Living in a foreign country can be an exciting cultural experience, but it also involves a steep learning curve. Not only will you have to familiarize yourself with the local customs and workplace politics, but you’ll have to navigate moving your life across international borders and finding a new home. Fortunately, your employer can sometimes be a valuable asset in helping navigate those waters. Before you sign on the dotted line, here are some things to keep in mind.
Find out who’s handling your visa.
Every career and every country is going to have its own idiosyncrasies, so there’s no real way to outline all the facts of the job. One thing that’s common for every foreign job, though, is the fact that you’re going to need a work permit or visa. If you’re hired before you depart your own country, it’s customary for your new foreign employer to handle the visa process for you, getting you your temporary or permanent work permits and paying the costs associated. If you’re already living in the foreign country, the employer may or may not handle this for you.
The benefit of handling your own work permit: It sometimes means you can switch employers without a lot of hassle. If your employer handled the details, it’s more difficult to change jobs if you’re not happy where you’re working.
Before you agree to the job, find out how this important aspect will be handled, including who’s paying the fees and the timetable for getting it all done.
Research the local laws on foreign workers.
In some countries, foreign workers are entitled to certain perks, such as healthcare, for example. If you’re not sure where to look, locate a relocation assistance service in the country where you’re headed to help you navigate the laws and customs regarding pay, housing, health care and other amenities you might be entitled to.
Read as much as you can about living there.
Working in a foreign country also involves living there among its people. If at all possible, you should visit the country before you agree to work there. Stay with a host family or try to get to know a few locals or expatriates so you can find out what it’s really like to reside there. Look for guidebooks or articles on living abroad in that country; some guidebook publishers have full-length books on relocating to certain countries. Also look to social media platforms such as Facebook, where you’ll often find expats groups that can give you some insight into things you’ll need to know before moving and what to bring that you might not be able to get. What’s more, expats already living in that country might be able to tell you more about the employer you’re looking to work with, sharing success or even horror stories and giving you insight into whether the proposed salary is fair.
Negotiate for assistance with flights, moving your stuff and other expenses.
If you’ve taken a job from afar, also find out whether your new employer can help you out with any expenses related to the move. If you’re in a specialized field or you’re a highly-qualified professional, this is more likely. If you’re moving somewhere to be an English teacher, on the other hand, the offerings might be less forthcoming. Things to ask for include round-trip airline tickets, rental assistance, temporary housing, and a signing bonus, though depending on transportation options in that country, you might also ask for a bus or train pass, a bicycle or even the use of a car and driver.
Get it in writing.
Whatever you negotiate with your employer, get it in writing, translated into both your native language and the language of the country. Local laws vary and you still might not be protected should your employer decide to sever the terms of the deal, but at least you’ll have some document that proves what you were promised. With that in mind, it helps to hire a translation service that can serve as a non-affiliated third party for assistance translating and interpreting documents.
Preparing for life in a foreign country -- and working for a foreign employer -- can be overwhelming. However, by planning ahead and learning as much as you can, you’ll have a more valuable, more enriching experience.