Working in different countries… Also known as why are working permits so hard to get?

… Or who the hell makes up these systems?

Countries make migration hard to try to “protect” their own citizens from job scarcity, which after a good hour in Google Scholar I couldn’t find an article or study to demonstrate when or if that could actually happen. But that’s besides the point. The reality is that we are living in times of very anti-immigration discourses and it is becoming harder to move to a different country with a job offer from a small NGO and even harder to move to a country with no job at all.

That’s troubling because a lot of you and young people in general that want to work in international development wants to have some international experience. Also, I will say that 98% of the people that reach out to me are struggling to find a job that suit their profile… In their “allowed” geographical area. The problem is most of the entry-level jobs seem to be concentrated in the US or Europe and it is difficult to apply for those if you don’t have an existing work permit. Throwing us back to the chicken and egg cycle. You need a job to get a work permit, but you need a work permit to get a job. Oh, how fun those are… (And by fun I mean ridiculous).

The visa/work permit issue is probably the main hiring advantage from International Organisations from the UN System or Red Cross in comparison to international or local NGOs. There are treaties in systems in place that allow those visa processes to be a lot easier and you can be recognised as an international worker. However, as I have mention many times, it’s not always easy – or helpful – to start on those organisations at Headquarters level. However, if you have a country of interest target those organisations in that country. You might have better luck and even interning there will be better for your skill development and CV.

What are your other options?

If you are European, count your blessings. The only region that will be a little more challenging for you will be… South East Asia. And even then, your EU status brings serious benefits. And the rest of the world is hating you for it while being incredibly jealous (joking… Not really joking).

If you are in South America you can now extend your search to the entire South American region. Thanks to the Mercosur Agreement of 2014, nationals of those countries can move for work for two years without an employment offer. In those cases, you can actually apply for national positions. Furthermore, nationals from Latin America (sorry, Caribbean) after living in Spain for two years (for work or study) can request residence.

If you are Canadian or from a Commonwealth country you can work more easily in the UK – but you have to hurry, because that may end soon under the current administration – than other non-European nationalities. You can also look how to work and live in the UK under the International Graduates Scheme or the Ancestry scheme.

US residents and nationals can work on New Zealand, Singapore, Canada, Ireland and Australia more easily due to travel/work schemes. Not really related to my particular audience, but there are a lot of retirement schemes for US citizens. Like a lot. Basically, you can take your pick between Central America and South East Asia if you want to retire abroad with no major issues. Just a little nugget of information for the future.

Ok… Those situations don’t apply to me, what should I do?

To start, I’m not an immigration lawyer and every case is different. If you are seriously passionate about moving somewhere specific, you should check their Embassy/Consulate or an immigration lawyer specialised/recommended by that country. That being said, here are the most common options for visas:

  • Digital Nomad style: 3 months in different countries on tourist visas. That only really works if you have flexible work situations. But if you are a blogger, photographer, social media analyst… This could be an option for you.
  • High Qualified Professionals visas: these visas are incredible hard to generally in Europe, but fairly easy in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Belize and the Pacific. So, if you are targeting those countries, maybe that will be an option to consider.
  • Marriage/Dependant visas: marriage can help in certain cases, just check if the country of your partner allows for spouses to work (as you can see I’m totally a romantic).
  • Ancestry visas: a lot of countries will facilitate working visas or give citizenship for Ancestry, so talking to your grandparents about the family tree may prove to be useful after all.
  • Investment visa: for some countries, having an investor visa is the best solution if you have a decent amount of savings. Just beware if the country that you are targeting does not have a “minimum yearly expenditure in country” type of string.
  • Work/Holiday/Volunteer scheme: many find this an easy option to get acquainted with the country they want to move to and build networks; it is just not a very sustainable visa.
  • Student visa: if that’s definitely the place you want to work in, there are student visas that allow you to work a certain period of hours and with that you can find local knowledge on how their system work and what are the best channels to work in the country.

This is all for this edition. I wanted to keep nice and short for you guys and as usual, you are more than welcome to contact me with questions and suggestions,

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