Share the adventure!

Guide to living and working overseas. Twenty ex-pats from around the world share their story of moving abroad and how you can apply for a work visa there.

Living overseas is easily one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had. After moving abroad to the United States on a J1 visa in 2011, my entire outlook and aspirations were transformed. Over the next eight years, I then applied for working visas for Canada, Germany, and Ireland as well as traveling long-term on tourist visas across five continents.

Staying in a foreign country for an extended period of time lets you delve deeper into their culture and customs in a way that would be difficult on a short trip. Plus, it also gives you the opportunity to explore its countryside and continent – whether on weekend trips or longer vacations from your new home base. It’s so enriching that I recommend anyone who has the possibility to live abroad, to snap up the chance.

However, not everyone has the financial means to support themselves abroad for long stretches of time. That’s why getting a work visa can be the key to unlocking a fresh and exciting life. These twenty ex-pats from all over the world are sharing their story of applying for a visa and how you can too.

Click on the country that you’re most interested in, to find out how you could move there:

Disclaimer: These individual stories all took place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the list of visas is not exhaustive as there usually multiple visas available for each country. You can use this article as a starting place and then go to the official immigration website for up-to-date information on all visa processes (links have been included for each country).

Want to earn more? See how to find work online now (so you can fund your travels later).


Living and working in Australia

Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417)

Cassie Bailey, Cassie The Hag

I am from the United Kingdom and I lived for one year in Australia on a 417 Working Holiday Visa. For UK citizens between the ages of 18-30, applying for the Australian Working Holiday visa could not be easier. In fact, confirmation of my approval came in under a minute although you should leave at least four weeks in case they decide to manually review your visa. Once accepted, you need to save around $5000 AUD to prove you can support yourself and secure your first weeks of accommodation. You can apply at the Australian Home Affairs website.

I worked full-time while living in Australia and got my first job in Melbourne within 24 hours of arriving in the city! Rather than looking for traditional backpacker jobs, I perfected my CV and spent multiple applications to temp agencies. I had a five-month job in Melbourne working as a talent coordinator for a child modeling agency which mostly involved telling parents why I couldn’t accept applications of their baby with a Snapchat filter on. Later, I moved to Sydney and worked in various admin and reception roles ranging from one day to four weeks at a time.

Like many UK citizens who dream of living abroad, Australia is a fantastically convenient option. It was a great year exploring amazing beaches on coastal walks, seeing wild kangaroos and koalas, and the endless landscapes of this beautiful country.

Living and working in Australia - Cassie The Hag

Watson’s Bay, Australia. Image by Cassie Bailey.

Living and working in Belgium

Visa D for Indians

Bhushavali, My Travelogue by Bhushavali

We are an Indian couple and we moved to Belgium when my husband’s workplace (IT industry) deputed him here. My husband is on Visa D Work (Unique Permit) and I am on Visa D (Family Reunion). Being a company transfer, the application process is taken care of by the company.

There were two major challenges:

  1. I was 7 months pregnant
  2. We didn’t know the local languages of French or Dutch.

The first thing I did was a search for local Facebook groups even before we moved here. I enquired about the best hospital to deliver the baby in Belgium and websites to find houses to rent. We found a hospital and managed to find an apartment (via immoweb) close to it. It’s a crazy story, but we landed here, took our entire luggage to visited the apartment, moved in instantly, and lived there for a year!!!

While some people in Brussels can manage English, the rest of the country does not. Even most nurses and midwives in Brussels do not speak English. That said, the doctors here and the facilities in the hospital were excellent.

Dependents are entitled to work here. They are also encouraged here to attend community integration and language courses by the government (free of charge). Without knowing at least one of the local languages (one or the other is more preferred for every industry) it is almost impossible to find a job here.

If you live in India, you can apply for a visa for Belgium through the Embassy and Consulates of Belgium in India website.

Bhushavali Belgian Visa for Indians

Manneken Pis status in Belgium. Image by Bhushavali.

Living and working in Canada

International Experience Canada (IEC)

Ellie Cleary, Soul Travel Blog

When my partner’s long-awaited Permanent Residency (PR) for Canada came through, the move started to look more real and I searched for options on how I could go along. Because he’d started his PR application before we’d met, I wasn’t included and it would be several months before he would have been able to sponsor me.

