Does earning money while living in new and exciting surroundings sound appealing to you? Accepting employment overseas can offer both a cultural experience of living abroad and the possibility of new job skills. More people than ever are working abroad, so if you like the concept, consider what options are available to you. A large benefit of working abroad is that it can give you both the income and a base for further travel. For example, seeing Southeast Asia is certainly possible if you live on another continent – see Banana Pancake Trail for some of the routes – but it becomes much easier if you get a job for a few years in Singapore.
While this article deals with paid labour, there are also numerous volunteer jobs overseas. Also without taking a job abroad, business travel is common in many professions. Time and distance away from home vary a lot.
|“||I would really advise people...to spend a substantial amount of time living somewhere other than where you grew up. And this is not only because you learn about new places, as valuable as that is, but really it's because of what you learn about yourself and where you come from.||”|
Jobs overseas can be divided into main categories:
- Professional or skilled jobs that require substantial experience and usually offer higher salaries and perhaps an 'expat package', including housing and a relocation allowance. These are usually advertised in the countries the workers are expected to come from, not in the country where the job is.
- More informal jobs can be picked up while travelling abroad, but offer much lower salaries and few if any benefits.
- Digital nomad jobs, work that can be done over the Internet.
- Ordinary jobs advertised for locals. These usually require good knowledge of local language and customs, and often locally recognized qualifications, but if demand is high or you are good at it, they may be available also for you as a foreigner. The European Union has, at least formally, an integrated job market; those from outside the EEA must seek a work permit.
- Jobs abroad for volunteers or people otherwise willing to work for little compensation. Like for the skilled job offers, moving abroad is part of the deal, but requirements are much lower.
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 training and experience, or more informally, say as part of a round the world journey. Other teaching jobs are also sometimes available.
Nearly all national 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 (diplomacy and consular services; see Diplomatic missions) and often trade, immigration or foreign aid. Sometimes lower-level governments have trade missions as well. Generally in these services, junior employees spend some time "paying their dues" by working in Back-of-beyond-istan; you need some seniority to get a posting in places more attractive to most of the staff, like Geneva or Hong Kong. These jobs have all the usual benefits and problems of any civil service post. Often there are extra allowances for "hardship posts", sometimes enough to pay off a mortgage back home over a few years.
Then there are government-run foreign aid organizations for volunteers.
Transnational and multinational companies
Transnational and multinational 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 such a company, 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 at the same company; Alice takes an assignment abroad but 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. When Alice returns after a few years her promotion prospects may be considerably better than Bob's.
Lower cost of living pay cuts
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. You will also have many expenses you do not have at home – and in a low-income country expenses may be surprisingly high if you do not live like a low-income local.
Outsourcing agencies help multinational companies outsource a part of their production either as a traditional local partner or by helping them setup a local office abroad. As some outsourcing agencies become multinational companies themselves, they often need foreign staff abroad to manage the projects, or represent the client and headquarter abroad. This happens often in developing countries like those in Southeast Asia with good diplomatic relationships to developed nations, as they are able take advantage of the timezone difference to keep production going around the clock. If you dream of a career abroad, this can be a good way to use your existing language skills to work abroad.
- See also: Studying abroad
Research institutes and universities often send people abroad and receive foreign colleagues. While knowledge of the local language is certainly useful, research published in English is relevant anywhere, so most of your peers are likely to have a decent command of the language, and your qualifications should be appreciated worldwide.
Top universities in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Switzerland, Japan and South Korea are home to some of the best talent from all over the world. China has also been offering competitive salary packages to lure foreign scientists in an attempt to make their universities competitive with those in the West, and this may provide a great opportunity for those who wish to live in an exotic place
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also employ professional expats all around the world. These include big, quasi-governmental entities such as UNESCO or the Asian Development Bank, and private development organizations such as CARE or Oxfam. If you have proven leadership ability, and an interest in working in the developing world, many opportunities are available.
Religious organizations also often have jobs abroad, so if you are religious it is likely worth checking with your church or other such group. They mostly need either missionaries/proselytizers or professionals such as doctors, nurses or experts in areas like agriculture, fisheries or construction. Often these jobs do not pay well. Also, in some places they are under legal restrictions; for example, in Saudi Arabia it is illegal to attempt to convert Muslims to another faith.
