The Expat Guide to Getting a Job Abroad


Traveling and living abroad is a calling that many people feel compelled to answer after the pandemic. This long-term approach to travel and exploring diverse cultures can be an incredible experience.

While living abroad poses many logistical challenges, the job search is typically the most complex. Here’s a complete guide and some integral considerations for expats seeking a job abroad.

Decide Which Comes First: Visa or Job

First comes the classic “chicken or egg” debate. Will you move abroad and find a job in the country you want to live in, or will you find a job and leverage the offer to immigrate?

There are pros, cons, and complexities to each approach. Many countries require proof of employment to enter on a working visa. This means you’ll need a job to enter. Some countries allow you to work under certain visas but may have thresholds about how many hours a week. 

On the other hand, finding a job first adds a whole new challenge of convincing someone abroad that they should support someone relocating — mindset-wise, if not financially. Many companies will prefer to hire someone local if possible. This puts the onus on the jobseeker to sell their talents and highlight the benefit of selecting them.

There’s no right or wrong approach to choosing whether you’ll start the job search before or after you go. However, it’s the first decision you must make before proceeding.

Check the Visa Restrictions and Requirements

Visa restrictions and requirements may influence whether you find a job before you leave or after you arrive. Every country has unique visa types and regulations that may impact your decision. 

For example, many countries have temporary work visas that are job-specific. In other words, you’re only approved to work the job you’ve secured and submitted on your visa — you can’t switch to another job while in the country. 

Another common barrier to employer-sponsored work visas is specialization. The employee and employer must indicate a unique quality or qualification that justifies an international hire. For example, an engineering firm might hire someone with niche experience that’s difficult to find for a specific project.

Many visas also require you to have a savings threshold to indicate that you can support yourself in the country beyond your employment income. Expats traveling with a spouse or family members will also need to research regulations around their visas.

Some visas also have restrictions about leaving the country during your validity period. So, if you have goals to hop around and explore other countries on your time off, this is important to clarify.

Pay attention when researching this information, and don’t hesitate to work with a skilled consultant to guide the process. Making mistakes could prevent you from entering the country.

Clarify Speciality Licence Transfers

One of the pitfalls of working abroad is that licensing isn’t always transferrable. For example, if you’re a nurse in the UK, you’d be required to assess if your credentials are transferrable to the province in which you want to work. If they are, you must undergo the Canadian Registered Nurse Examination (CRNE) to recertify as a Canadian nurse — even if you’ve been a nurse for 20 years in your home country. 

Research and determine whether your degree, licensing, and accolades are accepted in your desired destination country and what must take place to verify them. If they aren’t accepted, you’ll have to consider another country or a different line of work.

Research the Job Market

Many people romanticize the idea of moving and working elsewhere. However, every country has its challenges and fluctuations in the job market.

Research the job market in your target destination country and explore the opportunities in your area. If there aren’t many jobs available, your chances of competing against local workers are slim. While you should still apply and make an effort, it may be worth exploring other destinations.

If you’re already living abroad and struggling to find work in your field, consider freelancing, exploring a different line of work, or moving to a different country. Keep in mind these decisions will all impact your visa requirements.

Craft a Compelling CV

Creating a compelling CV or resume that helps you stand out against the competition is a must when navigating a job search as an expat. This document should have tangible accomplishments, industry-relevant keywords, and localized formatting.

Incorporating tangible metrics shows a potential employer why they should hire you by highlighting real-world outcomes. The key is to incorporate numbers to quantify your accomplishments. So rather than listing “managed a team” in a job description, you’d write something like “managed a team of 12 workers and was responsible for coordinating scheduling and vacations, handling employee disputes, and providing constructive feedback.” Specificity is essential when creating tangibility.

Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to automate the hiring process. These tools scan CV submissions to look for keywords relevant to the job posting. Then, the system determines whether the application is relevant enough for a hiring manager to review. Create a resume that includes specific words from the job post and scan it with an ATS CV checker before submitting.

Each country and culture has diverse expectations when receiving a job application. While adding a headshot is considered outdated in the US, it’s expected in France. There are also localized language differences to consider. For example, “localized” is the spelling in the US, and “localised” is the proper spelling in the UK. These subtle differences could impact your ability to get through the ATS and appeal to the human hiring manager. 

When in doubt, work with a resume or CV writer from the country you’re trying to work in.

Use Your Networks and Connections

Navigate the job search process by reaching out to your connections and networks. Make your intentions to work abroad clear and public via LinkedIn and other social media platforms. If you are currently employed by a company with international ties, consider talking to your employer about your desire to work abroad.

It’s also helpful to join expat communities to learn from others who have explored this path before. Your peers can identify job opportunities or highlight challenges they’ve faced along the way. 

Consider Language Lessons

If you’re moving to a non-English speaking country, it’s worth getting language lessons — even if they aren’t a job requirement. Learning the basics of the language will help you stand out to potential employers and make the work experience much easier.

Research Taxation

Taxation is another struggle for expats. Paying taxes can be complex without adding international income to the mix. Making mistakes in this area can be financially devastating.

Determine whether the country you’re considering has a tax treaty with your home country to prevent double taxation. These considerations will also be contingent on the type of visa you have. 

Understand that being exempt from double taxation generally still requires that you file taxes in both countries for reporting purposes, even if you don’t owe anything. Failing to do so results in a hefty fine.

Reach out to an international tax specialist to clarify your obligations as an expat. 

Final Thoughts

Moving abroad and gaining career experience is an exciting adventure. However, it takes a lot of planning and detail to do it right. Consider the steps in this guide to determine the best path forward for your goals.


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