Working Overseas: 5 Things to Know

Some of you have asked in the past
what one would need to do 
to move overseas.

I'm by no means an expert...
but as someone who has managed to move here,
I guess I have a bit of an advantage.

I've offered the little I know
 a couple of times to you in the past
-probably best on my vlog-
but with new readers
and new tides of college graduates
wanting to move somewhere exciting
comes an influx of these questions.

If you've written to me
and I haven't replied 
over the past few weeks,
I was stock-piling over the holidays
in efforts to address you in an official post.

Please forgive my tardiness
and let these five things
help kick-start your brain 
into crafting what you need to do to move
 somewhere fabulous and exotic.


1. If you want to move to a new country,
you must immigrate there legally... with a visa!

If I were to guess, I'd say about 90% of people don't realize this fact.

Maybe it's because most of us are Americans 
who can move freely from state to state
without any problem.

If we want to pack up and move to New York City,
by gosh- we can.

So it doesn't occur to us that moving to London or Paris would be any different.

I don't think I fully realized this until I had to do it myself,
so I can't blame you.

Some how in movies and books,
they skip all the red tape, biometrics & applications.

But you'll need to officially immigrate
so that you do the big stuff like be hired for a job,
open a bank account, rent an apartment and have health care.

2. They don't make it easy for you to move here.

Completing the paperwork for a visa
is the modern man's form 
of survival of the fittest.

The forms are terribly long
and you can expect as much feedback
as talking to a brick wall.

Take all the paperwork you fill out seriously.

Filling in the wrong answer
could black ball your application 
from getting processed then...
and perhaps upon future submissions.

Oh, and it's expensive...
we have to get visas for our little ladies
that will last for approximately 11 months.

It's going to cost us £1200
and then we will have to re-apply for our third visa
the following spring.

3. Consider higher education.

For any 20-something that writes me,
my best advice for moving overseas
is to come over on a student visa.

They are the most obtainable,
the easiest to process,
& the most common way
I know that other expats have moved into a country.

Many countries will offer some sort of 
"post study visa" 
that will allow you to reside in the country
for a couple of years to follow.

It's a great way to immigrate in to the country,
make a network of friends through your program,
and get your foot in the door...

Oh, and you get a degree out of it, too.


{Megan answered some great/common questions about studying in the UK here.}

4. "But can't I just apply for a job in Europe and get a visa that way?"

When I was finishing my last semester of college, 
I remember scrolling through the French L'Oreal website
looking for potential jobs.

What my optimistic 21 year-old self didn't realize
was that I wasn't eligible to work any of these jobs...
because I didn't have a work permit.

In the UK, a job has to posted for a minimum of 90 days
before it can be submitted for a non-citizen to apply for it.

Assuming that it gets to that point,
they would then have to make a case
supporting why YOU are the only person that can fill this job
and why NO OTHER CITIZEN could also do it.

You have to be pretty specialized to work this angle.

I'm not sure how it exactly works in other EU countries,
but I know it's similar to this...
and it makes sense, I suppose.

Why give your local jobs out to other people
and let your own unemployment rates go up?

Especially since so many of these countries
are offering healthcare to their citizens.

They need them to be paying back in with income taxes 
to keep everything supported...
which is why they aren't making it easy for us adorable Americans
to fill out an application that could take away their jobs.

See what I mean? 

It kind of has to be this way.

One caveat to this is being transferred in from a large company
that has offices in both countries.

Large accounting firms, law firms & other businesses
can transfer existing employees to offices in other countries.

These are typically companies that are large enough
to support the moving costs & visas that come with immigrating.

Most of these companies offer 2-3 year moves.

It's an awesome deal 
and I'm always jealous of our friends that move this way...
they get taken care very well.

5. It's not impossible.

All of this gloom and doom talk is discouraging, I know,
but hey, look-
I'm an American and I live in London!

Obviously, there are plenty of us here, 
so it's not like the door is completely closed
to getting to move to a different country.

It's just important to know what you are up against
before you start making grand plans to move overseas...
because unless you plan accordingly,
you're only allowed to stay for 90 days on a tourist visa.

And while any 90 day vacation would be pretty sweet,
you're looking for a life overseas,
so it's important you start down the right path.