Fortunately, for British citizens and many other nationalities, there are easier ways to go to Canada on a temporary basis – if age is on your side. International Experience Canada (IEC) is the “Working Holiday Visa” program, which allows nationals of many commonwealth countries to live and work in Canada for 1-2 years if you’re aged between 18 and 30 (or 35 years). The age and length of stay varies from country to country.

I’d just turned 34, which counted me out from applying on my British passport because the maximum age is 30. Fortunately, my good old Irish passport allowed me to apply up until the age of 35 – so happy days! The application process was fairly straightforward. You apply for the International Experience Canada (IEC) online and the most time-consuming part of it is chasing down police certificates to demonstrate good conduct (or that you don’t have any unspent convictions) from countries you have lived in.

Once your application is complete, you enter the ‘pool’. Applications can sit in the pool for hours, weeks or months, and some applications never get pulled out of the pool – it depends on luck of the draw and how many people apply from each country per year. There’s a quota system, with some countries generating far more applications to go to Canada than others. I believe my Irish passport helped me again in this case (with fewer applicants than the UK) and within a week my application had been approved!

On arrival in Canada, I was given a two-year work permit, allowing me to work as well as travel. There are a number of things to note with the visa, including that you are expected to have full travel insurance which you will need to claim full health expenses, as health care is not usually provided in Canada for those on temporary visas. If you have your eyes on moving to Canada longer term, it can be a great way to test the waters, and get an application submitted to become a permanent resident or find an employer to sponsor you, too.

Unless you’re a snow bunny, we highly recommend planning to arrive in Canada in spring or summer, to give yourself time to acclimatize before the big chill sets in.

Living and working in Canada IEC Soul Travel Blog

Victoria, Canada. Image by Ellie Cleary.

Living and working in China

Z visa for UK citizens

Hannah Golton, Hannah’s Happy Adventures

China is one of the most amazing countries I’ve visited in the world. The country has so much to offer from mountains to giant cities to beautiful lakes. The transport system is great and if you have a decent translator getting around is not too difficult. I also had the good fortune to live and work there for a year as an English teacher.

Thinking of teaching abroad? Find out how to teach abroad (even if you don’t have experience or certifications).

However, working in China can be a lot trickier than it seems. The teaching industry is lucrative and changes often, although the demand remains. Teachers are highly sought after and the quality of teachers moving there is often low. There are many reasons to teach English in China – especially the money, the status, and the places you can visit. Yet, there are also many things that are made difficult while living there. These mainly relate to the heavy restrictions by the Chinese government. Nevertheless, teaching and living in China is an experience I will never forget.

To work in China, you must have a Z visa (work visa). The process to get a Z visa is difficult but here is the short summary for UK citizens:

  1. You will need a TEFL certificate, degree certificate, and a clean background check first
  2. Take these three documents to a lawyer to notarize them, then to the Chinese embassy to be legalized and finally to your own foreign office to be legalized again.
  3. After this, you can send all three documents plus a medical check to your school in China.
  4. They will send these documents off to get your work permit. You then take a copy of the work permit to apply for your visa in your own country.
  5. Once you get this in your passport you still need to register with the police on arrival. And then send your passport off to get your full visa once in China.

As you can see the process is very complex and took me around two months to complete. Although there are agencies that will do this for you – they are often more than twice the original cost. If you would like to work in China be prepared to undertake this process. Working in China is illegal on a tourist visa – and it’s not worth the risk of deportation if you get caught.

Living and working in China Z visa for UK citizens

Chinese lanterns. Image by Hannah Golton.

Z visa for South African citizens

De Wet Moolman, Museum of Wonder

You are required to obtain a Z visa in order to legally do any kind of work in China as a foreigner. Obtaining this Z visa involves jumping through various, and ever-changing, hoops. But it has to be done and living and working in China is an incredible experience.

China is the most lucrative country for ex-pat teachers at the moment and the demand keeps growing. To teach there you’ll need to find a job. Various international recruitment agencies can connect you with schools in China. Once you have a job offer, your future employer will inform you of the most recent requirements and documents needed.

