Expat visas for living and working overseas

February 03, 2020
There are several visa options for most countries. Although they have a variety of titles depending on the country, they can be split into two broad categories:
If you only intend working in a country for a period of a few weeks or months, you may be able to apply for a short stay visa. The regulations for a short stay visa may not be as stringent as those of a longer stay visa but there may be more restrictions. For example, your visa may dictate the number of days you can work while you are in the country and may not allow your family to join you while you are abroad.
Long stay visas are usually granted if you are staying at least six months in a country. They are generally valid for a year at a time. You may need to renew them on an annual basis or you may be granted a long stay visa for a specified number of years in order to complete a specific project.
You may not need a working visa for all countries. Some countries have agreements with each other that citizens of their state can work in other countries without a need for a visa. This is often due to historical links between the countries or political agreements. The best example of citizens being able to live and work freely is the EU. If you are a citizen of a country that belongs to the European Union you may live and work in another EU country without a visa.

If you are taking an expat role within your current company, your Human Resource Department may obtain the appropriate visa for you. If you have a meeting to discuss your visa requirements, it is worth asking questions. 

What family members can travel on your expat visa?

If your company are arranging your visa, ensure they are clear on exactly who will require a visa. Do you have a spouse? Are they hoping to work while you are away? You will also need to make provision for dependants on your visa. 

What terms and conditions are associated with your visa?

Almost every kind of immigrant visa comes with a set of terms and conditions that you must obey while you are in the dedicated country. Some common conditions include:


  • the date you may enter the country
  • employment based regulations
  • restrictions on leaving and entering the country
  • restrictions on where you live

What support documentation do you need to provide?

Although your company may be able to complete the visa application on your behalf they will need documentation from you and your family if they are travelling with you. Exact requirements will vary by country but the most common include:


  • passports with at least 6 months before expiry
  • copies of your passport
  • extra passport photos
  • completed documentation
  • bank statements

If you are hoping to move abroad to work on a freelance basis as a digital nomad you may have to apply for a working visa yourself.  

The visa category you require will depend on the country you plan to travel to. As a first port of call visit the website for your chosen country’s embassy. You are likely to find some information on visas there. If you don’t have a lot of success there, try the immigration services website of the country you would like to live in. There are a few things you need to ask yourself in order to figure out which visa is right for you. 

Where are you from and where are you going?

The answer to this question will help you identify:


  • if you need a working visa
  • if you qualify for a working visa in your country of choice
  • what kind of kind of visa you require?

Do you have links to your desired destination?

If your country has historical links with the country you want to travel to, you may be able to acquire a working visa. For example an Australian citizen with a grandparent from the United Kingdom can apply for an ancestry visa to spend five years living and working there.


Do I need a job before I can get a visa?

For some countries, you may require a job before you qualify for a working visa of any kind. If this is the case it may make working as a digital nomad or similar quite difficult. 

When it comes to applying to work in another country, there are a few things to remember:


  • don’t assume anything
  • know your visa conditions
  • have your paperwork in order
  • be prepared for an interview
  • allow plenty of time

For more information on country specific visa requirements visit our Expat Hub.

Finally, a visa is not the only thing you have to think about when it comes to living and working abroad. Don’t forget you may need access to healthcare. Protect yourself and your loved ones with international health insurance