15 Things You Need to Know About Working Abroad

Having worked for a global company, I’m no stranger to watching friends take overseas roles. While working abroad isn’t in the cards for me anytime soon, you can bet that I live vicariously through their Instagram accounts.

Are you interested in joining them and taking an international job? I’ve sought out what you must know from people across various industries who have worked around the world. Here’s what they had to say.

If you’re going to move to a new country for a job, make sure it’s not just a good opportunity, but also a great employer that offers you a favorable employment contract.

1. Choose an Employer That Will Help as You Navigate All the Changes

“Negotiate to ensure you get a nice relocation package and that your compensation covers the new cost of living,” says Nima Maher, who spent three years in London early in his finance career. A good employer will not only help you obtain the appropriate visa, but should offer relocation support in the form of a temporary housing stipend, payment for packing and shipping your belongings, assistance selling your home, and—depending on the situation—job search aid for your significant other.

Megan Armstrong, who has worked for her current company both in the U.S. and in France, agrees: “Go with a company that will take good care of you when it comes to understanding local laws, taxes, and leasing arrangements, especially if there is a language barrier involved.”

2. Understand the Company’s Culture, Especially Work-Life Balance

“Different countries may have very different norms when it comes to vacation packages and work-life balance. For instance, when I worked in London, I received 25 days for vacation, but found when coming to the U.S. that the norm is half of that—more like 12-15 days. Be sure to ask about this,” urges Peter Morgan whose IT career has taken him from London to New York City.

3. Know What You’re Getting Into

“In Europe you’re often expected to give employers three months notice before leaving a position. So if you become an employee in the country you’re in—not a U.S. employee on an international assignment—be sure to
discuss how long your assignment or position abroad may last. Have that quite clear from the beginning,” suggests Armstrong.

4. Understand Your Visa Conditions

“Remember that, depending on which type of work visa you have, you may have to return to your home country if you resign or are fired. You often cannot look for a job elsewhere after you arrive,” explains Katie Morgan, who taught high school and performed social work during her time in the U.K. Each country has varying types of work visas, so research the regulations around the one you’ll be under. Typically, employers take responsibility for obtaining a work visa due to the complicated processes involved (and if your employer isn’t guiding you, be wary). That said, you’ll still have to fill out plenty of paperwork, so have your pen ready!

A different country means different tax laws and banking practices, so do your homework to avoid surprises. Most notably, get a clear answer as to whether you’ll be a U.S. employee on assignment or if you’ll become an employee in your new country The affects how much of your income you’ll be taxed on in the U.S.

5. You Must File Taxes With the U.S. IRS

“Before we went to Germany, an accountant already living overseas told us we’d be paying German taxes and wouldn’t have to pay U.S. taxes for the same work up to a certain threshold of income,” shares Tim Thorndike. “What we weren’t told was that we still had to file with the IRS to show that we had paid German income tax. We didn’t find that out until five years after moving and ended up paying both the German Finance Office and the IRS for those years,” he laments.

6. You Might Have a (Very) Hard Time Getting Credit

“Getting credit can be very difficult in a new country, so before you leave your home country, get a credit card with an international company. Transferring that card will be easier than getting credit once you’re there,” explains Peter Morgan, who learned this lesson the hard way. “My company finally had to step in, writing a letter to vouch for me. Even then it was still at the discretion of the credit card company whether I’d get one.”

7. Banking Can Get Complicated

“Research how to set up an account abroad. Look into local banks’ minimums, timing on transfers, fees and online capabilities. And make sure to get a reference letter from your U.S. bank,” suggests Lindsey Wilsnackwho lived in Panama for two years with her husband and kids.

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