First, you will need to apply for a criminal background check from your home country, as well as countries where you had lived in the past 5 years. You will also need a copy of your university degree and teaching credentials. You will also need to do a medical exam. Make copies of these documents and get them notarized by a lawyer and you’re through the first hoop.

Next, you need to get these notarized copies attested at the Chinese embassy. The embassy will put an extra stamp on each document. Well done – you made it through the second hoop. You need to scan and email all these documents to your employer in China. Your employer will upload them to the local Foreign Expert Bureau’s database. This process takes about 4 weeks. The third hoop is done!

Your school will email you a Letter of Invitation and visa application form once the previous step is done. Complete the form and head to the nearest Chinese Visa Center with your application, passport, four passport photos, and letter of invitation. Hopefully, they’ll accept it the first time, but don’t be surprised if they present you with yet another hoop to jump through. Once you have your visa in your passport, you can go ahead and book your flight to China.

The Chinese embassy in South Africa does not respond to emails or ever answer their phones. The best way to make the application process as smooth as possible is to deal directly through your school and then use a document service in South Africa to get things done. The whole process takes about two months.

This might seem like a Kafkaesque task, but believe me when I tell you that living in China is so worth it. I enjoy teaching here and have grown so much as a teacher. Even better, I’m saving a lot without even trying. With long, paid holidays I get to travel to incredible parts of China, such as the Tiger Leaping Gorge, Xian, and weekend trips to Hong Kong.

South African living and working in China

Guangdong Province, China. Image by De Wet Moolman.

Living and working in Colombia

Marriage visa

Mitch Glass, Project Untethered

I am a US citizen who has been living in Colombia for the past three years on a marriage visa. Originally, I entered Colombia as a tourist while working online as a digital nomad. US citizens can stay in Colombia for 90 days without a visa, then do a border run for another 90 days (with a maximum of 180 days per calendar year).

While staying as a tourist, I started dating a girl and wanted to stay longer. We weren’t ready to get married, so at first, I just overstayed my second 90-day entrance “illegally” until the calendar year ended, paid a fine, did a border run, and returned.

While this isn’t the correct way to do things, paying the fine was actually cheaper than paying for the marriage visa. That said, border runs were a pain in the butt. And once I started investing in real estate in Colombia, it was better for me to stay legal (plus, I needed a visa to open a bank account).

We decided to sign our marriage papers a few months before our actual wedding ceremony so I could get my visa and avoid another border run. The process was pretty straightforward, and all the information can be found on Colombia’s immigration website.

Along with copies of your passport, you’ll need your marriage certificate, birth certificate, and proof of singlehood – all translated to Spanish with official seals. Gathering all these documents was the most time-consuming part. Once we had all our documents in order, we made an appointment at the immigration office in Bogota, paid the fee, and received my visa the same day.

Living and working in Colombia on a marriage visa - Mitch Glass

Colombian wedding. Image by Mitch Glass.

Migrant visa

Deb Pati, The Visa Project

During my time backpacking in Latin America, I visited Colombia as a tourist and fell in love with it. It only took a few weeks to realize I wanted to stay in Colombia longer than the few months my tourist visa would allow. So I got myself an ESL teaching job in an institute that would sponsor my work visa. You can’t apply for a work visa on your own because need an employer to apply it on your behalf.

The entire application process for getting a Colombia working visa was online. For this, I created a profile on the website of Colombia’s foreign ministry that processes all visa applications. Then I had to submit the documents like copies of my passport bio page, existing visa, graduation certificate, resume, TEFL certificate, employment contract, and many other documents from my employer. All these submissions were online as well.

After a week of the submission, I got called to the visa office in Bogota for an interview. The interview was short and easy. Since I spoke Spanish, the interview was in Spanish butt in case you don’t, they can take it in English as well. The visa was granted after the interview. It was valid for one year with multiple entries.

Deb Pati Indian citizen in Colombia

Indian citizen in Colombia. Image by Deb Pati.

Living and working in Denmark

Fast-Track scheme

Mike, Robe Trotting

In 2017, my partner and I moved from Philadelphia, USA to Copenhagen, Denmark. Most people prepare for months, if not years, for a move abroad but ours happened in less than two months. I am an engineer and my employer had recently acquired a Danish company. I traveled to Copenhagen for a two-week trip to assist on a project and by the end, I was asked if I wanted to move to Denmark – as soon as possible! Derek and I discussed the opportunity and we decided to take the leap and move abroad.

