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As more American companies expand overseas and others are open to more flexible work environments, the opportunity to move abroad for work is expanding. If you've dreamed of teaching English for a year or work for an international organization with global offices, now is a great time to pack the suitcase. However, there are plenty of considerations for long- or short-term relocation opportunities. Here are the questions you should ask before taking an overseas job.
Ask About Relocation Assistance
There are more things to think about than simply where you are going to live and what mode of transportation you'll take to work. Depending on the country, you'll need to navigate work visa regulations, banking and tax laws.
You'll also need to consider health care services, how to access leisure activities if you don't have a car and a host of other daily life questions, like whether you can obtain a library card where you'll be living.
Before taking a position, ask detailed questions about how much relocation assistance the company provides. Is there a team in place that will guide you through the process and answer questions you didn't even know you had? Be sure to inquire about expenses they will reimburse. For example, will they cover the cost of shipping your belongings or paying for a plane ticket home once a year?
Understand the Details of Your Visa
If you quit your job or are terminated, will you need to leave the country immediately? Each country has varying laws about who can work and for how long. You also need to understand if you (or the employer on your behalf) is applying to obtain a long-term visa or work permit. There are differences: A work permit typically only allows you to work the specific job title for the company that hired you. You likely can't switch companies under a work permit.
If you plan to work short-term, for example teaching English overseas for six months, you'll likely need a single work permit. If you plan to move abroad long-term and want to climb the corporate ladder at a large organization, work closely with HR or the transition team to understand what job title (or titles) you are allowed under your work permit. If you took a job overseas as an engineer, you may not be able to work under the title of a manager if you're promoted.
Learn About Cultural Differences
Will you shake hands with your new office mates, or will they give you a double cheek kiss? Even if you are working for an American company or a large multinational organization with branches around the globe, expect each office to reflect local culture and, to some extent, language.
If you work as an engineer or in the marketing department of a global organization, meetings may all be held in English but daily conversations or chatter over coffee breaks will likely occur in the local language. It will be easier to connect with co-workers and adapt to office culture if you are fluent enough to have casual conversations without expecting everyone else to switch to English.
Research Banking Information
If you plan to live and work abroad for more than a few months, you'll need to understand banking regulations and the process of opening a bank account. Most overseas banks will require a bevy of documentation such as passport, work visa, proof of address abroad and may even ask to see previous banking records. If you are a noncitizen, you'll likely be required to make a large deposit (depending on country and bank) of up to several thousand dollars to open an account.
Ask your potential employer how you will be paid and if they can transfer money to your U.S. account, or if they only issue checks or direct deposits in local currency. This will help you determine the most cost-effective banking solution. Keep in mind, even if you do keep your U.S. bank account, most charge heavy cash withdrawal fees to take out money in foreign currencies. In addition, check to see what the transaction fee is on your U.S. credit card. You could be charged 1-3 percent on every transaction made.
Kristin Amico is a career and business writer who spent more than a decade managing creative teams at digital agencies. She has written for The Muse, The Independent and USA Today.