Thinking of finding work abroad and living the expat life? Sure, it can be challenging. But lots of people are doing it and so can you. We’ll tell you how.

You have your training, degree, or certification — or maybe just a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn — and you’re looking for an adventure. Maybe you’re ready to try living abroad but aren’t sure how to move to another country and support yourself there. You’re willing to emigrate, but you’re not sure which are the best countries for Americans to move to.

Our previous article tells you how to move to another country. Now we’ll tell you how to find work abroad.

Moving to Another Country to Work Abroad: What You Will Need

First things first. If you’re moving to another country to work, you will need to have your paperwork in order. This is no joke. Penalties for trying to overstay your visa, violating the terms of your visa, or working illegally can be steep for both immigrants and their potential employers, and few employers are willing to take that risk. If you’re going abroad with the intention of finding employment, many countries require that, in addition to your U.S. passport, you have your work permit or work visa before you arrive.

Getting your documents can take months, so plan accordingly. Start by researching the visa and permit requirements for your target country.  Be aware that “work abroad” scams abound. Be safe, and begin your search at your target country’s government immigration website.

The easiest way to acquire working documents in your target country is to have a job offer from an in-country employer willing to sponsor you. In many cases, your employer will not only assist you with acquiring your visa and work permit, but may also help you to find a place to live and get settled once you arrive.  If you’re not in this lucky position, however, don’t despair. You still have plenty of other options.

Easiest Countries for Skilled Workers to Move to

For English speakers, Canada and Australia are your best bet.

Skilled labor is always in demand, though, and many countries are willing to offer visas and work permits to people with certain skill sets. Which skills are desired will vary by location, but in general, people with skills, experience, education and/or certification in the following areas will have an easier time finding overseas employment than someone whose skills are more generalized:

  • Medical personnel
  • Construction workers
  • Engineers
  • Technology workers
  • Tradespeople (electricians, mechanics, repair specialists, etc.)
  • Select white-collar employees
  • Scientists
  • Agricultural professionals

Again, the desired professions vary by country. Canada’s immigration website, for example, maintains an extensive list of professions that qualify for their express skilled worker immigration program. Australia has a special tool called SkillSelect, which will help you figure out if your particular skills are currently in demand in Australia—and it can even help you to find a sponsor.

Canada's a great place to seek work abroad. Photo of Vancouver.

Want to work abroad? Vancouver, B.C.’s just north of the Canadian border. Photo: CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.

In addition, you can research American companies in your field who maintain overseas operations. Numerous American firms contract construction and trade personnel, for example, to work in the Middle East. Quite a few technology companies maintain operations in Ireland and India. Maybe the company where you’re already employed has an overseas position that might fit you. There are also recruiters who specialize in placing skilled workers in jobs overseas. As always, though, vet potential recruiters and employers carefully.

English as a Second Language Teachers are in High Demand Abroad

If you’ve ever dreamed of walking the bright, noisy streets of Tokyo, exploring hidden temples in Vietnam, strolling the beaches of Thailand, hiking in the beautiful mountains of South Korea, or walking along the Great Wall of China, then teaching English in Asia might be for you. Certified English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers can earn top dollar teaching in Asia. It’s a voracious market, and there are a lot of reputable companies who can help you to get there — either by hiring you directly, or by facilitating your hiring and paperwork.

Photo of woman teaching English as a Second Language and working abroad.

Want to work abroad? Teach English as a Second Language. Photo: CC 2.0 Rex Pe via Flickr.

But not just any English speaker can qualify. Most companies will not even look at an applicant who doesn’t have at least one of the following credentials:

  • TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language), or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) degree: These are university-level degrees (B.A. or M.A.) with a focus on teaching English as a foreign language.
  • TESOL Core Certificate: This is a 140-hour certification for people with no formal training in teaching English as a Second Language.
  • CELTA: This is a short course (4-5 weeks) for people with little to no experience teaching, or teaching English as a Second Language.

It goes without saying that, just like at home, when working abroad the higher-paying jobs will require the higher qualification. Also, please be aware that there are many, many “teach English abroad” scams, shady recruiters, and fly-by-night schools looking to make a quick buck off of your enthusiasm. Just as you would vet any American employer who offered you work, research any potential foreign employer carefully and thoroughly. This article contains valuable information about how to spot scams, weed out unscrupulous recruiters, and avoid bad schools.

Overseas Contractor Jobs

If you want to work abroad, overseas contractor jobs are a possibility. There are just a couple catches. For starters, they often prefer veterans with military experience and the jobs are often dangerous. Plus, you’ll need security clearance.