We are both American citizens, so we needed Danish visas. I qualified under the Fast-Track scheme, which is available to companies and applicants the meet certain criteria. This scheme allowed me to work immediately, while my application was pending, and allowed my partner to join under Family Reunification. After a few months, our visas were approved and we received CPR Numbers – a civil registration number. You cannot function in Denmark without a CPR, as it is needed to work, open a bank account, or even join a gym.

The application fee for my visa is 2,990 DKK (approximately $450 USD) and my partner’s application fee was 1,470 DKK (approximately $220 USD). The visas are valid for the length of the employment contract or up to four years and can be renewed. Fortunately, my employer gave us help through the ex-pat process but we still submitted an application and provided biometrics, including fingerprints.

Derek and Mike living and working in Europe

Derek and Mike living in Europe. Image by Robe Trotting.

Living and working in Ireland

Working holiday authorization

Chantell Collins, Budget Travel Babes

As an Australian, we have access to work in over 40 different countries under the Working Holiday Maker program. Each visa has a different name and requirements depending on the host country, with some only allowing Australians aged 18-30 to apply. Fortunately, as I’m now 34, Ireland recently extended the cut-off age of their Work Holiday Authorization to 35 years old for Australian applicants.

Ireland’s Working Holiday Authorization is also available to passport holders of Argentina, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Taiwan, and the United States of America. For the process specific to your nationality, check the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) if you are from Taiwan or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for any other country.

Information for Australians applying to the Working Holiday Authorisation is on the website of the Embassy of Ireland, Australia. The most important factor to note is that applications can only be made through the Embassy of Ireland in Canberra or the Embassy of Ireland in London (if you’re an Australian living in the UK). Even though my application and documents were mailed to Canberra and I did not need to visit in-person, I decided to fly back to Australia while preparing and applying for the visa. Technically, you may be able to do this abroad but it could be more difficult to gather the paperwork you need and run the risk of losing your passport in the mail.

The Embassy of Ireland in Canberra says that their usual processing time is 15 days after receiving all the documents. After applying on 24 December 2019, I followed up a week later and I spoke to the woman handling my application. She asked me to take a photo of the graduation certificate for my Master of Business Administration and send it via email (even though I’d included copies of the transcripts in the application). The next day, my passport was returned with a laminated document and letter to stay I’d been approved.

The laminated document and letter need to be presented at immigration when you fly into Ireland. They will stamp your passport only for 30 days as you still need to go to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) to pay €300 to register. This is on top of your original application fee of $95 AUD.

The actual hardest part of moving to Ireland is finding rental accommodation (as there is a housing crisis in my cities), getting a job, and opening a bank account – which is all a confusing, bureaucratic mess. Eventually, my boyfriend found a great job and a lovely apartment for us in Galway. We loved our time in Ireland and felt incredibly welcomed by the friendly locals and fellow international ex-pats.

Living and working in Japan

Sponsored work visa

Lena Yamaguchi, The Social Travel Experiment

After studying International Business Management with a focus on Japan in Germany I tried finding a job directly in Japan. What I soon found out was that getting a job without a work visa was almost impossible. And to get a work visa I needed to have a job.

So, I back-tracked a little and decided to find a job with a strong Japan focus in Germany in the hopes of getting to Japan eventually. I was lucky when I found a subsidiary of a Japanese IT consulting company who looked to hire university graduates who spoke Japanese.

The job couldn’t have been a better fit. After starting my job in March they would directly send me to their headquarters in Japan where I would undergo the training program together with the other new employees. After half a year of rigorous training, I would then remain in Japan for another half year on a local project to learn about the Japanese work culture and to get practical experience before returning to Germany where I would support the Japanese clients in Germany.

The company sponsored my work visa, which is technically called a ‘Specialist in Humanities’ visa designated for professionals working in legal, economic, social field or in human science. Apparently, IT consulting falls under this. I had to send a copy of my passport to the company and they took care of everything for me. All I had to do was go to the Japanese embassy in Germany, hand over my passport, and get my work visa.