Every person's immigration story is different,
so there isn't a set formula for how to get over here.

The best I can offer is murky, muddled advice that I've gathered
over our time in England 
from our experiences
and the experiences of our friends.

While I may not be able to offer much more advice than that,
I can offer you my encouragement:
it's completely worth the struggle!

*This is written for Americans. All of you Commonwealth countries are much luckier 
when moving about amongst yourself... and for that, we remain extremely jealous.

*images borrowed from here.


  1. So true, when my husband (UK) and I(Texan) decided to run off to NZ.. I was in total shock it was the only place I could work while traveling! What not everyone wants Americans?!? ha! I am so happy I can give my kids a UK passport someday, such an advantage when waiting to live abroad! Sad to he back in TX, saw ya'll got snow right after we left! :( Hope your feeling well!

    1. haha, yes, we have a hard time imagining that people don't actually want us there long term... a common misconception we as americans tend to make. :)

  2. Good grief, I can second all of this! My husband and I will be heading over to the UK this coming fall for his job and the paperwork is dreadful. But I grew up all over the world and you're right - it's so worth it!

  3. Great post Lauren - we were one of those lucky couples that came with our company but even so, the paperwork can be a nightmare and I think the biggest mistake people make is trying to sidestep or make it quicker. Follow the rules and be patient is the best advice I can give. Also, research the country you are hoping to move to on your own (you can't always trust hearsay) as some countries have different types of visas - for example, Norway offers (or used to offer) a job seeker's visa meaning someone could come and actively search for a position legally in the country. I just read an article today about Malaysia seeking out expats and offering 10 year visas to qualified professionals - it all depends on the economy and the job market.

    1. That's great advice! Each country has different rules and some emerging countries are trying to encourage people to move there. Thanks for weighing in with your expat knowledge!

  4. Great, great tips! I have had a few friends that have started on student visas and made the transition.

  5. I'm so sad my husband decided not to apply for a position in England. I know it's an uphill battle living there, but still... I dream.

    PS... these photos are stunning!

  6. Very good tips Lauren! It makes the most sense to come over via the school route, OR later in one's career (when they are highly specialized or with a large international company), you can transfer abroad. It's likely impossible to go abroad young AND employed!

  7. haha I can't get over how this is everything that I've ever said (or wanted to say) about moving overseas but 100000000 times nicer. you are a lady, clearly :)

  8. You've totally crushed my dreams!!
    I kid.
    Actually, I have a lot of respect for how they handle the job situation. It really does make sense that you offer your citizens first dibs...just stinks for those of us waiting on a great opportunity.
    P.S.-When are you going to take pictures of the nursery...or your entire little adobe in Notting Hill?? Don't you know we are super nosy and need to know and see all these things?

  9. well.freaking.said. Now i can finally just send all of my "how do i move to the UK" e mails over here to you ;) So jealous of those big company people who get brought over through work...cough Liz cough....

  10. A college friend of mine landed her first job after graduation in the London office of her accounting firm. I about died of envy when I heard. Still working on my plan to land a job with an international law firm and do the same.

  11. Great post!! I wish more people would realize that their dream of moving to Paris in a skip/hop/jump across the pond (etc) looks more like 12 months of paperwork hell! (6 months before you go, 6 months after you arrive) hehe ;)

    Just one quick FYI- they have now changed the UK post-study visa time, as well as the hours a student can work while in the UK on their student visa. I'm not sure of the specifics but I know it is drastically different.
    My friend is currently getting a MA in the UK and her visa has changed so that she cannot work or have an internship, and she does not have that extended period of time post-graduating to stay in the country and look for employment (she is an American citizen).
    This is an extremely recent occurrence- perhaps within the last 3-4 months (because she just finished another MA this past May under the old rules). She was originally thinking she would stay after her degree and look for work, just as all our older friends have done, and now her plan is to move back here. womp womp! :P