There are a number of resources for those wanting non-government professional jobs abroad:
A non-exhaustive list of some of the most typical skilled jobs offered abroad:
- Teachers – Teaching English is a common job for travellers, with work available almost anywhere, but particularly in Asia. If you are qualified as a school teacher in your home country, you can likely find work at an international school; see discussion in the English teaching article. Montessori teachers and instructors for universities, technical colleges and corporate training are also in demand in some places.
- Experts supporting offshore 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 an editor, and so on.
- Specialist certifiers – Some of the best-paid expat jobs involve this kind of work. For example, someone certified to do safety inspections for oil rigs or aircraft, or to train pilots, can make large amounts overseas.
- Petroleum engineers and technicians – Working on an oil rig can be a tough job, but the pay is generally good. In the more difficult locations, oil industry jobs often include benefits like housing (often limited) and food (usually good) when on-site, and the employer generally provides flights home for the breaks. In an area like the North Sea or Western North America, there may be well-paid jobs for unskilled labor. In lower-income areas the unskilled jobs will be filled by locals but there will be jobs for skilled rig workers to train and supervise the locals, and often for English teachers as well.
- Hospitality professionals – Often international luxury hotels and resorts hire foreign staff to manage the branch and help sell packages to business travelers from overseas or regionally.
- Cooks – A skilled cook can find work almost anywhere, and demand for cooks with a particular style is sometimes high. For example, in an area with many American tourists, American or Mexican cooking might be in demand. A job in a hotel, resort or restaurant in a tourist area can let you live in an interesting place either temporarily or long term. However the best pay is usually with companies that employ many expat staff and want to keep them happy with good food, for example oil rigs or overseas construction projects.
- Health-professionals – Nurses in particular are in demand in many countries, although a license to practice in a new country may be hard to get. As for cooks, there are some quite well-paid overseas jobs with companies with many expat staff. These companies need to take good care of their staff and, depending on the location and size of project, that may mean they need anything from a lone nurse to a small hospital on-site.
- Pilots – Most airlines anywhere will happily hire well-qualified pilots from anywhere else. There is also demand for helicopter pilots, especially from oil or construction companies with large overseas projects. It is fairly common, especially in the Middle East, to find younger pilots flying business jets or the personal planes of local nobility. They need a certain number of hours on twin-engine planes before they can qualify for the larger machines airlines use, and this lets them be well paid while racking up the hours.
- Musicians, actors, and other performance artists – They may be able to find work in many places; though job security is usually non-existent. For example, almost anywhere in East Asia and Southeast Asia many of the bars that cater to tourists or expatriates have Filipino bands. Also, movie or TV show makers in many countries often need actors or extras of ethnic groups other than the local ones. Except for really major roles in a well-funded production, they will not import foreign actors for these, but they will generally pay foreigners living in the area quite well by local standards.
Low salary jobs in high income countries may be available just because few of the locals want them, while the salary may still seem decent for people with even lower wages at home. This job market has many oddities, as locals with similar jobs do not want to see their wages cut even more because of foreign competition. Look out for traps like high costs of living, illegal contracts and ruthless or even criminal employers.
For anyone from a richer country travelling in a poorer country – say, a European in India – a low salary job like farm labor or construction labor is likely out of the question; he or she would almost certainly not be happy with the pay, the hours, or the working conditions. (Professionals, of course, are in a whole different category; a civil engineer or a veterinary surgeon might well find interesting work at reasonable pay.)
For lower white-collar work, having local qualifications or speaking the language may be necessary, and getting such jobs can therefore be difficult. For some expert positions, on the other hand, expertise is just about the only thing that counts. Employers include universities and research and development departments of big enterprises.
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:
- Hostels and hotels – Smaller hotels and B&Bs are unlikely to require their employees to speak or read English. At luxury hotels, however, with American, Irish, UK, and other English speaking business persons as the main customers, employees are likely to be required to speak and read fluent English.
- Tourist restaurants – Hard Rock Cafe, Munich's Hofbräuhaus, etc.
- More-or-less any type of job available in hotels or restaurants can also be found on cruise ships, and there are additional jobs for mariners, diesel mechanics, etc.
- Theme parks – The most famous European theme park is Disneyland Paris. Disneyland Paris usually requires non-EU citizens to have a work visa before employment. You can ask if the theme park will hire you if you can obtain a visa before leaving your home country. Ask the theme park to write a letter to that effect and apply at the French embassy in your country. The Epcot Center in Walt Disney World, Florida also hires foreigners from Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom and Canada to staff their respective countries' pavilions at the World Showcase.
