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What You Need to Know to Work in Another Country

If you are the adventurous type, you may have thought about seeking employment beyond our country’s borders. Or, if you work for a global company, you may be looking into what positions are open in their international offices so you can gain new experiences or skills. With either situation, there are several important things you need to think about before you make the move to work in another country. Once you have secured a job, taking these steps will help to ensure that your international employment is more of a dream adventure than an overwhelming challenge.

First Step - Obtain a Work Permit or Visa

You’ll need to get a work permit or visa to live and work in another country. If you are relocating with your current employer, they will most likely take care of the visa application process for you. But, if you are moving on your own, you will need to pursue the visa application process yourself. Since the process can be complicated and take some time (about a month), you’ll want to start completing and submitting the application as soon as you have secured the job. Since each country has different rules regarding work permits/visas and how long they will allow you to stay, you will want to research rules for the country you plan to work in. Understand that if you quit or get fired from your job while abroad, you may not be allowed to look for another job and may need to return to the U.S. immediately.

Make Living Arrangements

If your international move is with your current employer, they will likely help you find housing and may even provide a stipend for your living expenses and/or pay for your relocation. If you are moving on your own, you will want to seek the knowledge and advice of your international network (see below), which should be helpful in obtaining referrals to landlords, real estate professionals, etc.

Research the Income Tax Landscape

Each country has its own tax laws, so make sure you’ve done your research in this area as well. Depending on your situation, you may be considered a U.S. employee on assignment or an employee in the new country. Either way, you will still need to file a tax return with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and prove that you paid taxes in the country in which you worked.

Look into Local Banking Practices

You’ll need to set up a bank account in your new country, so it’s important that you understand how banking is conducted there. What are the minimum balances, fees and online capabilities? Also, what is the timing on transfers if you need to move money from accounts in the U.S.? In some countries, you may need a reference letter from your U.S. bank to set up a bank account there. Also, since getting credit can be very difficult in a new country, try to secure a credit card with an international bank before you leave the U.S.

Learn About the Local Currency

Foreign currencies are very different from the U.S. currency. For example, most European countries have the Euro, while the UK has the pound. Also, depending on the local economy, each country has its own exchange rate. When investigating the country you hope to move to, make sure to familiarize yourself with the local currency and find out what value is currently placed on the U.S. dollar. You want to be prepared with this information so you can ensure your new salary will cover all your planned expenses.

Get International Health Insurance Coverage

This is another detail your current employer will probably take care of if your international job move is with them. If it’s not, then you will want to investigate getting international health insurance to make sure you are covered in the event of any illness or injury. 

Understand the Business Culture and Expectations

Every country has its own customs when it comes to work ethic, work-life balance and vacation time, and each company can be different as well. You’ll want to explore these details so there are no surprises. In many European countries, you are often expected to give employers three months’ notice before leaving a job, so it’s important for you to know how long the position you’ve secured is expected to last.

Prepare to Hurdle Language Barriers

Before you move to your new country, try to pick up basic conversational skills in the local language so you can easily get around and find what you need once you arrive. Try to learn the specific lingo and slang used for common words so you are not getting lost in the translation. Getting acquainted with the local pop culture through popular magazines and TV shows will help you understand the local jargon and sense of humor.

Address Transportation Needs

You’ll need to get around the city or country you move to, and, most importantly, have a way to get to your job. Look into what is available for public transportation, and if you plan to obtain and drive a car, find out how long your U.S. driver’s license will be valid before you are required to get one locally.

Start Forming a Network of Local Friends

To ensure you have a social life in your new country and won’t be hanging out alone, you should reach out to any people you know (and who they know) who have traveled, lived or currently reside in your new country and could introduce you to (or become) potential friends. While you will very likely form friendships with your new co-workers once the job starts, if you don’t already have a work-related friend in your new country, you’ll want to line up some people ahead of your move who can show you around and answer any questions you have when you arrive. Try researching local websites for U.S. emigrants to find people with common interests you can add to your international social circle.

Preparing for international employment takes planning, effort and research - a major undertaking involving tremendous change that you want to be ready for. This preparation will save you some potential headaches down the road and ensure your international job experience is more like the dream travel adventure you anticipate.

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