If you are interested in working and living abroad getting transferred within the company you work for and having them sponsor a work visa might be an option for you. If this isn’t possible with the company you currently work at, it might be time to look for a company that is willing to do it.

Living and working in Japan - Lena with cherry blossoms

Japanese cherry blossoms. Image by Lena Yamaguchi.

Living and working in Malaysia

10-year MM2H visa

Kirsten Raccuia, Sand In My Curls

I’m an American living in Penang, Malaysia on an MM2H visa, which stands for Malaysia My 2nd Home and is a ten-year visa. In a way, it is a retirement visa because you are not allowed to work here. And they make the requirements easier to meet if you are over 50 years old. However, if you have a remote business or work online, that is perfectly acceptable. You just can’t take jobs away from Malaysians.

We chose to move to Penang for a lot of reasons: the people, the food, the cost of living, the ease of communication, I could go on. There are so many Pros (and Cons) of Being an Expatriate in Malaysia that I wrote a blog about it. The basic requirements are money, health, and loads of paperwork.

The government of Malaysia wants to make sure you can afford to stay here and not be a “burden” on the government. So, you have to prove that you have the financial strength of over RM350,000 in your home country. You’ll also need to have a monthly income of RM10,000, which can be from a salary, pension, rental income, etc.

If you are over 50 years, you must be able to deposit RM150,000 into a Malaysian bank for the entirety of the ten years. Under 50 years old, you must deposit RM300,000. The requirements do change, so it’s best to check out the Alter Domus/Penang My Home website if you are curious about the details.

Living abroad and working in Malaysia - Kirsten in Penang

Penang, Malaysia. Image by Kirsten Raccuia.

Living and working in Mexico

Work visa

Isabella Biava, Boundless Roads

I have lived as an expatriate in many different countries for the past 17 years, 10 of which were in Mexico.
At the time I arrived in Mexico getting a working visa was very easy and the only requirement for the applicant was to have a sponsor. This is where a company declares its intention to hire you and the reasons why they couldn’t hire a Mexican citizen for the role.

My case was easy because I was contracted by a company that needed experienced executives in the tourist business with knowledge of the Caribbean Islands. This was basically my profile. Plus, the fact that I had a university degree and I spoke Italian, English, and Spanish helped with the paperwork.

However, I did not go through the bureaucracy by myself – that would have been a nightmare. The company contracted a lawyer who would assist all the expatriates working there with the visa process. So, I just had to answer some questions and sign some documents. After that, I would renovate my FM3 (it’s now called FMM, Forma Migratoria Múltiple) every year and, visiting the immigration office for signatures.

After five years I was entitled to apply for the permanent residency. If you are an independent worker or your company doesn’t take care of your visa for you, I would suggest you should hire an immigration lawyer. It doesn’t cost much and it will spare you a lot of time and headaches.

Living and working in Mexico Calakmul

Calakmul, Mexico. Image by Isabella Biava.

Living and working in The Netherlands

Au pair visa

Bruna Venturinelli, I Heart Brazil

About five years ago, I applied for an au pair visa for the Netherlands. I had just finished college and wanted to travel around Europe without breaking the bank. Mind you, I’m Brazilian and I know that traveling around Brazil isn’t cheap. Hotels in Rio, as well as tours in offbeat regions, can be pricey. Still, earning in euros while living in Europe would make my dream more attainable than living in South America.

The main reason I chose The Netherlands is that most Dutch people speak fluent English, and at the time, I didn’t speak a single work in Dutch. Other countries, like France and Germany, require basic knowledge in the local language.

Anyway, after finding my host family on a matching website, we started the visa application with an au pair agency. Only applications with au pair agencies are accepted in the country. So it’s essential to have one. The paperwork was a shortlist of documents ensuring I was physically able to do my job, I hadn’t previously worked with that family, and I had character and child care references.

Within 90 days after the agency had all of my documents submitted to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, we received a positive decision, and I went to the local embassy to collect an MVV sticker on my passport. The MVV sticker basically states the person has a provisional residence permit (90 days) in the country. Upon arrival in the Netherlands, I had to collect my provisional ID at the City Hall, which is valid for one year.

All in all, the process was painless and very efficient. The Dutch are pretty straightforward and were always willing to help me or answer any questions I had.

