Nine Considerations Before Accepting a Job Abroad
There are many reasons why a U.S. resident might choose to work outside the United States. For some, there is the thrill of learning about life in a foreign country. For others, it may simply be a matter of economic necessity. Whatever your motivations, however, if you are thinking about accepting employment outside of the U.S., here are 9 things you need to consider.
- What Are the Visa Requirements?
You normally can’t work in a foreign country without first obtaining a work visa from the local authorities. It’s important to carefully review the terms of your host country’s visa. For example, you may be forced to leave the country immediately if you decide you don’t like your job and want to quit. Visas also may limit the types of work you can perform while on the host country’s soil and how long you can stay. If you have been offered a job while you are still in the U.S., you should discuss the visa requirements with your new employer to ensure you are covered.
- What Are the Tax Implications?
If you are a U.S. citizen, you may still need to file, and possibly pay, federal income taxes, even if you are working abroad. In addition, you may be subject to the host country’s income tax laws. You should consult with a tax attorney or CPA to understand your tax obligations while abroad.
- Do You Have a Written Employment Agreement?
In the U.S., many employees work “at-will” without any written employment agreement or contract. But if you’re working abroad, you should consider asking for the basic terms and conditions of your employment in writing. Pay close attention to the “choice of law” provision in the Agreement – is your Employment subject to U.S. law? It is advisable that you consult with a U.S. Employment Attorney prior to accepting the terms of the Agreement (or the job in general) to make sure you are protected in the event of wrongful employment action.
- U.S. Federal Laws May Not Protect You
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal law that governs labor issues like the minimum wage and mandatory overtime pay. The Equal Pay Act forbids employers from paying women less than men for the same work. And the Family and Medical Leave Act requires certain employers to give qualifying employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off for a serious medical condition, to care for a qualifying person with a serious medical condition, or for birth of a child. Absent an Employment Agreement applying U.S. law to your employment, these laws may not apply to your work abroad. Notably, the FLSA, FMLA, and EPA, do not apply to “any employee who services during the workweek are performed in a workplace within a foreign country.” However, even without an Employment Agreement, or one that applies foreign law, you may still have rights for overtime and minimum wage. In fact, some countries may have laws that are more favorable than the United States. Either way, it is best to consult with a U.S. Employment Attorney to understand your rights prior to accepting employment.
- Returning to the U.S. For your Foreign Job
However, if you return to the United States at any time for your job abroad and perform work on U.S. soil, any discriminatory acts occurring at that time may be covered under U.S. laws.
Another key U.S. labor law–the Family and Medical Leave Act–requires employers to give employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to deal with a serious medical condition. As with the FLSA and the EPA, the FMLA cannot be enforced outside the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.
- Some Civil Rights Laws May Still Be Enforced Abroad
Unlike the laws discussed above, federal statutes governing employment discrimination, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, can be enforced against U.S. employers who maintain offices or work locations outside the country. So if you are a U.S. citizen working for such an employer, you may be entitled to sue under one of these statutes.
- Local Laws May Still Override U.S. Law
Even if you are otherwise protected by one of the statutes listed above, an employer can escape liability if it can prove that complying with U.S. law would force it to violate the law of the host country. If you have questions about this, it is best to consult with a U.S. Employment Attorney to understand the nuances of the application of law.
- And Remember, Local Laws May Actually Help You
In many cases, it will actually benefit you to work in a foreign country with stronger employment protections than the U.S. If you work in a European Union country, for instance, you may enjoy stronger legally mandated benefits and worker protections.
- Consult an Attorney If You Have More Specific Questions
Deciding to work outside the U.S. is a big step. You should make such a potentially life-changing without carefully considering all of the implications. A qualified employment law attorney can advise you of the risks and benefits of your particular situation.