- Tour operators – Tour operators are almost always looking for people to be tour guides. Getting a job as a tour guide will not allow you to travel independently much, however. Also, these jobs usually have language requirements; you must speak the customers' language and it really helps if you speak one or more of the destinations' languages as well.
- Tourist sports – Sports that people frequently travel to participate in often have associated jobs available, though they are often seasonal and therefore temporary. Examples include:
- Scuba diving, which has instructing and dive leading work. In addition, the industry employs cooks, boat operators and deck hands. Work is seasonal, peaking in the summer in subtropical areas and the winter in tropical areas like Far North Queensland and South Thailand.
- Alpine skiing, which has work in instructing, lift operation, ski patrol and rescue, snow grooming and hospitality. Work is seasonal. The major season is in the northern hemisphere's winter with work available in North America and Europe, but the southern hemisphere's winter has a smaller season in Australia, New Zealand and Peru.
- Cruising on small craft, which may provide work and transport for crew or work in places like dockyards and marinas.
- Resorts – Any work with direct contact to customers. There is demand for employees who know the language and culture of their international guests.
- Agriculture – Seasonal work in agriculture, particularly crop work, is available in Western countries where there is often a shortage of willing local labor. Fruit picking is the most common temporary work. Longer term work with livestock is available in countries like Australia on some of the more remote livestock stations.
- Construction work including home improvement is somewhat like agriculture; in richer countries these jobs may be mostly done by migrants. This does not necessarily mean there are ad hoc work opportunities.
It may be possible to get seasonal work in both hemispheres. A ski instructor, for example, might work in Banff during the Canadian winter and Bariloche in the Argentinian winter, perhaps with some Caribbean or California holidays during the transits.
Quite a few countries have working holiday visas. These are bilateral arrangements between pairs of countries which allow people from either to work temporarily in the other to fund their travel. Typically they have an age limit (often under 35) and a duration limit (often a year, sometimes two). Check with your own government to discover which countries yours has such an arrangement with.
The most common jobs for these are temporary jobs as discussed above; for example, quite a few city dwellers from around the world spend a few months hard at work on sheep farms in outback Australia. However the visa generally does not limit you to temporary jobs; in most countries it lets you work legally at any job you can get.
Working Traveller (1,700 members) allows travellers to 'negotiate' what they would get in exchange for their skills from hosts. The site allows hosts to set what they are willing to pay, in terms of a bed, food, or money using a bargaining point system and a traveller can set what bargaining points they want to charge. This makes the site different from more traditional volunteering sites and more focused to career minded travellers looking for references on their return home to get a job.
Starting a business
Some travellers settle in a country and start a business there. This can be quite tricky; running a business is rarely easy and it is considerably harder if you do not know the country, in particular its language and legal system, well. Also, many countries place legal restrictions on foreign ownership of businesses; you may need a trustworthy local partner. Most of the things listed under temporary jobs above can also be done as businesses. Many people who have settled abroad own cafes, bars, restaurants, inns, resorts, dive shops, ... Compared to just taking a job in one of these fields, the risks are higher and an owner often works longer hours than staff, but there is more chance of large returns.
Another common choice is an import-export business; when you come from one country but live in another, you may be well placed for this. It is not always necessary to invest in container-sized lots to make money from this; you might do well just taking a commission for arranging deals, setting up guides and translators for visiting business folk, or doing inspections before goods are shipped. For small high-value goods, such as gems or some art and craft items, it may be possible to ship using registered mail or a courier service.
Some countries – including popular English-speaking countries like the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – issue entrepreneur or investor visas, which allow you to move to the respective countries to start a business provided you already have a firm business plan, and have already secured sufficient financial backing. We have some discussion of these visas at Retiring abroad#Investor visa.
Digital nomad work
A digital nomad is someone who takes their work with them while travelling, typically working from a laptop in a café or hotel room in some interesting spot. Much of the work involved is creative, such as writing articles or computer programs, or designing various things; see travel writing for one obvious possibility.
There are other possibilities. Some people run Internet businesses as nomads, and others do things like administering web sites remotely. Some people living abroad run a YouTube channel or a web site about the region they are in, and make money from advertising there. Some get to teach via the net. If you are an expert in some field, remote consulting may be possible.