Bruna iHeart Brazil Au Pair The Netherlands

Au Pair in The Netherlands. Image by Bruna Venturinelli.

Living and working in New Zealand

Working Holiday Visa

Adriana and Matej, Czech the World

New Zealand is a beautiful country with pristine nature, breathtaking mountains, and very unique fauna and flora. It’s also one of the countries which offer a Working Holiday Visa (WHV). There are different visa quotas and terms depending on the country of your origin. You will find all the information on the New Zealand immigration website.

For us Czechs, it was quite a challenge to get the visa, because the quota for the Czech Republic opens only once a year and there are only 1200 visas available. About 10,000 people apply every year, so all the visas are gone in about 30 minutes. You must be very quick. There are also other countries with a limited number of visas. To increase your chances, check this step-by-step guide to NZ Working Holiday Visa with little application “hack”.

Once you get your visa, you have one year to enter New Zealand. Most people on Working Holiday usually buy a van and travels around New Zealand while doing “backpacker” jobs like picking, pruning, thinning, and other orchard or agricultural jobs. It’s really easy to get a job like this! One day you apply, and you can usually start working in 1-2 days. For those kinds of work, count with minimum wage, which is not bad ($18.90 NZD per hour). Finding qualified positions take much longer (usually 1 -3 months). My boyfriend got his programming job after 1.5 months of searching.

Lake Tekapo - New Zealand-Adriana and Matej - Czech the World

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. Image by Czech the World.

Living and working in Singapore

Employment pass

Mar Pages, Once in a Lifetime Journey

I live in Singapore and have for the last 9 years. I moved here with my previous job because I was interested in living in Asia and this is a very easy city to live in with lots of things to do and a very vibrant ex-pat and local community.

When I first moved here, my company processed the employment visa for me as I was moving with the same company from Dubai to open the office here. Later on, I switched companies to work for Google and they also processed my new visa. Currently, I work for myself and have a visa from my company.

In all cases, I have always had an Employment Pass which is a work visa granted for qualified white-collar jobs, with university degrees and higher salaries. The process and the duration of each visa depend on the company, the salary, the individual, the job, and the time, as Singapore regularly reviews the quotas and requirements. In general, there are quotas on the number of EPs that each company can apply for and these quotas are per sector. Once the quota has been filled, employers can no longer hire foreigners.

The application process for the Employment Pass is pretty straightforward and efficient. There is an online portal that employers can use to apply for the visa and all they need to do is fill in the experience and qualifications of the employee and submit them. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) may request to see some of the supporting documentation but it is not required to send it in from the start.

From that point on, the MOM usually takes 2-4 weeks to reply back. if the process is satisfactory, they will issue an in-principle approval letter that the candidate can use to enter Singapore on a visit visa. An appointment is then made with MOM to finalize the process in person, take thumbprints, photos and issue the Employment Pass (EP) card on the spot.

If the process is unsuccessful, the candidate may be required to provide supporting documentation or the employer might have to review the salary. There are minimum and constantly changing salaries for each EP to limit the number of foreigners working in Singapore. In my case, I set up a company in 2014 that handles all the work that we do, from digital marketing to consulting to social media or the blog and my own company employs me.

Mar Pages LIving and Working In Singapore

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. Image by Mar Pages.

Living and working in Spain

EU Citizen and Número de Identidad de Extranjero (NIE)

Vicki Franz, Vicki Viaja

One should think that it would be easy to move within the EU and start a new job but, unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Moving from Germany to Spain taught me how wrong I was with this assumption. Of course, it also depends on which city in Spain you are going to. In Barcelona, there are so many foreigners who want to live and work there that the process can take a long time.

In 2016, after a couple of months of long-distance relationships, I moved to my Spanish boyfriend’s house in Barcelona. With my German passport, I imagined that it would be effortless to start a life there. The first registration (Empadronamiento) also seemed promising quickly. However, if you want to work as a European in Spain, you need a Número de Identidad de Extranjero (NIE), which is an identification number for foreigners. Then, a Tarjeta de Residencia, a residence card. Getting them can be a real struggle.

