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Third Country National (TCN) is a term often used in the context of migration, referring to individuals who are in transit and/or applying for visas in countries that are not their country of origin (i.e. country of transit), in order to go to destination countries that is likewise not their country of origin. In the European Union, the term is often used, together with "foreign national" and "non-EU foreign national", to refer to individuals who are neither from the EU country in which they are currently living or staying, nor from other member states of the European Union.[1]

In terms of employment, the term is often used to designate "an employee working temporarily in an assignment country, who is neither a national of the assignment country nor of the country in which the corporate headquarters is located."[2]

In the US, it is often used to describe individuals of other nationalities hired by a government or government sanctioned contractor who represent neither the contracting government nor the host country or area of operations. This is most often those performing on government contracts in the role of a private military contractor. The term can also be used to describe foreign workers employed by private industry and citizens in a country such as Kuwait in which it is common to outsource work to non-citizens.

Use of the term in the USEdit

Generally speaking, the US government classifies contract personnel under one of three headings:

  • Ex-pat - those personnel who are of the same nationality as the contracting government. (In Iraq, foreign nationals working as a member of a US contractor are regarded as Ex-pats)
  • TCN or Third Country National – those personnel of a separate nationality to both the contracting government and the AO or "Area of operations".
  • HCN's (Host country nationals), LN's (Local Nationals), Indigs (Indigenous Personnel) – those personnel who are indigenous to the area of operations.

Examples of this hierarchy are as follows:

Contract personnel being used by the US government to fight the global war on terror in Iraq consist of Expats, namely those personnel of US citizenship that represent a private military contractor being contracted by the US Government, Indigenous Iraqi and Kurdish personnel and TCNs such as are currently being employed by many of the Private Military Contracting Firms currently under contract.

File:Third Country National in Iraq.jpg
TCNs such as have been employed by the United States military (through contractors) for operations in the Middle East for many years. The accommodations, security, and treatment of TCNs can vary greatly from the way that U.S. and multinational coalition personnel are treated. Their contracts often require them to work for four years continuously without a break to return to their home countries. Many TCN contractors have also been lured by preemployment deals that have guaranteed them the job as long as they give a percentage of their pay to an 'employment agent' or 'representative'. TCN housing compounds are generally in less secure areas outside of the main base. As a result many TCNs in such high-risk areas have been injured or killed, however most military installations will provide life-saving medical care as required.

Since April 2006, the Pentagon now demands that contractors fight labor trafficking and low quality working conditions in Iraq endured by tens of thousands of low-paid south Asians working under US-funded contracts in Iraq.

In an April 19 memorandum[3] to all Pentagon contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Joint Contracting Command demands that the widespread practice of taking away workers passports come to end. Contractors engaging in the practice, states the memo, must immediately "cease and desist."

"All passports will be returned to employees by 1 May 06. This requirement will be flowed down to each of your subcontractors performing work in this theater."

Despite the Pentagon crackdown, civilian contractors still report problems of poor working conditions.[4]

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


  1. Definition of "Third Country National" on the Eurofound website.
  2. "Strategic employment of third country nationals: keys to sustaining the transformation of HR functions", by Calvin Reynolds, All Business, 1 March 1997.
  3. [1]
  4. [2]

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