A few people working for large companies have gone from works-on-site to works-at-home and on to works-on-the-road; going through this progression appears to be the only way to get a full-benefits employee position with a major firm as a nomad. These companies may also have work for contractors or consultants who are not employees, and some also have desirable but non-nomadic posts abroad for employees; see above.
While digital nomads are travelling, or spending time in places they want to visit, they still work. And to do the same work, you are probably doing as long hours as you would in the headquarter office – or longer, because you have to make up for lacking infrastructure and support, and take different time zones in account. And you have to sleep, make your food, handle the laundry etc. in a less familiar place than at home, often with more primitive facilities. You can of course eat out and use laundry services, especially in a low income country, but also that can become daunting – and if you intended to spend less to be able to work less (or with not so well paid work), your budget may be tight.
Another aspect is that while you can keep contact with people back home, and meet a lot of interesting people, really making friends, and keeping your acquaintances, can be hard when you are on the move.
Also, check visa policies carefully. You are probably on tourist or working holiday visas. What are you allowed to do? How long can you stay? Where do you get your next visa?
There are a number of resources for digital nomads:
- Online forums include Nomad list, Digital Nomad Forum and a Reddit board
- There are recruitment sites for jobs that can be done remotely, anywhere with good internet service. Crossover for Work specializes in recruiting for remote jobs. Remote OK and Himalayas work as aggregators that collect jobs from many recruitment sites, then select only the ones that can be done remotely. The travel guide site Atlas and Boots also has a remote jobs section.
- WeWork offer shared office space, anything from a desk (with or without computer) to an office for a small company. As of November 2021, they have over 800 locations. By no means all users are nomads; many companies now put employees in these places rather than running their own facilities, but the services are also available for nomads.
- Outsite are more like a chain of resorts for digital nomads; they provide living space as well as office space and have facilities in interesting locations such as Bali.
- Groups such as Hacker Paradise and Remote Year organize trips for groups of digital nomads.
- Nomad City have an annual conference on Gran Canaria which brings a few hundred nomads together.
- There is a 25-meter (82-foot) sailing catamaran called Coboat, a sort of cruise ship for digital nomads. She set out from Southeast Asia in late 2015; plans call for her to circumnavigate the world, travelling east-to-west and passing through both the Suez and Panama canals. As of late 2021 she is in the Caribbean and will stay there until April 2022.
- Other cruise ships might also be usable by nomads, though not all have good enough Internet service.
- The site Hackaday has a series of articles on Life on Contract; much of those would apply for nomads..
- Digital Nomad Academy and Digital Nomad Community are sites with a fee that offer training courses, mainly for people who want to become nomadic entrepreneurs.
- For more information on this topic (in broader terms), see the Visa article.
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 time 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.
Always secure the proper visa before you start your journey. Most countries do not allow employment on a visa waiver or tourist visa. In some cases travellers try to skirt this by departing the country and returning every three months or so, an expensive and troublesome option that still leaves you working illegally. 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.
If you're traveling abroad for work temporarily but your employer is in your home country – for example, if you're attending conferences or doing training – most countries won't require you to obtain a work visa providing that the stay does not exceed 30–90 days. In this case, you may need a business visa or be able to take the trip visa-free.
If being hired by a foreign company to work abroad then a work visa is typically required. To obtain the visa, several things will normally need to be submitted to an embassy/consulate of the country you plan on working in:
- Your passport
- A visa application with passport sized photographs
- Criminal background report – This can often be obtained with a request to your police department or other local authorities (in the U.S., usually the county authorities).
- A letter from the employer stating that they need your services, have hired you, the salary you will be making, and length of employment period. Occasionally more information is required.
- Evidence that you will be able to support yourself and/or your family while inside the country.
Other requirements may include medical examinations and tests, diplomas, and proof of relevant experience or qualifications. In some cases documents may need to be notarized and apostilled (essentially an international notarization). These requirements vary depending on your citizenship and what country you'll be working in; your employer or a visa agency should be able to help you through the process.
Freedom of movement arrangements
- Citizens of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland do not need a visa to work and live in each others' countries. The Nordic countries have had an integrated labour market since long ago. The overseas territories of some EU countries can be interesting destinations, but some of these are not considered to be part of the European Union. Also EU citizens need working permits for some of them.
- Citizens of Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa to work in each other's countries. Permanent residents of Australia may also work in New Zealand without a visa, but the reverse does not apply to permanent residents of New Zealand.
- Citizens of the United Kingdom and Ireland do not need a visa to work in each other's countries.
