International Case Management and Repatriation

What are the do’s and don’ts of dealing with an injured worker who’s in the U.S. thanks to a work visa?  As the saying goes, it’s complicated.

First, a little background.  Employers frequently hire foreign nationals, women and men who enter the US on short-term, assignment-specific visas.  If such a worker is injured and their rehabilitation requires extensive medical care and follow-up, then the treatment time can exceed the visa’s time limit.  

Several factors impact the visa’s timeline.  It’s important to remember, for example, that return to the worker’s nation of origin is generally not medically advised in the immediate, post-accident, acute phase of treatment.  So, no travel, no return.

Once the claimant has reached the post-acute treatment phase, however, and has received their physician’s permission to travel out of the country (but has not yet reached Maximum Medical Improvement), there are two alternatives:

  1. Amend the visa.  The employer or company who originally obtained the work visa for the foreign worker can petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a change or extension of the original work visa.  Consultation with an immigration attorney is recommended, as this process has very specific requirements. This option lets the claimant remain under the care of providers who are familiar with the case, but it often leaves the worker without the physical and psychological support of fellow foreign national workers or family members when that support is most needed.
  2. Transfer of case management.  Another option is for the stateside case manager and adjuster to coordinate transfer of the injured worker’s medical care to the claimant’s home country through an international case management company.  International case managers have an established network of skilled medical providers who oversee the remainder of treatment until the claimant reaches Maximum Medical Improvement.  They even arrange for impairment ratings and other documents necessary to bring a file to closure even when the injured foreign worker is not stateside.  

    Not all countries are served by international case management companies, but in countries that have coverage, the benefits to the foreign worker are worth it.  Family support and language familiarity are significant benefits without sacrificing quality of care.  For the adjuster, the benefits of reduced cost of services — even when international case management fees are factored in — are an additional incentive to consider repatriation with the assistance of international case management.  

Returning a foreign national injured worker to their home country is often a viable way to manage a difficult claim.  Competent stateside and international case management coordination can reduce claim costs and create an environment where the worker can rehabilitate in familiar surroundings.