When we place an overseas contractor there are many considerations to be made. The client has gone through a process to ensure that appointing a foreign national is the best option and that the placement fulfils all legal requirements. As recruiters, we check that the contractor does indeed have the requirements expected by the client and is competent and compliant. So, if we’re doing all the work why do you need to know this stuff? You need to know because with issues of immigration you may well be liable and you need to ensure you’re going to be financially rewarded as expected. For your own peace of mind it’s important to know the basics of the overseas contract.
1. Immigration & visas
A theme of this post is to avoid assumptions. Because you successfully secured the position overseas does not mean that all immigration arrangements have been made prior to the offer. Your employer may well be applying for a visa on your behalf but that is not always the case. What about your family’s immigration status? List all the questions you need answers to, don’t assume anything and work fast. If your hirer or recruiter provides you with paperwork to complete, do it with urgency. Visas are likely to take longer than expected and you don’t want to be to blame. Set alarms on your calendar for key dates regarding your contract and visa expiry – overstaying your visa is (almost always) a criminal offence and you shouldn’t rely on your employer to sort it out. Mistakes happen and you’ll be the one facing the consequences.
2. Length of your contract
There are important questions to ask here and a good employer should have ample experience. Your contract will not be indefinite but for most contractors, extensions, renewals and even transition to a permanent position are on the cards. All fine and good when you’re at home but remember visa issues may arise. Take into consideration the potential bureaucracy of getting an extension to your visa and don’t assume your employer will take care of it. Every country is different (and every employer) so don’t base your actions on previous experience somewhere else. Be assertive, file paperwork as quickly as possible and chase up HR if you have concerns.
A lone contractor has very different concerns to a contractor relocating family. It can be a stressful and frustrating business moving overseas with dependents but it can also be a great adventure. Our advice is to plan meticulously in advance. If you’re likely to take an overseas contract anytime soon you want to work out exactly what you’ll need to maintain a happy home-life. Will the employer pay for the entire family relocation? Where will you be living and how will you travel to work? What schools are available and will your employer contribute to fees? What cultural concerns are there? Do you think your family will enjoy their time there? However tempting an overseas contract is you must discuss the implications with any dependents – it’s not always an easy transition.
4. Remuneration, taxes and pensions
Firstly do your research. It may seem straightforward to calculate parity between incomes but there are always unexpected expenses, for example the cost of medical care. If you are working for a major international corporation the likelihood is that they have a transparent salary / fee structure which ensures comparable incomes. If you’re working for a smaller consultancy you may want to be more wary. Depending on your home nation and the place you’re relocating to, tax and pension issues may be dead simple or an absolute nightmare! Don’t assume anything. Many countries have agreements with each other to simplify the matter but many do not. We will answer questions if we can, as will the hirer but you may want to consult your financial advisor too.
5. Work culture
When you work for an international company there are many aspects of the culture that are homogenised but don’t assume that working in Delhi will be identical to working in Johannesburg. Hours can be very different, the customs of professional interaction vary widely and expectations of output, reporting and workload may well be very different to what you are used to. When the interviewer asks if you have any questions this is a great opportunity to raise these queries. “Could you give me an overview of any differences I may experience working in Miami to my current job in Paris?”. It’s good to recognise that there will be a change in culture and that you’re keen to understand that.
Don’t be put off. Thousands of contractors work overseas. Nothing’s too arduous and people have successful careers travelling the world. Just make sure you’re in control of the situation, ask the questions, organise and enjoy!