The surest way to secure a visa is to do it through an employer. 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, you’ll have to jump through a few more hoops.
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 ensure you’ll have a way back home, so you need to show you have enough money for return travel. 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, there are other ways you can work abroad. Below are six countries where it’s pretty easy to snag a visa.
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 startup 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 startup step? The Dutch-American Friendship Treaty (DAFT) encourages small businesses and self-employed entrepreneurs to take up residency and work in the Netherlands. Another plus? WeWork has offices in Amsterdam.
“According to OECD Better Life Index, the Netherlands is the best country in the world for managing your work-life balance,” says Urte Bakanovaite, a community associate at WeWork Strawinskylaan 4117 in Amsterdam. “Amsterdam is a cultural capital and has a variety of activities to offer, from music festivals to local celebrations such as King’s Day, Carnaval, and Sinterklaas. Bakanovaite adds that Dutch people are fluent in English, which contributes to a flourishing international environment, making the Netherlands a great place for expats. Another benefit? The Dutch follow a sustainable lifestyle, so if that’s important to you, you’ll fit right in when you bike to work.
Ireland’s work visas don’t come with age restrictions; everybody is 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 skill sets or proof that there’s a demand for labor in your field.
Why go to Ireland? “I think hands down that its friendliness and warm, welcoming atmosphere make it a dream to work in,” says Darragh Roche, a community associate at WeWork Charlemont Exchange in Dublin.
Australia and New Zealand
Young Americans have a fairly easy time getting work visas in Australia and New Zealand. Both permit stays of 12 months to U.S. citizens between 18 and 30 years old. To work in New Zealand, you’ll 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 six months per employer. Other visas, including those for recent engineering graduates and those who pass a skills assessment, are also available.
“The Australian workforce is focused on working to live, not living to work, with more of a laid-back approach,” says Holly Hudson, a community lead at WeWork 64 York St in Sydney. This ideology is certainly a plus, as Australia boasts some of the most beautiful beaches, national parks, and natural landscapes in the world. “Taking time out to appreciate the beauty is often intertwined into the work-life balance of Aussies,” she says. Plus, you won’t feel out of place, no matter what country you call home. Australia’s identity is defined by its multiculturalism, which Hudson says is evident by the array of cuisines available on every block.
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. You’ll need 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.
Carmen Melo, a community lead at WeWork Friesenplatz 4 in Cologne, says Germany is a great place for foodies and people with a good sense of humor. Cologne in particular encourages a culture of open-mindedness and communication.
Cambodia is one of the most popular countries for expats to attain a visa. You can get a long-term “business visa” that can be renewed indefinitely, without being sponsored by a company. Despite the name, however, it doesn’t technically allow the holder to work in Cambodia. To do that legally, you’ll need to apply for a work permit.