9 Ways to Prepare for a Career Abroad
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- Research paperwork and financial issues before moving, including visas, insurance, and taxation.
- Learn skills and gain experience to find work in the country you want.
- Build up a savings fund for expected and unexpected costs, including security deposits.
- Don't forget about life back home — cancel subscriptions, close accounts, and forward mail.
Thanks to the rise of remote work and the ease of international travel and communications, people increasingly want jobs abroad. You might think that only freelancers or young people can easily move to another country for work — but that's simply not true.
In 2021, InterNations found that the average age of people from the U.S. working abroad was about 43 years old. Plus, 3 in 4 U.S. citizens who decided to work abroad reported being satisfied with their jobs. Many noted that they experienced a balanced work-life situation.
So if you want to launch an international career and work abroad like so many others, here are some ideas to help you get started.
1. Research Visas and Work Permits for Jobs Abroad
Some countries provide visas to international workers more easily than others. Before diving into the specifics of the job market, research a few of your target countries and see how feasible it is to get a work visa there.
After that, see what career trajectories or potential jobs you can pursue with any available visas. Some countries easily give visas to people who work in entertainment, and others give temporary work permits to those in the tourism industry. Just make sure to look up what documents, proof, and other materials you may need to apply for your work visa.
Pro tip: Immigration lawyers can help guide you through the work visa process.
2. Develop the Skills and Experience You Need
If you find a job you'd like to do abroad, check the qualifications and experience required, as well as any certifications you might need. For example, many people who move abroad to teach English need a TEFL certification.
Leverage your skills and experience. Since IT is a popular field for international jobs, enrolling in a coding or other IT program may make moving abroad for work much easier. If you studied abroad in college and would like to return to that country, your experience and connections there may help you out.
If people in the country you're interested in working in speak a language you don't know, try learning some key words and phrases before you travel. Learning the language can help you find work opportunities and make friends more easily.
3. Find Available Jobs Abroad That Suit You
Some people choose to temporarily live off of their savings in a new country until they find a job locally. However, finding a job abroad before you get on your flight can save you some stress (and money).
Check out work abroad programs before you travel to your new home. Many of these opportunities involve working in education, tourism, or child care. You can also apply for jobs via specialized career search sites. One of the best international job search sites is Interexchange.
If you work for an international company, ask if they are hiring in any of their foreign offices. You never know when a simple question can lead to a new opportunity.
4. Find Housing in Your New City
Finding a job before you move to a new place can also help you make housing decisions. If it's possible and affordable, find a place to live that's close to your new job to eliminate the hassle of a long commute.
Look up different neighborhoods' safety and crime statistics and proximity to shopping, dining, entertainment, and nightlife. If you have children, check out the local schools.
If you don't need to be in a specific location for your job, research your new country's different regions to see what area might suit your lifestyle and preferences best. It isn't always the big city that has the most opportunity. Many tourism, conservation, and other jobs are available in rural areas or small towns.
5. Build Up a Fund for Your Move
Try to build up a savings fund before you work abroad. You'll need the funds for plane tickets, a security deposit, and one or two months' rent just for the move — not to mention all of the essentials you'll need to stock up on.
Prepare for other costs, too. These may include visa fees, changes in the cost of living, or even new clothes to fit into your new work environment.
Either way, until you figure out the day-to-day costs in your new city, it's best to have some money set aside for unexpected situations.
6. Research Your New Country's Cost of Living
To help you determine how much you need to save, research your new country's general cost of living. This typically includes the cost of housing, utility bills, transportation, and other basics like food and clothing.
Some countries have a much lower cost of living than the U.S., so if your salary is similar to what you made at home, you may be able to live much more comfortably. But on the flip side: Other places may be more expensive. It's best to research costs associated with all the different areas of your daily life, as it may affect the initial decisions you'll make after your move.
For example, if you move to a city with very expensive gas prices but an affordable and efficient public transportation system, it probably makes sense not to buy a car and figure out the metro system instead.
7. Take Care of What You Leave Behind
Don't focus so much on making a life in a new country that you forget what you need to prepare at home before you leave. Make a list of basic things you need to take care of before becoming an expat.
For instance, sure someone picks up your mail and alerts you to any important letters or documents you receive. Decide what you will do with your house, car, and items before you go. This may depend on how long you plan to work abroad. Some people sublet their residences, others end their leases. Some store their cars, while others sell them.
If you plan on leaving indefinitely, it is a good idea to notify your bank and insurance companies and close accounts. Lastly, make sure to cancel any recurring bills, subscriptions, and memberships you'll no longer need.
8. Figure Out Taxes for International Jobs
Every country has its own unique set of tax regulations, and different countries have different tax agreements with each other. If you work abroad, you may still have tax obligations in your home country or, at the very least, need to file taxes.
Speak with a qualified accountant before leaving home to figure out how to handle your income and taxation. Ask your new coworkers or other connections in your new country to recommend a local accountant as well.
9. Take Care of Your Health
Talk to your doctor about what to do with any prescriptions, treatments, or general medical care you need while abroad. Stock up on prescriptions, and if your new country offers different brands, ask your doctor if a comparable treatment exists. It's also a good idea to get one last check-up with your regular doctors before you leave.
Look up how healthcare functions in your new country. If there's a public or universal healthcare program, are you eligible for it on your visa or work permit? If you're not, look into international health insurance to cover any unexpected medical costs you may have.
Frequently Asked Questions About a Career Abroad
What skills are required to get a job abroad?
Most people who manage to get jobs abroad are college graduates. According to InterNations, 33% of working expats have a bachelor's degree, and 47% have a master's or other postgraduate degree.
Consider building up skills in some of the industries that are most willing to hire people to work abroad. Most expats from the U.S. work in education (12%), IT (11%), and finance (8%). Some are freelancers or self-employed.
What is the easiest job to get abroad?
One of the best jobs abroad for people from the U.S. is teaching English as a second language (TESL). These opportunities usually require a college education and fluency in English. Teaching experience is also a plus.
Jobs in the tourism industry, including work at hotels, bars, yachts, and tour group companies are usually easy for international workers to get. Experience in the service industry or specialized skills that could be useful in leading group tours are recommended.
What are the disadvantages of working abroad?
There are two main types of disadvantages: practical disadvantages and culture shock. Practical disadvantages include the possibility of double taxation (from your home country and new country) or a lower salary than you might get in your home country.
Culture shock, which can include homesickness and the inability to overcome cultural and language barriers, may also prove difficult for some.
However, by planning carefully, you can set yourself up for success and ease into life in your new country.