Far and away, the most prevalent obstacle stopping you from working abroad is that little four-letter word: visa. Ask anyone who’s gone through the process: Applying for, securing, maintaining, and following the rules of a work visa is a nightmare, nine times out of ten.
So, can you hack the visa process?
The short answer is no. But certain companies are more conducive to sending you abroad than others. Here are a few of them to consider.
Companies That Transfer Frequently
HSBC (and Other Banks)
HSBC’s international management program is famous for being extraordinarily travel-enabled. Participants of the program get to shuffle around the globe, learning about various business demands in the world of banking, to figure out where they would like to be placed after the program.
In fact, if you want to work abroad, getting a job at any of the big investment banks and putting in your time is a solid path to choose—Barclays, Goldman Sachs, UBS, and Morgan Stanley will all offer similar opportunities. If you make your intentions of going abroad known from day one, you’re likely to be considered for an international transfer. That’s true whether you work in operations, compliance, or investment management.
It’s purely anecdotal, but I have several friends who have moved from Google London to Google New York, or vice versa. In a similar vein, I know several Americans who have been hired at international Google locations, despite not having a visa. Because Google is a powerhouse, paying to sponsor a highly skilled worker isn’t a problem; it’s clear that the company wants the best talent, and it’s willing to shell out for it. It’s also got myriad initiatives, like Google Giving, that maintain an international component.
This consulting firm has offices all over the globe. While I’ve heard that it’s not always easy to transfer globally, I also know Americans who have secured visas to work in Accenture’s international offices, as well as others who have transferred from a domestic office after putting in at least three years with the company.
If you’re a smart enough cookie to land a job at Bain, it’s likely that you will be able to go abroad. Around 25% of associate consultants have worked at more than one Bain location, and some spend six to 12 months with other companies in a temporary arrangement.
Companies With Exchange Programs
This global firm offers its professionals the chance to work abroad in order to address international client challenges and gain exposure to international business issues. According to the website, at least one-third of the company’s employees have participated in the SWAP program, whereby they take part in three to six month exchanges.
Boston Consulting Group
BCG allows employees to work for short stints at a “peer firm” in another country through the international employee exchange program. Short and sweet. No visa required.
If consulting and banking isn’t your bag, but you still want to go abroad, look into Edelman’s global fellows program. The company will send “high-potential employees” abroad for up to a year and a half to experience work in other markets.
This insurance giant offers graduates the opportunity to take part in its professional development program, a multi-year rotational leadership program. Participants are allowed to work in offices outside of the United States.
You may most remember this semiconductor design and manufacturing company from your high school graphing calculator, but it also offers global rotation programs in both engineering and softer fields. While it may not sound like the most glamorous place to work, many international opportunities come from giants like TI, with tons of cash flow that enables them to manage the difficult process of shifting employees abroad.
Companies Where Travel is Your Job
Putney Student Travel
This tiny company, located in rural Vermont, offers big opportunities for those with a permanent sense of wanderlust. Trip leaders take groups of American students all over the world and get paid to do it. While Putney operates mostly in the summer, there are longer-term opportunities for some full-time employees.
Uber Launching Team
It’s no secret that Uber is expanding like there’s no tomorrow. In fact, it even has dedicated launching teams that go into places where the company has “zero brand or physical presence”—think loads of international locations—and work to change that.
While you may not be placed in an international position within Airbnb, the company does offer all of its employees $2,000 per year to spend on traveling. (See what it’s like to work there.)
Lawyers without Borders
If you’re a lawyer, you can create an account with Lawyers Without Bordersand use your qualifications to help NGOs throughout the world with legal work.
It may not be a full-time job, but you can always WWOOF. World-Wide Workers on Organic Farms is a directory of opportunities to work on farms in exchange for room and board (and sometimes remuneration).
Ready to go? Here are some tools to help you get moving, literally:
- Migreat: If you’re preparing to go to the UK, France, or Italy, Migreat is a user-friendly platform that will help you learn what it takes to sort out your student, work and business, or family visa.
- Prospects: This website offers a solid rundown of working abroad, per country, and details key sectors and specific job boards.
- Escape the City: This site features quirky job postings all around the globe; from building a farmhouse in Northern Sweden to helping someone start up a food business from scratch, you will find it here.
- WebWorkTravel: Guides, resources, and this particularly helpful blog post that will help you work from anywhere in the world.
- Register of Licensed Sponsors or Skilled Occupations Lists:Many countries will have an official register of companies that have sponsorship capabilities. For example, in the UK where I live, this register resides on gov.uk. The Australian government’s immigration website maintains skilled occupation lists. These resources can help you know where to focus in your job search.