  12. These are great recommendations....Thanks for the insight!

  13. Great advice! Three years ago, my boyfriend - now husband and I moved to Chile to work. The visas, bank accounts, and loads of paperwork were pains in the butt to say the least, but the experience was TOTALLY worth it! Obtaining a work visa is way harder than a student visa there, so I 100% agree on the student part. Many times the visa and fees are just a reciprocal of what the U.S. requires of foreigners. It can be quite frustrating at having to postpone your move and first day of work based on your visa. We believe that everyone should experience life abroad at some point in their lives -- an experience that is separate from traveling. You gain so much invaluable knowledge, learn new languages, and have a new appreciation for everyday things in the U.S. I love reading your blog as it brings me back to my experience but also makes me quite jealous that you get to enjoy life as an expat. :) I miss the expat life almost every day but am thankful to be home at the same time. We did have issues with the retirement plan we were required to open, so we'll be making a trip back at the age of 65 (fingers crossed) to retrieve our retirement money. We still laugh about that all the time.

  14. Who knows.. maybe one of these days I'll do it. Until then, I'll just let my parents keep on begging me to move back to Texas. ;)

  15. awesome tips! i get this question all the time too. a great way of living abroad is teaching english. a lot of schools (here in italy at least) will help you with the visa and sometimes even find you lodging!

  16. Great post, and from a fellow expat, a couple of notes:
    1. Agree totally - and people need to be aware that if they overstay the 90-day tourist visa for any reason, it really can hurt your chances of being able to get a legitimate visa.

    3. Lindsey aux Lunettes above is correct - the UK study visa no longer comes with an additional several months in the country (I think it is just 2 months now), and also you can no longer convert it to a regular post-study work visa. This is how I came over, as a student and then converted to a 1-year post-study period during which I was able to find a job that would sponsor me for a work visa.

    4. Another reason it's so difficult is that there are thousands of flaky American girls who "want" to move to London. If you are truly serious about moving, then you will need to make a convincing case to a US or a UK employer to get them to sponsor you for a visa (it isn't cheap and it's a big hassle for the company). You absolutely will not be considered if they think there is any chance that you will move back to the U.S. in three months because you miss your boyfriend/family/dog. Your best shot is to work for a big international firm that offers secondments or transfers.

    5. And yes, it is not impossible! A good thing Americans have going for us is that they have a reputation as hard workers with relevant experience (as well as offering a more international perspective), so some firms are more eager for them.

    I would offer a final 2 pieces of advice: one, get all of your documents in order before you plan to move. That means getting a new passport if it's due to expire soon, getting copies of your diplomas/transcripts, birth certificate (if you're like me and have no idea where it is), bank statements - basically anything you might need. That way, if you luck out and have to be on a plane the next day, you have everything ready to go and you don't need to hang back while you wait for an updated passport.
    Two, definitely look ways to get an EU passport (the ultimate golden ticket) - there are so many people who would qualify and have no idea. If you have a grandparent born in Ireland or Italy or a parent born in one of the EU countries, for example, you might be eligible for a passport. Getting the documentation can be a pain but it is so worth it.

  17. I only know it from the other side of trying to maintain a relationship with an American and going in and out of the country every 4 months and being terrified of being turned down for my next visa, it was so stressful. He asked me to marry him but really it was more of a way to avoid all the hassle than true love so we parted ways rather than rush into something.

  18. Seriously. Do you not love the people who seemed to somehow miss the whole "you have to be legal and have a visa" can't just come and go from the country once you have that visa? (we have to buy mulitple entry passes here in Israel - do you??)

  19. Really a great post that touches on the generalities. If someone wants to do a year, I can strongly recommend au pairing and I have a whole page about it on my blog. Since I au paired and found a job, obtaining the working visa is certainly a ton of paperwork and money, but worth it. I think once you are here, you have time to explore more opportunities and my year on an easy-to-obtain au pair visa was really helpful. The studying option is obviously great, too, particularly if you have the funds. Anyways, hope the au pair suggestion also helps somebody.

  20. Hi there, new follower here and love your blog thus far!

    Have to say that this is some really great advice. I moved abroad 4 years ago, and was told to just come in on a tourist visa (to the Czech Republic), and then deal with getting work permission after I had been hired for a teaching position. This is a fairly standard procedure in the CR, but by no means failproof. Do your homework and if there's a way to avoid that, by all means. I got lucky but many of my friends didn't!

