Before you make the decision to find construction work overseas, it’s important to consider all the practicalities involved.
Be realistic about timescales and expectations: What is it you want to gain from this experience? How will it benefit your career? Do you have a pre-determined timescale to live overseas, or are you looking to work on a specific project?
With these factors decided, it’s time to start planning your move. Follow these practical tips about visas/work permits, health and insurance, accommodation, financials and family considerations and you’ll be packing in no time...
Click on the image below to get a snapshot of what you'll need to consider when thinking about a move abroad.
Visas and work permits
First things first – you need to check how you go about getting a visa and/or a work permit for the country you wish to work in.
UK or EU citizens do not need a work permit or visa to work legally in any other country in the EU, but for other countries outside the EU it is a longer process. For some locations, such as the US, you will need to secure a job offer in advance to successfully apply for the relevant visa (a prospective employer will often process this on your behalf.)
Countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada have a points system. You are awarded points based on your age, level of qualifications, relevant work experience, and the country’s need for your construction specialism - the number of points determines your eligibility to work there.
From February 2011, however this system is changing in Australia. Under the new rules to migrate to Australia your job must be on the Skilled Occupation List and additional points will not be received if on the ‘in demand’ list.
For information about how to apply for a visa as a foreign national, check the relevant embassy in the UK for specific legal requirements. Most importantly, make sure your passport is valid for the duration of your intended stay abroad first.
Health and insurance
UK citizens are entitled to free or reduced cost health care across the EEA (European Economic Area) with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). You can apply for this online, or fill out a form at a post office.
Outside the EEA you will generally have to pay for health care. Some employers will subsidise or even pay for a health care plan, so it’s worth checking out whether that forms part of your employment package.
You’ll also need to make travel insurance arrangements before you go. Your employer should have insurance as standard, but this probably won’t cover you for personal loss or injury caused by something non work-related. Travel insurance packages vary widely, so it’s worth shopping around for one that focuses specifically on working abroad.
Don’t forget to check whether you will need any vaccinations too, and when you need them (some must be at least 6 weeks in advance of travel.)
There are two aspects to living arrangements that you’ll need to consider: The first being where you will live when you move overseas; and the second, what will happen to your current accommodation when you go.
Employers often provide relocating construction workers with living accommodation, as part of a package to work on a specific overseas project. It will save you time, effort and money, but the standard of living may not be the same as you currently enjoy.
If you need to find your own accommodation, make sure that you look into housing opportunities and any property regulations that might affect you (ideally, with someone who speaks the local language if English isn’t an option.)
If you are keeping your property in the UK, and it’s going to be empty while you’re away, you’ll need to inform your mortgage and utility providers that you’re moving - and make sure the place has good security. Is there anyone who can house sit while you’re gone, or can you take on a short term tenant to cover mortgage or rental payments?
While the country you’re going to work in may have low or no taxation rates, you could still have to pay tax in the UK depending on your situation. Visit the HM Revenue & Customs website for more information, but typically if you leave the UK to work abroad full-time, you will become a non-resident in the UK if:
- your absence and employment from the UK covers a complete tax year (that is 6 April to 5 April)
- you spend less than 183 days in the UK during the tax year
- your visits to the UK do not average 91 days or more each tax year, over a maximum of four years
You may have to continue to pay NI contributions while you’re abroad, again this depends on how much time you spend in the UK and how often you return. In some cases you can pay voluntary contributions, this means that when you return home you still qualify for particular benefits. If you have a pension scheme in the UK, you will also need to check with the provider how it works if you’re earning overseas.
Family members travelling with you may not be entitled to the same residency status, and may not be allowed to work. So if you’re considering relocating the whole family, you will need to look into visas/work permits for them too.
Schooling and educational resources need to be planned well in advance. Typically, you’ll need to consider school fees, the curriculum on offer, league tables and availability for your child to enrol. You need to begin researching options as early as possible, particularly if your child needs to go on the waiting list of your preferred choice.
Moving abroad is a life changing experience and there are lots of things to consider. Remember to have timescales and exit strategies in place, both for relocating and returning home. Read on to find out which British companies are recruiting overseas.
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