- Citizens of Russia and Belarus do not need a visa to work in each other's countries.
- Citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) do not need a visa to work in another GCC country.
- Citizens of India and Nepal do not need a visa to work in each other's countries
- Citizens of Bhutan do not need a visa to work in India, but not vice versa
- Citizens of Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia do not need a visa to work in the United States but not vice versa.
- Residents of Hong Kong and Macau with Chinese nationality may work in mainland China with a valid Home Return Permit, but not vice versa.
- Citizens of Taiwan may work in mainland China with a valid Taiwan Compatriot Pass, but not vice versa.
- See also: Second homes
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 a 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 assist 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 more than your usual travel packing with you, remember that airlines usually slap on steep excess freight charges if you exceed 20 kilograms. For some travellers it may be worth considering going in business class or even first class; those are usually quite a bit more expensive, but they are more comfortable and have a larger baggage allowance.
A recommended solution would be to bring nothing more than clothing, a PC, and absolutely the bare necessities (if going by land or boat, you may be able to pack somewhat more, but going by lorry is seldom a practical option). 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.
A move with all your belongings would probably involve shipping a container. In 2022 the price for medium-distance shipping of one was about USD 3,500 (the COVID-19 logistics chaos raised the price from $1500 to $10,000). Add arrangements in each end and agency costs. When packing, mind that even large ships will roll and shake in rough weather on the sea. The risk of a container getting lost is very low, but exists.
- See also: Money
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, Western and Northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East and Asia's richer countries (Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan) will make a sizable dent in your budget, but poorer Asian, Central European, and East European nations are much more reasonable. Keep in mind that in developing countries, a typical expat lifestyle may be much more expensive than a local's cost of living (will you be eating local food, or imported products from back home? riding public transit or getting around by taxi? housing? security?), and in many cases may even turn out more expensive than living the same lifestyle back home. Expenses can also often differ drastically between different parts of the country; real estate prices are typically low in the less affluent, rural parts of China, but in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai they can be astronomical, rivalling even those in major Western cities.
Opening a bank account may be a bit of a hassle when you've just arrived in the country, with no credit history, proof of address, or tax ID number. Allow for delays – this is another reason why it's important to have enough money to cover all your expenses for the first couple of months. Your employer may be able to help with opening an account, especially if they regularly hire from overseas. Failing that, try asking other expats for advice.
Unless you are a diplomat, working overseas generally means that you will have to file income tax in the country you are based in. Income tax is structured differently in different countries, and the tax rates and brackets vary widely from one country to another. In some countries, such as the United States and Canada, income tax is levied both at the federal level and at the local level, so the rates and brackets can vary from region to region. Foreign workers may also be treated different from locals under some circumstances.
Many countries require you to obtain a tax identification number (e.g. SSN for the U.S., NINo for the U.K., TFN for Australia) when commencing work, so your employer can report your wages to the government. Similarly, banks will also often need this number in order to report any interest income accrued by you to the government. The procedure for obtaining this number varies from country to country, and you are highly advised to consult your employer before you leave to get familiarised with the procedure.
In some cases, depending on your citizenship, you will have to pay income tax to both your country of origin and the country you work in. Some countries have treaties signed with each other to avoid double taxation; you might want to check with the relevant country to be sure.
Remember to check what is included in your employment contract and local welfare, and how much you will have to pay for that which is not covered, including insurance. What about medical care, vacations, days off work because of illness, maternal leave, child care and education? What if you become disabled or die (at work or otherwise)? Is your working abroad adding to social security back home, such as pensions and unemployment benefits? Do not count on not losing them altogether.
In some cases the specifics of your employment affect what benefits you get or lose, e.g. whether you are sent abroad by a domestic company or employed by the local branch counted (at home) as a foreign company. The length of your stay is also important, so if working for half a year, think twice about working a few days less or more than the limit (counting in the same way as the authorities).
Healthcare systems vary greatly between countries, and you are advised to do some research before you travel. While you can expect uniformly good standards at hospitals in the United States, Canada, Western and Northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the richer countries of Asia (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Israel), standards can be much more variable in less developed countries. For instance, in Kuala Lumpur or Manila, you can expect relatively good healthcare standards, but the quality of healthcare drops substantially once you leave those cities and head to more rural parts of Malaysia or the Philippines. In some countries, such as China or India, Western expatriates are in general advised not to use the public healthcare system, and to instead rely exclusively on expatriate-oriented private hospitals. In a few countries healthcare is almost non-existent, so you will need to be evacuated to more developed countries in order to receive satisfactory medical treatment.