Within just a couple of days, I’d already found a job working for an important French Company. But little did I know what a fuss the next months would be trying to collect all the documents I needed for living and working, such as a medical insurance card and my resident ID. Obviously, I was just so relieved when, after several months, I finally got all my papers together.

After that, I got help from a professional accountant when I decided to work as a freelancer. The process is way more comfortable, though, as it’s the same for Spanish citizens and foreign residents. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life in Spain, but the bureaucracy here regarding foreigners is a complete nightmare.

Living and working in Barcelona Spain

La Sagrada Familia, Spain. Image by Vicki Franz

Living and working in the United Kingdom

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) visa

Akid Zolkifli, Asian Boy Astray

In Malaysia, there is a well-regarded perception of the British. They’re practically royalty thanks to the previous colonial takeover. This is why my mum wanted me to experience that British sophistication by sending me to England to study and rub shoulders with Royalty (spoiler alert – I actually did meet them).

After studying, I decided to stay and work in London and applied for an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) visa. There are a number of criteria, however, if you are eligible, then you can apply directly online where they will also ask you for your biometric information. The applications cost £2389 and can take up to 6 months to process. If you don’t want to wait, there is also a premium option that gives you a decision the next working day after providing biometric information.

Once I received my ILR I essentially had all the rights of a British citizen including free healthcare (bless the NHS), unrestricted ability to work, and even a state pension. The only restriction is that if you leave the country for more than two years continuously, the visa will be taken away.

Having this visa has allowed complete flexibility and freedom to work anywhere in England and I’ve been fortunate to work in different areas including Hospitality and Business Development before moving to Management Consulting.

There are plenty of different visas to apply for in the UK if your circumstances are different. Good Luck and reach out if you want to learn more.

Akid Zolkifi living and working overseas

London, England. Image by Akid Zolkifli.

Settled status

Pauline Vergnet, BeeLoved City

I moved to the UK in 2016, after spending a year on a Working Holiday Visa in Australia. Back then, I thought I’d only stay six months and would go back to Australia on a more permanent basis. At that point, the Brexit referendum had just taken place. Even though these were uncertain times for any EU citizen like myself, I didn’t think I would stay long enough to be worried about it.

Things went differently. I completely fell in love with this country. Looking back, none of it makes a lot of sense. I come from the South of France and clearly love hot and dry weather. That alone should have been enough to make me leave the UK. Yet, the exact opposite happened. Britain is such a friendly nation when you start to know the people. Culture is all around, and the landscapes are gorgeous. The UK had it all, well, besides the weather!

I didn’t have to apply for a visa at the time. As an EU citizen, I had the luxury to be able to just fly there with a passport or ID and start working straight away. This will change in the coming months or years as the UK will officially leave the EU in 2021. But for me, at that time, it was as simple as that. The only thing I had to do was request a National Insurance Number. This gave me access to public healthcare. But it’s also important for tax purposes as you cannot work without it.

In 2019, all EU citizens were able to apply for settled status (if you’ve been in the UK for more than 5 years), or a pre-settled status (under 5 years). This status gives you the right to stay in the UK after Brexit while keeping the same rights.

The application is quite simple. I downloaded the official app, EU Exit: ID Document Check, on my phone and filled out the information required, and scanned my passport (the app can read the biometric chip in the passport through the device). As my National Insurance Number is linked to my payroll, the government was able to see how long I’d been in the UK for.

A couple of days later, my pre-settled status was granted. This status gives me the right to stay in the UK for another five years and/or take a two-year break abroad until I get my settled status. This means that I have 5 years to get another year and a half of residency, at which point my settled status will be granted. With a settled status, I will be able to stay in the UK permanently with the same rights as any Brit.

Living and working in the UK settled status

EU Citizen living in the UK. Image by Pauline Vergnet.

Working holiday visa

Laura Oxley, She Who Wanders

Being a Canadian citizen means you have the opportunity to apply for dozens of visas to incredible places all around the world. I wanted to explore another country and the requirement for the place I chose was that it had to make travel easier and more affordable than Canada was. So with that, I decided on the United Kingdom (UK).

Canadian passport holders (as well as those from Australia, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, and Taiwan) from 18-35 years old can apply to the Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa to the UK and as long as they meet all the criteria required by to UK Immigration office your visa will be granted. Applications can be completed online by filling in a series of documents and proving you have support funds of about £2000.

