are for working remotely for a Costa Rican company while in the US. 99% they will say "it's no problem, come on over, just declare your work materials at the border, explain what you are doing, and it will be all goochi", but 1% chance you may have additional work to do.

  2. Confirm with your company exactly what they are afraid of for you working remotely in the US. If it's tax related or international regulations related, send them the note from the US official above and tell them it's all good. If it's something else, then you may have additional work to do, which may end in "this can't happen".

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  • Thanks. The response I got from my boss what nothing related to Insurance or internet connection or any of that and I doubt there was even a thought about any of the other legalities mentioned in a quite a few answers here. I think they don't want to start a trend of letting employees use WFH as an option for travels
    – PKU
    Jul 15 at 21:04

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