How to work abroad

Working in another country offers a unique way to learn more about a culture and gain insights into a place that can be much different from where you have lived and worked before. You may also get the opportunity to learn, or perfect your skills in, another language, and to meet new people. When working abroad, you can learn these things firsthand and gain a new perspective on the world.

However, starting a new job in another country isn’t as easy as starting a job at home in the United States. Before you can even begin, you’ll need to follow all laws and restrictions regarding immigration and work permits. If you don’t already know the language spoken in the country where you want to work, you may struggle to get information and find documents and forms in English. Some countries require applicants to be fluent in the language before they will even consider them for positions and opportunities.

Before you start searching for jobs, it’s important to be prepared. Research tips and information from others who have moved abroad for work. Start networking with people you know and inform them of your goals to move out of the country to work. You may find someone working in that country or who has experience with applying for visas and work permits. When you can connect with people who have gone through the process, you can get more information and be better prepared.

If your goal is to work and live in Shanghai, for example, start learning Chinese. Look for classes in your area or sign up for courses online to connect with people who are fluent in the language you need to learn. You may be able to find a teacher who is from the area you want to move to, which could be a good connection to that location.

Another option when considering how to work abroad is to enroll in a homestay program with a host family in the country where you want to live. This experience can help provide a more immersive opportunity to learn the language and culture before you commit to a job. Organizations throughout the world offer placement services for those interested in homestays.

It’s also important to locate a resource to help you find a job abroad, such as an employment placement service, that has ties to the location where you want to live. Working Abroad is one option, with user-friendly search options and the latest news about working abroad. The company also offers a free chat tool that allows you to connect with potential employers, professionals across various industries, and working abroad experts. The site helps you understand the necessary steps that you must take before traveling to another country and provides tools and helpful information such as the following:

  • Obtaining a visa
  • Tips for preparing to move
  • Tips for when you arrive
  • Resources throughout the process

Applicants typically must apply for visas in their home countries. You should wait for approval from the prospective country’s government before accepting a job or moving, since you could be deported without the required visa and/or work permit. If you look for opportunities with companies that place English teachers, nurses, or other highly sought-after professionals in other countries, they may have resources and connections to help you complete the immigration process. The requirements and forms vary by country.

The U.S. State Department reports that some national policies regarding hiring foreigners are very liberal, but others do not offer employment to non-citizens. Those countries may even have exceptions to their own rules. For example, Thailand requires companies to show proof that they could not fill positions with Thai citizens when hiring foreigners. The exception to that rule is English teaching roles, since there aren’t many native English speakers who can teach the language. Another example is that the unemployment rate in Spain in December 2016 was 18.4 percent, so finding jobs for non-citizens there can be challenging.

You can also review the U.S. State Department’s website for more information about employment statistics and information about specific countries, along with an overseas employment guide. Foreign governmental embassy websites may also explain rules around visas and work permits as well as what you need to do before moving to the country for work. For instance, France offers a three-year residency card to “talented individuals” who are working on specific projects within the country, and more details about that program are available through the France embassy site.

If the cost of moving and living abroad is more than you can afford, consider looking for volunteer programs that cover costs for their volunteers. Those with substantial work experience or unique skills can work with Doctors Without Borders, UN Volunteers, or International Executive Service Corps. The Peace Corps is another option for recent graduates, as well as faith-based programs that do volunteer work in various countries. Working with a volunteer organization can help you get into the country, understand the culture, and learn more about job opportunities after you finish the volunteer work.

Those who already have technical skills can join professional associations and network with others in their fields. Technical skills could include many things, such as nonprofit management, photography, grant writing, medical, accounting, small business development, or veterinary medicine.

Many people who work abroad start by teaching English through placement companies. You will need to complete a teaching certificate program, which takes up to several months. The program will likely provide resources and contacts to a worldwide network of schools seeking native English speakers to teach students. Whether teaching English abroad is your ultimate career goal or a stepping stone to help you reach other goals, this option can open a lot of doors.

Health insurance and coverage vary in other countries, so you may have to obtain your own medical insurance coverage. Look at options listed on support websites to find plans that are reasonably priced yet offer the coverage you need for your entire stay in the country. Most U.S.-based health insurance providers will not extend coverage outside of the country, especially if you are living in another country on a semi-permanent or permanent basis.

Find a job abroad

If you’re interested in an opportunity to work abroad, you may be wondering how to go about finding jobs that align with your skill set and experience. Once you understand the process of legally moving to and working in another country, you can start looking for jobs that appeal to you. There are a number of programs and organizations designed to help people seeking employment in other countries. Using these resources can help you connect with the right people and find better opportunities.

  • Alliances Abroad. This company guarantees placement in paid roles and helps organize accommodations.
  • BUNAC. The name stands for British Universities North America Club, which serves as a support service to help you learn about travel, accommodations, visa information, necessary documentation, and social networking events.
  • Council on International Educational Exchange Work Abroad Program. This organization helps with short-term work permits for recent graduates and college students seeking to work in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Costa Rica, France, and Germany.
  • Easy Expat. This site includes discussion forums, job listings, and international classified ads for job seekers around the world. The discussion forums allow you to connect with other international workers and learn more about opportunities, challenges, and experiences when working abroad.

Get started by searching job boards that include open positions across the globe. You might not find the perfect job right away. If you can afford it, take other jobs to get by while you continue to look for better opportunities. You might be able to find a job as a bartender, server, au pair, or English teacher more easily at first than ones in your chosen field.

If possible, try to find a job before you move. Employers may be able to help with visas and work permits in advance, especially if they are motivated to bring you to the country and have you start in a new role.

American Citizens Abroad, a nonprofit that represents Americans who live and work abroad, estimates that about 6.3 million people from the U.S. have jobs in other countries. There are certainly opportunities available in countries around the world, but finding them can pose a challenge. When you work with companies and nonprofit organizations that have experience with opportunities abroad, you can avoid the hassle of trying to figure it all out on your own.

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