Once you have applied and paid all necessary fees you will need to make an appointment at the closest UK consulate office to you and submit everything in person. Applications can only be submitted 3 months before you wish to arrive in the UK but only takes three weeks for a decision to be made.

I lived in Brighton and Bristol during the two years of my visa and found work by registering with various recruitment agencies as well as working in hostels and hotels. Having Europe on my doorstep was the biggest bonus and I was able to explore so much of The UK and truly fell in love with it as a country.

Living and working in the UK

London Eye, England. Image by Laura Oxley.

Living and working in the USA

F-1 Student Visa

Juleen, Juleen Meets World

I moved to the United States in 2014 to pursue my Bachelor’s degree. After living my whole life in Jamaica and having never left, I had always wanted to travel. During my final years of high school, I decided that I wanted to pursue my undergraduate degree abroad instead of attending university in Jamaica because I felt I would be more inclined to get outside my comfort zone and grow. I also knew that there was an established practice of students studying abroad in the USA which would allow me more opportunities to travel.

The process of getting my visa was pretty straightforward once you are accepted into your university or college. I applied for the F-1 student visa. Basically, I needed documents from my university as proof of acceptance and financial aid, documents from my family, bank account statements, to fill out the visa application, and to pay the visa fee. I also had an in-person interview. All the required documents and fees are listed on the US Department of State’s website. From there, I made an appointment for a visa interview at the US Embassy in Kingston.

During my junior year of college, I also lived in Italy and Hungary, a semester each, which both required getting a student visa. I have since graduated from college but I am still working in the United States doing “on the job training” for up to three years (usually one but STEM students get three). Once my three years are up, I can apply for an H1B visa if I want to continue working in the US.

Living and working in the US on a F-1 Student Visa

Studying and working in the USA. Image by Juleen Meets World.

J1 Visa – Summer Work Travel Program

Diana Čechová, CzechSouls

In the Czech Republic, it is not uncommon for university students to go on a Summer Work Travel Program to the USA. Whether you have already found a job or not, you must get an agency in your home country. This agency will not only help you fill in the paperwork and find you a job but it’s the only way you can get an American agency, which is also required for the J1 visa.

After having all your paperwork ready, you pay a fee to the closest American embassy and apply for a visa interview. This process is both lengthy and costly. The exact procedure varies slightly depending on the country where you are applying from. I applied with a Czech agency, but as I was at that time living in Romania, at the embassy I followed Romanian rules.

I decided on this program to meet new people and experience working abroad. This type of visa is issued mostly for jobs that don’t require any knowledge. It was definitely a great experience for me, but it was hard work as I had, just like most J1s two jobs to pay all the fees and save up for traveling. If I had gone again, I’d look better for information about the employers and go to a state with a higher minimum wage.

Living and working USA Summer Work Travel Program

Living and working in the USA on the Summer Work Travel Program. Image by Diana Čechová.

J1 Visa – Trainee Program

Lucile Hernandez Rodriguez,

I’m a French citizen who came to the US on a J1 visa for the Trainee Program. I ended up working in Tech Banking, and I really enjoyed living in New York for a year and a half. I wanted to move to the US because my partner is from there, and I wanted to discover his culture more. I also was super interested in New York as I feel it is the perfect city to truly be yourself. I ended up doing my Yoga Teacher Training there and teaching yoga, which I still do now!

The visa process was easy but a bit stressful as it got delayed several times, I had an interview at the embassy and since I had not traveled to “sensitive” countries in the past, so I was in the clear! It was easy to get settled in New York, and I found an apartment easily. I had then to get a social security number and after a year, fill out a tax refund. As a French citizen, I am very good at administrative procedures, so it wasn’t too hard for me.

I really enjoyed learning a different work culture and I would recommend this type of exchange visa to anyone who is interested in trying out the US for a year and a half. One thing to note, it is difficult to immigrate permanently to the US after this type of visa as your host company can’t hire you in the US for a period of one year.

Living and working USA J1 visa

New York City, USA. Image by Lucile Hernandez Rodriguez.


Have you moved abroad or thinking about doing it soon? Tell us about it below! 

And if you liked the post – share it with your friends on social media.