At Link Global Management, we’ve been helping international contractors for more than 20 years. They work in a range of sectors, especially oil & gas, energy, IT and telecommunications, construction and engineering. They’re on placements the world over, in Europe, Africa, Scandinavia, China and the Far East.
Are you set to start a new position as an independent overseas contractor? But you’re not sure what to expect or how to survive your first few days?
Here are our top 10 practical tips from our most well-travelled contractors.
Follow them and you’ll hit the ground running!
- Get collected from the airport
It’s never easy arriving at a foreign destination, even if it’s not in the middle of the night. Ask your client to send someone to collect you. It can be difficult to find a taxi at some airports and you’ll be disorientated anyway. You need to get to your accommodation as soon as possible – you may be working the next day.
- Carry local denomination with you
Having some local currency in small notes and coins will do you no end of favours for all the incidentals you might need on arrival, local cashpoints and banks may not be accessible at your time of arrival and you may find local vendors reluctant to offer change for high value or non- local currency.
- Case the neighbourhood
Book into a hotel for the first few days where you’ll feel safe and looked after. Use it as an exploration base if you’re going to need to find your own accommodation. Remember, it’s safer to drive than walk around an unknown city. Ask work colleagues for recommendations. Look for somewhere on the border of student and middleclass land where it’s decent and where there are likely to be short-term lets.
- Barter for accommodation
If your stay is shorter, say weeks rather than months, a serviced apartment often makes more financial sense. Many places are prepared to discount if you block-book for a couple of months. So it’s always worth negotiating on the first price you’re offered.
- Use a local SIM card
Beware of roaming charges. Buy a local SIM card. It’ll work out cheaper. But remember to unlock your phone in advance or take a separate unlocked handset. Make use of wifi and use Skype or another VOIP to stay in touch with friends and family at home for free.
- Allow three days for red tape
Even if you’re contracting within the EU, there are often umpteen forms to fill in and places to register with. The red tape varies by country. In uber-efficient Germany, for example, things are centralised at the Bezirksamt (district office). In France, though, the process is more complex. Often many of these offices close at lunchtime. It’s a good idea to set aside a few days to get all the paperwork done and stamped.
- Get paid in a convertible currency
Make sure the currency you’re paid in is convertible. US dollars are a good fall back, as is Sterling and the Euro. If you’re travelling to parts of Central America say, or Central Asia, remember the local currency may not be easily converted by money exchanges.
- Eat local food straight away
For many people working in exotic destinations, Delhi belly can be an issue. Take sensible precautions such as using handwipes or antibacterial gel, not drinking the local water or ice, peeling fruit and only eating well-cooked meat or fish. If you get an upset stomach, it’s probably nothing to do with bad food or bacteria. It’s more likely your stomach isn’t acclimatised. Many contractors swear by taking probiotic tablets to boost their immune systems and boost gut flora.
- Make use of social media
Arriving at a new placement not knowing a soul can seem daunting. But, depending where you’re going, you’ll often be able to make contact with people already on the ground. Or you can find out what’s happening through social media such as Instagram, Twitter or Facebook groups for independent contractors at your new posting.
- Have a ‘can-do’ attitude
Don’t underestimate the impact culture shock can have at the start. You’ll cope better if you’re mentally prepared. Coping is all down to attitude. Stay positive and believe you can get things done. Being tolerant, open-minded, non-judgmental and curious will make settling easier. Having a sense of humour helps too. Many contractors say it can take up to three months to find your level. Keeping up your drive and energy to learn about the new culture will pay big dividends. That way your overseas contract will be the remarkable experience it should be.
A Whole World of Opportunities
Thinking about contracting overseas? Then you’ve plenty of new horizons to look forward to.
Here are the 3 top reasons our contractors give for taking the plunge …
1. Financial rewards
Salary perks aren’t the only incentive to working abroad for the hundreds of overseas contractors we help. But they’re definitely a big motivation. Why?
As a contractor, you secure higher rates than employees in similar positions. They’re often as much as 50 – 100% higher. You’re also often able to take advantage of the more favorable tax regimes that certain countries offer. You’ve also the freedom to decide the best employment model for yourself to boost your tax efficiency and reduce tax liabilities.
Of course, what you do have to factor in is what you don’t get as an overseas contractor. Usually, you won’t receive employment benefits such as holiday or sickness pay. Nor do you get car allowances, company pension schemes or private health care. But, the pay-off is the huge leeway you get to offset other expenses. Plus you enjoy generous tax relief on any contributions to personal pension schemes and one of the bonuses of working with Link Global Management is that we offer a private healthcare scheme for our contractors.
Wherever your contract work overseas is – Kazakhstan or Kuwait, Malaysia or Mali, or anywhere else – there’ll be an ideal employment or trading model to suit your circumstances. This’ll depend on your role, its length, the country you’re in, your recruiter, or end client. For most overseas contractors, it’s the umbrella, limited company, full- or self-employment model. Each has different benefits. To find out more, we’ve got all the details here.
