Difference between revisions of "Working abroad"
Revision as of 21:01, 8 October 2009
This article is a travel topic
Does earning money while living in a new and exciting surroundings sound appealing to you? Accepting employment overseas can offer both a cultural experience of living abroad as well as the possibility of new job skills and earning money. More people than ever are working abroad, so if you like the concept of working abroad, consider what options are available to you.
Jobs overseas can largely be divided two categories -- those professional or skilled jobs that require substantial experience or training, and those that do not. The more "professional" jobs tend to hire exclusively in your home country, and usually offer higher salaries and perhaps an 'expat package' including housing and relocation allowance. The more informal jobs can be picked up while travelling abroad, but offer much lower salaries and few if any benefits.
Teaching English is probably the single most common occupation for working abroad, and is discussed in its own article. It can be done both professionally, if you have the relevant degrees and experience, or more informally, say as part of a round the world journey.
Nearly all governments send staff abroad for various reasons, mainly long-term government employees but also consultants or contractors for particular projects. Government departments with offices abroad always include foreign affairs and often trade and immigration. Often in these services, junior employees spend some time "paying their dues" by working in Back-of-beyond-istan; you need some luck and seniority to get a posting to Geneva or Hong Kong. These jobs have all the usual benefits and problems of any civil service post. Often, though, there are extra allowances for "hardship posts", sometimes enough to pay off a mortgage over a few years.
Then there are government-run foreign aid organisations. Many countries have several of these. For example, Canada has CIDA , their main aid agency; working there has similar benefits to any other government job. They also have CUSO  sending volunteers abroad; see Making a difference for more on such organisations.
Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) employ professional expats all around the world. These include big, quasi-governmental entities such as UNESCO or the Asian Development Bank, as well as private development organizations such as CARE or World Vision. If you've got proven leadership ability, and an interest in third world development, many opportunities are available.
There are many jobs for various sorts of expert supporting off-shore work. A high-tech company with a development center in India, for example, will send some of its senior employees there and will hire many Indians, but there are still many niches that others might fill. Experienced project managers are hard to find anywhere and there may be a desperate shortage in times of rapid growth, Indian technical writers may need a native English speaker as editor, and so on.
The Petroleum Industry employs expats anywhere oil is extracted. Working on an oil rig can be a tough job, but the pay is good.
There are also many jobs for volunteers. See Making a difference.
Good resource for finding jobs in general are online recruitment sites such as monster.com and Careers & Jobs, which also offer advice for moving overseas and have listings of opportunities available by country. See also the Work section of country or region listings for local job hunting resources.
Companies regularly ship employees overseas for various reasons — to set up or manage factories, overseas branches or joint ventures with local firms, to deal with purchasing and subcontracting, to provide specialist expertise or training, and so on. If you're working at a multinational, contact the human resources department and see if they have any openings.
If you work for a company with factories abroad, spending a few years in one of them can be a good career move. Consider two young engineers, both with a year or two of experience at the same company. Alice takes an assignment abroad; Bob declines. For the next several years, Alice is one of three foreign staff at the factory, learning to troubleshoot all sorts of weird problems and working directly with the quite senior person who manages the whole show there. Bob is still one of the more junior guys on a team doing routine work back at headquarters. Guess which one has better promotion prospects.
If your company is transferring you overseas, never accept a pay cut. Yes, your expenses and taxes may be lower in the new country, but if your salary is cut you will lose the ability to save money and when you return, you will have a hard time clawing back up to your original salary, much less any raises that would otherwise have accrued.
If you're interested in temporary jobs, or your visa limits you to temporary jobs, there are a number of industries which often have work available:
Always secure the proper visa before you start your journey. Most countries do not allow employment on a tourist visa. In some cases travellers try to skirt this by departing the country and returning every 3 months or so -- an expensive and troublesome option that still leaves you working in illegal status. Unless your work plans are very short term, make sure that your employer can sponsor you for a valid work visa before accepting any job.