Before setting off, ensure that you are either covered by the state-run universal healthcare system, or that you have purchased insurance to cover your healthcare expenses for the time you will be there. Most Western countries have taxpayer-funded universal healthcare coverage for their citizens and permanent residents, but this is not universally available to expatriates. The United States, on the other hand, for the most part lacks government-subsidised healthcare, and healthcare costs are almost entirely covered by private health insurance. If you are required to take up private health insurance, the cost of premiums can sometimes be covered or subsidised by your employer as part of your employee benefits; check before you leave to be sure. If you are moving to a developing country to work, ensure that whatever insurance policy you purchase covers private hospitals, as the standard in public hospitals may not be what you are able to put up with. Also ensure that your insurance covers medical evacuations, as you may sometimes need to be airlifted to a more developed country in order to receive adequate medical treatment for your case, the cost of which is prohibitively expensive for most people.
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 feel dull and uneventful. To cure this, many expats venture into the nearest capital or take a weekend trip to another country.
A 2008 Forbes article covers a survey of expat-friendly countries; Canada, Germany and Australia topped the list. The United Arab Emirates was rated most difficult, though it does have a large number of expats and salaries are high.
To cope with living abroad and to overcome culture shock, familiarize yourself with the local customs and culture as much as possible. Try to learn the local language: even a few words can help break the ice with locals. Try to get out and see more than what you normally would during the commute to and from work. Make new relationships and seek new friends. In most countries, you'll generally find that the more polite and good natured you are towards the locals, the easier your stay will be, and you might even make some life-long friends in the process. The general idea is to not be a shut-in, get out and generate some life experiences for yourself.
Millions of people from countries all over the world have great experiences working overseas. Excellent opportunities are out there, but there are serious risks as well, so be cautious and look out for yourself. There are few available resources for travellers who are harmed while working abroad. Some employers deceive their foreign hires, taking advantage of their unfamiliarity with the local laws (and maybe the local language) to bring them over with improper paperwork. The laws may be structured to protect an unscrupulous local employer while penalizing a foreigner who was duped into working illegally.
Before taking a job overseas, research your future employer. Ask to talk to current employees and get their take. If the company isn't well known, look it up online – if you find former employees complaining about they were treated, or if you can't find third-party sources indicating the employer is reputable, steer clear. It's best to find job listings from a source that vets the organizations it allows to advertise.
The field is littered with a few outright scams and many schemes that prey on the naïve traveller. Some offers are advance fee scams or exist to harvest your data for identity theft. Beware if an employer uses a free e-mail or web hosting service for official communications or if its headquarters address is a drop box or a commercial mail receiving agency. Just because a company is legally incorporated does not make it legitimate; incorporation can be done quickly with almost no verification in many industrialised countries. A fraudulent employer may request a large payment before you arrive to cover some of their expenses in hiring you, but once you arrive, the promised job isn't as advertised (or doesn't exist at all) and your money is gone.
Be sure you understand your compensation. Some employers promise a reasonable wage per hour, but the workable hours don't materialise and no hours means no income. If you can only extend a work visa after having worked a certain number of hours, as is the case in Australia, a savvy employer can use under-scheduling as a threat to indirectly deport an undesired employee from the country. If the wage and hours seem good, the costs of housing, taxes, and other expenses at the destination may be high as well. Employers may look for foreign workers who are unaware of the cost of living. If local workers aren't leaping at the opportunity, there's a reason.
Job seekers may encounter opportunities to become a money mule or parcel mule, a courier who moves illegally-sourced goods across borders. A mule will be out of pocket for expenses after the employer pays with stolen money, proceeds of crime, forged cheques, or money orders, or if the payment fails to clear the bank. If a prospective employer asks you to ship or carry anything across an international border, be wary. If what you're carrying turns out to be stolen or illegal, you will be the only one liable.
