Perhaps one of the most important steps to relocating to your target destination abroad is applying for a work permit and/or visa. This will allow you to enter and stay in the country for employment purposes. Often the hiring company will offer some sort of assistance with this.
The process and ease of acquiring a work permit in a foreign country will largely depend on your nationality. Below you will find useful information on work permits and visas for different countries:
In many EU countries obtaining a work visa is a relatively straightforward and speedy process, especially if you have a job offer and hold a university degree.
If you are a legal citizen of an EU member state, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland, you’re entitled to work in any other EU country without a permit.
If you are a non-EU citizen, you can apply for the EU Blue Card, a Europe-wide residence and work permit that allows highly qualified professionals from outside the EU to live and work anywhere in the EU (excluding Denmark and Ireland).
If you are a non-EU citizen and a qualified worker, you must also meet the following criteria:
Processing of EU Blue Card applications typically takes a maximum of 90 days. The card is issued for the duration of your employment contract, plus three months, but never for more than four years. You can read more about the EU Blue Card rules here.
The EU Blue Card is not the only option though. Most EU countries offer alternative permits with far less paperwork.
For example, if you have an employment contract with a Netherlands-based employer, applying for a Highly skilled migrant residence permit might be a good alternative. Keep in mind however, that your employer must be a recognized sponsor by the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND). Depending on your nationality, you may additionally need a long-stay entry visa (MVV). Your sponsor (the company hiring you) can apply for both on your behalf, in one application.
In case of relocation to Finland for an IT job, you can apply for a residence permit as a specialist. In Estonia, a long-term (category D) visa or a temporary residence permit for employment is a reasonable alternative to the EU Blue Card. The list of options goes on and on.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you decide whether or not you should relocate to an EU country:
Getting a UK work visa is tough, but certainly possible. Not all local employers have a sponsor license to hire talent from outside the country. Companies in the tech field that do have one, typically offer Skilled Worker visa sponsorship to successful candidates.
To qualify for a Skilled Worker visa (formerly called a Tier 2 General work visa), you must:
To qualify, your employer must also be a legally registered and recognized company in the UK. In addition to having a sponsor license, the employer must also provide evidence that they could not find somebody within the UK who is qualified to do the job.
As a Skilled Worker visa holder, you will be able to:
Important note for EU citizens: As of 1st January 2021, you need a visa to work in the UK. (The rule doesn’t apply to Irish citizens.)
You can find more detailed information about the Skilled Worker visa on the gov.uk website.
There are many different types of US work visas. The right one for you will depend on your skills, education, your citizenship (in some cases), and other factors.
The H-1B visa is one of the most popular employment-based visas in the US. It is initially issued for a period of 3 years and can be extended a total of up to 6 years. After 6 years, you can choose to apply for a Green Card to permanently reside in the US, or return to your home country.
Due to the popularity of the H-1B visa, it is important to apply as soon as possible on the 1st of April, as the application cap is usually reached within the first week of April. With this visa, you are able to start working on 1st October of the year your visa is accepted.
The H-1B Visa takes 2-6 months to process and it allows for dual intent (foreigners can temporarily be in the US with lawful status whilst simultaneously applying for further immigrant intent). To get a H-1B visa, you will need:
You can find more information about the H-1B visa in this guide.
This option allows for permanent residency in the US. It has the same benefits as US citizenship, except for voting rights. Although each individual case is different, you can check for eligibility on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
This option is available to people who are working for a US company in an office outside of the country. You can apply to transfer to the company’s US office after working for the company for one year. The processing takes 30 to 90 days and the visa allows for dual intent.
The E-3 visa is only available to Australian citizens in ‘specialty occupations’. A ‘specialty occupation’ is defined as one that requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge, combined with at least a bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent.
Here are a few things you should know about E-3 visas:
Further information about the E-3 visa, including eligibility criteria, can be found on the USCIS website.
The TN visa is available to citizens of Canada and Mexico who work in one of the 60 USMCA-approved professions. Unlike the H-1B visa, the TN visa has no annual cap and can be extended indefinitely, in three year increments.
You can learn more about the TN visa and the eligibility criteria here.
Canada offers two broad types of work permits for foreign nationals: open work permits and employer-specific work permits.
An open work permit allows you to work for virtually any employer in Canada (with some exceptions). To be eligible for an open work permit, you must meet one of these conditions. If you have an employer-specific work permit, you must work for the company named on the permit. To change an employer in Canada, you would need to obtain a new work permit.
Most work permits are tied to a specific employer. You can apply for this type of work permit if/when your employer has a positive LMIA, which is used to ensure there are no qualified Canadian citizens or permanent residents in Canada that could fill the role.
As a software engineer, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residence in Canada through the Express Entry system (an online system used by the government to manage applications for permanent residence from skilled workers). You can learn how the system works here. Most Express Entry applications are processed within six months or less.
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