Confusion over inpatriates

Definition of inpatriates

The term ‘inpatriate’ has added a level of confusion surrounding the definition of individuals working outside of their country of origin (broadly: expatriates). The main proponents of ‘inpatriation’ define it as “the relocation of foreign employees/managers to the parent country of the organization” (Harvey, Reiche, & Moeller, 2011: 1).

First, the semantics and etymology of the term inpatriate are quite confused. Inpatriates are not in but out of their patria (Latin: “fatherland”).

Second, if the term was meant to be antonymic to expatriate, it would have to be impatriate (just as import is antonymic to export).

Third, ‘inpatriation’ has been described as the relocation of employees to headquarters from host-countries where multinationals operate subsidiaries. Such employees are defined in the academic literature as host-country nationals (HCNs), while employees from the headquarters country are defined as parent-country nationals (PCNs). Proponents of ‘inpatriation’ thus create confusion by defining host-country nationals (HCNs) as inpatriates: HCNs are expatriates when they are transferred into multinationals’ parent-country operations — not ‘inpatriates’. It is therefore questionable “whether the term ‘inpatriate’ adds enough value to justify its use” (Dowling, Festing, & Engle, 2008: 4).

Finally, the ‘inpatriation’ literature predominantly focuses on reassignments from subsidiaries in emerging markets to already globalised multinational headquarters in developed countries such as the United States. The purpose, according to its proponents, is the further expansion of globalised multinationals into the country of origin of the inpatriate: “the emerging market that the organization is attempting to penetrate” (Harvey, Novicevic, & Speier, 1999: 41). Inpatriates are also promoted as a means for transferring the parent organisation’s culture to the subsidiaries from which they were temporarily relocated. This is not the case for the different and specific phenomenon on this website, foreign executives in local organisations (FELOs).


Dowling, P., Festing, M., & Engle, A. D. (2008). International human resource management: Managing people in a multinational context: Cengage Learning.

Harvey, M., Novicevic, M., & Speier, C. (1999). The role of inpatriates in a globalization strategy and challenges associated with the inpatriation process. Human Resource Planning, 22(1), 38-50.

Harvey, M., Reiche, B. S., & Moeller, M. (2011). Developing effective global relationships through staffing with inpatriate managers: The role of interpersonal trust. Journal of International Management, In Press, Corrected Proof.

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