Some employers abuse the visa system to subject visitors to working conditions that local workers would never tolerate. Governments usually issue work visas which are tied to one employer, who then can exploit the worker in what amounts to indentured servitude. Employees who fear deportation if they lose their job have been subjected to long hours, low wages (or outright wage theft), housing of workers in overpriced and substandard accommodation, unsafe working conditions, and even physical or sexual harassment. In some countries, employers hold an employee's passport hostage to prevent them from resigning or leaving. This is usually illegal, but some Middle Eastern countries have laws that prevent a worker from leaving the country without the employer's consent - which have been criticized as forms of slavery. Employers may try to bring employees to work under the wrong visa. A tourist or business travel visa might allow the traveller to attend business meetings, but it may not allow them to perform original work. If you have a work visa, it might limit you to a specific industry, city, or employer. Being caught working illegally can land you in jail, get you fined, get you deported and banned from re-entry, and earn you a permanent criminal record which may make it hard to obtain visas to other countries in the future.
Human trafficking and modern slavery
In extreme cases, some fake companies are bait and switch or even human trafficking schemes:
- The victim is offered a job in a restaurant or hotel abroad, only to find the advertised position doesn't exist, the recruiters are part of an organised crime gang, and the prospective foreign worker is forced into prostitution or committing offences like telecommunication fraud and illegal remote gambling.
- Apart from the typical high-paid, no experience facade, criminals may also post seemingly legitimate job offers that require special skills to attract professional workers.
- A newer method is by establishing front companies in the victim's home country. After they were employed and were given some tasks in their job, the company organizes a guided tour and uses the tour as a method to traffic victims en masse. Chartered flights can be used in these large-scale trafficking schemes.
Victims could be subjected to further human trafficking, torture or illegal organ transplantation. Some Southeast Asian countries like Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand are notorious for these schemes. In these cases, criminal syndicates have sufficient manpower and weapons to guard their bases, and it is nearly impossible for victims to escape on their own once abducted. Local authorities and the police may collude with criminal enterprises. Seeking help from uninvolved higher authorities or your country's diplomatic mission is probably a better choice to seek freedom.
While the defence of duress or special defence for human trafficking may be available to victims who were forced to commit offences, they may still be liable to prosecution once they were rescued. Victims are advised to collect evidence to prove they were forced to do so under coercion, slavery and/or exploitation.
A variant of this is debt bondage, in which the traveller is charged some exorbitant amount for transport or entry to a country, then forced to work in slave-like conditions to repay this "debt" - which sometimes never goes away. A worker who complains is physically beaten or their families in their home countries are threatened or tortured; if the victim complains to police, they are either neglected and send back to the abuser due to the police corruption, or simply deported for immigration violations.
The following provides some advice to prevent falling into such traps:
- Always verify the employer's background and its address before your journey – criminal syndicates may leave fake addresses, which can sometimes be identified through maps, use a shell company with key figures that don't match the description you got, or use information on an unrelated real company. Criminal syndicates may organize seemingly formal interviews or show fake employment environment to cover up their intention.
- To make their claim more appealing, criminal syndicates may claim that they have booked air tickets and hotels, or have brought insurance on behalf of the victims. Check with airlines, hotels and insurance companies to verify whether the booking is true or simply a facade.
- If you are going on a guided tour, check whether the travel agent is properly registered.
- Recruitment advertisements posted on social media are particularly dangerous.
- Do not trust recruitment ads or travel invitations just because they are sent by an acquaintance of yours. They could be already abducted and forced to send the message, or the contact details and even style of writing might have simply been copied, from public sources or by spyware.
- Suggesting you can work with a normal tourist visa in a foreign country means the offer is at best illegal, at worst bogus. Check also on other formalities; the company not having registered you by tax authorities etc. might show your position is bogus or illegal.
- Register your journey with your embassy. Keep somebody informed on where you are going (including tours etc.).
- If you suspect that you are falling victim, get away to somewhere safe if you find a way, and contact your country's diplomatic mission immediately to seek help. If you suspect your acquaintances are under danger, immediately contact the police to ensure investigation is opened swiftly.
- When arriving at your destination, avoid using transportation offered by the employer. Getting on the vehicle could well mean abduction and slavery aftermath.
- Foreign criminal enterprises may also collaborate with gangs in your country to force and subdue victims. If you are first introduced to a hotel in your country to stay for a few days, or are supervised by suspicious persons during recruitment or departure, you are likely placed under control of local gangs. Try to contact local police by any means. It is much harder to seek freedom once you leave your country.
- Finally, if the job offer is too good to be true, it probably is. If you cannot ascertain the validity of the offer, reject it without hesitation.
If in doubt, obtain specialised advice before considering travel abroad to work or volunteer. If you are in danger, try to contact your country's diplomatic mission or some sort of centralized consular protection hotline.