So you want to work abroad? Before you quit your job to travel, you’ve got to figure out where you want to go. And if you’re planning on working, that means navigating the world of visas.
The surest way to secure a visa is to do it through work. Most countries have paths to work permits or residency as long as a company sponsors you. But if you’re self-employed or are making the move without corporate support, there are a few more hoops you’ll have to jump through.
First, the basics. You’ll need a passport, and one that won’t expire in the next year or run out of visa pages. A lot of places also want to make sure you don’t get stuck there, so you need to show you have enough money to get yourself home. Many countries’ working visas are intended to attract young workers for temporary gigs. If you’re under 30 (or in some cases 35), you’ll have an easier time getting a working holiday visa. If you’re not, here are some other ways you can work abroad.
If you’re an entrepreneur, the Netherlands wants you. The country is looking to create new products and jobs by attracting foreign innovators and scientists. If you have a start-up idea, you can apply for a one-year residency in the Netherlands. During this time you’ll meet with a local mentor and build your business. After 12 months you’ll have the option to extend your stay and apply for the standard self-employed work permit, which is available through the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty. Want to skip the start-up step? The Dutch-American Friendship Treaty, or DAFT, encourages small businesses and self-employed entrepreneurs to take up residency and work in the Netherlands. Another plus? WeWork has offices in Amsterdam.
Ireland’s work visas don’t come with age restrictions; all ages are welcome. The catch here is that to get the 12-month Working Holiday Authorization, you have to either be enrolled in undergraduate or graduate education, or have recently graduated (within the past year). You also have to pay a fee of €300 and show proof of a return ticket plus €1,500 to live off of. (If you don’t have a return ticket you must show that you have at least €3,000 available.) Workers who don’t meet these requirements can apply for general work permits, though these are more difficult to get as they require either specific skillsets or proof that labor is needed in your field.
Australia and New Zealand
Young Americans have a fairly easy time getting work visas in Australia and New Zealand. Both allow stays of 12 months to U.S. citizens between 18 and 30 years old. To work in New Zealand, you need NZ$4,200 and a ticket home (or enough money to buy one). The Australian work and holiday visa has similar guidelines but limits you to working a maximum of 6 months per employer. Other visas, such as those for recent engineering graduates and those who pass a skills assessment.
Cambodia remains one of the most popular countries for expats to get a visa in. You can get a long-term “business visa” that can be renewed indefinitely, without being sponsored by a company. However, despite the name it doesn’t technically allow the holder to work in Cambodia. To do that legally, you’ll need to apply for a work permit, though the country has historically been fairly lax about enforcing those permits (some reports warn that’s changing, however).
It’s not the easiest permit to apply for, but if you’re a freelancer, you should put Germany on your radar. Berlin offers an “artist visa” that lets freelancers establish residency in Germany for the purpose of self-employment. You’ll have to fork over up to €110 and a lot of documentation—your business plan, proof of health insurance, and so forth.
Another option? Become a student. Some countries, like Germany and Finland, welcome Americans into their graduate programs. Better yet? Right now it’s free (though Finland will start charging non-EU students in 2017). You have to apply for a visa after you enroll in the school, but if you’re thinking about grad school, it might be a good opportunity to live overseas.