Clearance Jobs reports overseas contracting jobs can look great on a resume and are ideal for “adventurous job seekers.” But they urge you learn about the culture and language and to “be prepared for safety briefings, training (weapons), and other relevant information on the risks, terrain, and mission.” Other things they say you should consider, along with your base pay and employee benefits, include:

  • Is there hostile duty pay?
  • Are weapons required for your job?
  • Are you healthy enough to live in an area with harsh living conditions?

Oh, and don’t forget about your immunizations, direct deposit, and writing your will.

What about ContractWorld jobs?

If you’ve been looking into finding work abroad, you’ve likely come across ads for ContractWorld.

Countless digital nomads, stay-at-home moms, and expats looking to live and work abroad have checked out these ads, after all, their premise certainly sounds enticing. The ContractWorld website site promises “a whole new way of working,” and claims you can work for them as a call center rep from anywhere in the world. Better yet, they’ll look good on your resume because you’ll be providing customer service for big-name companies like L’Oréal, TSC, Assurant, Club Auto, and Pizza Hut.

ContractWorld says all you need is a computer, high-speed internet, anti-virus and anti-malware software, a landline phone with a headset, an online Voice over IP (VoIP) phone service like Skype or Google Phone for training purposes, a webcam and a place to work that’s reasonably quiet.

There’s just one problem. After you sign up for the membership and look at the contracts available, a post titled “6 Steps to a Job contract reveals that all the jobs require training classes and you have to pay for them.

Video screen grab for ContractWorld's instructions.

Want to work for ContractWorld? Sorry, you’re going to have to pay to play.

The Better Business Bureau gives ContractWorld an A+, but people who’ve worked for them only give them 2.4 stars on Glass Door.

Countries with Work Abroad Programs

A number of countries have unique work abroad programs for certain kinds of workers. The variety of work abroad programs and the kinds of work they cover might surprise you. And chances are good that you may qualify for at least one of them.

Canada, which many Americans would see as the easiest country to move to for geographical, language, and cultural considerations, has special immigration programs for caregivers, foreign graduates of Canadian institutions, and people willing to live and work in specific parts of the country such as Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Canada also has a program for self-employed people, like artists and athletes.

Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Hong Kong, most of Europe and Asia, and a lot of South American countries also have “working holiday” programs. These are exactly what they sound like: work visas for people who want to take a break from their current job and find short-term employment in a different country. Generally speaking, you don’t have to have an in-country job offer or a critical skill to qualify for a working holiday visa.

Each country’s work abroad programs have their own rules and regulations, however. Some are limited by age, others by duration. Many come with a financial requirement—that is, you must prove that you have enough money to support yourself there without being a burden on the social services system, in the event that you don’t find work. You will also very likely be required to have proof of health insurance for the duration of your stay. Wikipedia has an extensive listing of different countries with working holiday visa programs and some of those programs’ requirements. However, as always, it’s best to get your information about work abroad programs directly from the government website of the country where you’re planning to stay.

More than Just Working Abroad: Volunteer Programs and Charitable Organizations

Did you know that Lillian Carter, the mother of former president Jimmy Carter, became a Peace Corps volunteer in India at the age of sixty-eight? Some visas for volunteer work abroad programs are limited to workers below a certain age, but plenty of international charitable organizations are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with individuals of all ages who have spent years honing their skills. The opportunities are as diverse as the people who apply for them. You could work with children, provide disaster relief, work to save the environment, help animals, build houses for the poor—and more. Moreover, some of these opportunities, like the Peace Corps, will even pay you.

The U.S. government runs a number of such programs, at home and abroad, including the Peace Corps. If you belong to a religious organization, you might also look into short term and long term volunteer opportunities that they might offer. Other organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the American Red Cross also offer opportunities to volunteer abroad.

Just as you would research any employer, however, research your volunteer organization and opportunity thoroughly. Some opportunities may pay for your travel, organize your visas, and ensure that you will have a place to live while abroad. Other programs expect their volunteers to pay them. In addition, there are organizations that don’t offer opportunities themselves but act as clearinghouses for third parties. These programs may or may not vet the safety or legality of their various listings.

A lot of people’s first inclination is to look for the countries with the most opportunities. But that’s a complicated question, and the answer is as unique as each individual. Take a thorough inventory of your skills—your language skills, the work you can do, the work you’re willing to learn to do—and see where you’re needed. Chances are, you can find a job you’ll enjoy in a place you’ll enjoy living. Good luck.

Featured image/How to work abroad: View of Hong Kong via Maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com, Public Domain

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