  21. Oh wow, this is great advice! It sounds so hard to move overseas!! I remember reading Meg's posts about it before and thinking that it wasn't easy as I would have assumed it to be. Who knew?!

  22. This is a very informative post - I clearly did not about any of this! I definitely want to live abroad at some point for a short amount of time. Studying abroad will probably be enough for me, but this is helpful in case I fall in love with the place! :)

  23. Wonderful post. We were lucky enough to move with my husbands company which was a huge help with the visa+moving costs. I gobbled up any shred of information with regards to moving to the UK so I am sure so many will benefit from your information. I have loved following your blog and hope to visit a lot of the wonderful places you have been.

  24. I can vouch for all of this as an American who has lived in the UK for 8 years. (incidentally, working for a US study abroad program too!) I came as a grad student, returned to the US for a while, came back and forth to the UK for a while, and then got a working visa, met a man, got a marriage visa, and then now have permanent residency. All in all, the process took many years and approximately 3,000 pounds, but was worth every minute. Great advice.

  25. Your post made us smile, Lauren, since we packed up and moved to Paris after college in search of adventure and employment. Needless to say, the red tape was massive even when we had a godd family friend working at the Elysee. That being said, after baking cookies at the American General Store (such a great use of a college degree!), we did land "real" jobs and a work permit and had the time of our lives. Your advice is invaluable!
    C + C

  26. such a good post! i'm moving to London this summer for two months for an internship with a law firm. luckily, it is with my school and therefore considered a study visa. i'm so fortunate for the opportunity because, from the sound of it, otherwise it would be very hard!! xo

  27. yeah i definitely made this mistake moving to barcelona. i thought i would be easy to get a teaching job that would get me a visa... wrrrooonngg

    i wholeheartedly agree with going the masters route. it's the easiest way to get over here and actually helping your future in the process while still getting the living abroad experience.

  28. Seems like great advice! I would love to teach abroad someday, if only for a semester or a year, just to live the European life. Enjoy it!

  29. Nice post, as it helps people understand some of the challenges. The post study visa is no longer applicable to UK international students, as a few have mentioned. This is a shame since I have yet to meet an American who has received a $ or £ of scholarship money, even ones with impressive accomplishments in their field. I imagine a few have, but I think people should have a realistic understanding that with funding for American graduate students being extremely limited to seemingly non-existent, and now with the post study visa being canceled, you're looking at around 50k in debt (Study in London) and no realistic prospects of work. I wouldn't come to England again under the same circumstances. It feels like "Gives us your money and get out." If the post study visa still existed I would say it is worth the consideration. We've been living abroad five years now, in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia before Europe and my advice would be to move to a developing country, especially if you are young, with limited experience and looking for a drastically different and unique experience from the US. I laughed when you said the bit about "gloom and doom" because it really is, but I do think it's the realistic conversation people should be having when considering study in the UK.

    Good look with the babies, looking forward to their internet debut!

  30. What a great post Lauren! Clearly you've got lots of insight and I have no doubt this will help a lot of keen and adventurous bloggers out there who want to make moves abroad :) I'm a Canadian doing my masters in California, and even getting a job in the US has proven extremely challenging, but I don't plan on giving up anytime soon!

  31. Lauren, I just love your blog and when I saw this post I had to read it! I'm a 23 year old South African, just finishing my studies this year and I'm thinking of moving to London next year! I have an Irish passport so I don't have to worry about visas but I have another concern....

    I'm scared of being lonely in the big city! I don't know anyone in London and I don't know how to go about making friends! Did you find it easy to make friends and how did you go about it?

    I'm also nervous about finding a flat and a job! Do you have any advice in these areas? Would love to hear from a fellow expat!

  32. Lauren, I just love your blog and when I saw this post I had to read it! I'm a 23 year old South African, just finishing my studies this year and I'm thinking of moving to London next year! I have an Irish passport so I don't have to worry about visas but I have another concern....

    I'm scared of being lonely in the big city! I don't know anyone in London and I don't know how to go about making friends! Did you find it easy to make friends and how did you go about it?

    I'm also nervous about finding a flat and a job! Do you have any advice in these areas? Would love to hear from a fellow expat!


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