American citizens often have to check the visa laws of the country they will be traveling to. If traveling abroad, but being hosted and taken care of by a company in the U.S. most countries won't require an American to obtain a work visa providing that the stay does not exceed 30 - 90 days.
If being hired by a foreign company to travel abroad then a visa is typically required. To obtain will normally require several things to be submitted to an embassy/consulate of the nation you plan on working in -
Citizens of the European Union - Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Finland, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden - normally do not need a visa to work and live in another EU member country. Exceptions to this are with newly admitted Central European and East European countries. Some nations have instituted immigration rules and laws that effectively create quotas for the number of citizens of new EU member nations allowed to emigrate to the country.
The United Kingdom has identical arrangements to the EU but has retained its currency the GBP. Jobs here will not be paid in Euros so it is important to convert currency to understand the salaries offered, just like all other countries in the EU which do not use the Euro.
Take a look first
If considering a long-term assignment in a country you haven't been to before, especially with family, pay a visit first, on your own dime if necessary. This will give a much better idea of what to expect: you can experience the local lifestyle firsthand, you can meet the people you'll be working with, and you'll have a head start on choosing where to live, what schools look like, etc.
One of the hardest parts of moving abroad is finding and furnishing a place to stay. In some Asian countries like South Korea and Japan, simply renting an apartment can be very difficult due to onerous requirements like finding a Japanese guarantor who agrees to take financial responsibility for you (if you bail, they get stuck with the bill!) or, in Korea, the requirement to deposit over 50% of the purchase price of the apartment for safekeeping with the landlord. Many landlords are also reluctant to rent to foreigners, fearing culture clashes and unpaid bills — or, at the other end of the spectrum, look at foreigners as easily overcharged fools who will pay over the market price.
If your company can arrange accommodations for you, it's usually wise to take them up on the offer, at least until you get settled. Otherwise, look into long-stay accommodation like apartment hotels, which will allow you to get your feet out on the ground and explore in peace before taking the plunge. Sharing apartments with other expats is another common way of reducing hassle and expenses.
The Classifieds section of a local, expat-oriented newspaper or website is usually a great place to look for foreigner-friendly apartments.
Moving to a new house is a hassle, and moving into a foreign country is double or triply so, because you don't know how things work and there may be a language barrier too.
If you opt to have a professional ship your belongings, you're usually looking at a big bill and wait of several months if you ship by sea, or a huge bill if you ship by air. Unless you're moving "for good", or have the company footing the bill (there and back!), you should aim to bring as little as possible. Importing a car or other motor vehicle anywhere is a major hassle. For furniture, household appliances and electronics it's usually far cheaper to buy new than ship. Books, on the other hand, can usually be shipped through ordinary mail surprisingly cheaply; ask about special rates for printed matter at your post office (in the United States, the key term is the "International M-Bag"). Most international moving companies can assit you on arrival in finding an apartment, getting a driver's license, or getting linked into the local expat community.
If you opt to bring all your worldly belongings with you, remember that airlines usually slap on steep excess freight charges if you exceed 20 kilograms.
A recommended solution would be to bring nothing more than clothing, a pc, and absolutely the bare necessities. Many expats are typically living abroad for no more than four years at a time. Often expats will purchase furniture in their destination and before returning home sell their furniture abroad. This will save you money, because you don't have to deal with the hassle of moving large objects abroad and when returning after selling off the furniture an expatriate returns with extra cash.
Expect to burn a lot of money in the initial phase as you pay deposits and sort out household appliances, furniture, etc. Bring a solid chunk of cash — several months' salary is wise — and explore whether your company is willing to front you an advance or pay the deposit(s) for you.
Your expenses will depend on the cost of living at your destination. North America, West Europe, Australia, the Middle East and Asia's richer countries (Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong) will make a sizable dent in your budget, but poorer Asian, Central European, and East European nations are much more reasonable.
See also: Money
Expat life can be dull and lonely at times, but also exciting if one embraces new opportunities.
In countries and regions less connected to the "outside world" than other parts life can be dull and uneventful to cure this many expats often venture into the nearest capital or take a weekend trip to another country.