2. Freedom and flexibility
As an independent contractor, you’re your own boss and not tied to the same office chair day in and day out. You can pick and choose the roles you take on. You can also be flexible and take time off between contracts. So you can see more of the world or spend your downtime with friends and family.
The world is there to be discovered when you work abroad. You’ll get to see sights you’d never witness in your home country. Or ones that you’d have to pay a fortune to see on vacation. You’ll also get to try activities you could never do at home. Plus make new friends and sample delicious cuisines. If you want to really meet the locals and experience a culture firsthand, the lifestyle you get when working abroad is hard to beat.
That said, living abroad can be challenging. At the start of each contract, you’ll have to adapt to new ways of doing things. Immersing yourself in a foreign environment needs flexibility. But while it might be unfamiliar at the beginning, every new contract you complete means you’ll develop greater independence, resourcefulness and strength of character.
Remember too that you have to fund gaps between contracts and the time it takes to secure the next. Most business advisors would recommend having around six months of income saved up as security. Or more if you’re conservative or unsure about availability of work in your particular sector.
3. Opportunity to boost your skills base
Talent mobility is already playing a key part in enabling business leaders to meet the challenges of the global business world. It’s one that’s more technologically advanced, demographically complex and geographically diverse than ever before. So says a new study by the European Relocation Association.
This goes for whatever sector you’re specialised in – construction, IT, oil & gas, energy, finance and more. People who’ve shown the initiative to work overseas usually return home with deeper technical skill-sets though. They’ve also got broader experience, global market understanding, and, often, foreign language skills too. These are all big benefits for your career ahead.
Having a mix of overseas contracting assignments on your CV is undeniably good for your career development. More and more, employers are looking for international exposure today. By working abroad, you’re getting ahead of the game and equipping yourself for your future professional life.
There really is a whole world of opportunity out there.
The smoking gun that recruitment agencies and freelance contractors can’t afford to ignore
Time is running out for recruiters and contractors to get their books in order in time for the Criminal Finances Act 2017.
It includes HMRC’s new Corporate Offence of Failure to Prevent the Criminal Facilitation of Tax Evasion.
You now need to be fully prepared for this law. It comes into effect on September 30th and it’s powerful stuff.
The fall-out for recruitment agencies
The law’s relevant whether you’re a recruitment agency contracting in the UK or to overseas.
You might assume it’s only banks, accountancy and advisory firms that are affected. But you’d be wrong. The law applies to all companies, partnerships and LLPs.
So there’s an impact for recruitment agencies too. The supply chain, labour arrangements and overseas aspects of the law are relevant to all organisations.
And it could result in criminal sanctions for any recruitment agency directors discovered to be in breach of tough new rules.
The fall-out for freelance contractors
The law affects you if you’re a contract worker in the UK or overseas. It means there’ll no longer be any place to hide.
Although the new law doesn’t apply to individuals as they can be prosecuted under existing laws, you still need to make sure you’re 100% tax compliant. Why?
Because your recruitment company, umbrella company or offshore payroll provider can’t now knowingly provide any tax avoidance ‘smoke screen’ for you. It’s obliged to disclose tax evasion by those on its books. Or suffer the consequences.
So how might you be affected?
First, the bad news. It’s a potential can of worms and means you can’t afford to put your head in the sand. You need to take action fast.
Second, the good news. You can take immediate measures to ensure your risk exposure is watertight.
What does the law say?
For an offence to be committed:
- There must be criminal tax evasion under either UK law or foreign law
- It must be enabled by the business’ employee, agent or anyone performing services to the business
- The business must have failed to prevent that person from enabling the crime
The offence itself will have three stages:
Stage 1: criminal tax evasion by a taxpayer. This could be the offence of cheating the public revenue or fraudulently evading the liability to pay VAT.
Stage 2: criminal facilitation of this offence by a person acting on behalf of the corporation, whether by taking steps with a view to; being knowingly concerned in; or aiding, abetting, counselling, or procuring the tax evasion by the taxpayer.
Stage 3: If there has been a criminal offence at stage one and stage two, a corporation is then liable for having failed to prevent a person associated with it from committing the criminal act at stage 2.
What do we recommend recruitment companies should do?
The only defence mechanism you’ll be able to use is to show you’ve put ‘reasonable procedures’ in place to prevent facilitation of tax evasion.
This means you’ll need to be 100% clear on the risks associated with your contractors, employees, third parties and all their downstream activities.
The legislation covers ‘overseas offence’ too. A relevant body incorporated in the UK can only commit this. Or one that does business from a permanent establishment in the UK. Or whose associated person commits the overseas facilitation offence in the UK.
So you could be liable if someone associated with your recruitment agency knowingly assists a contractor in evading tax in the UK or overseas. Or if you know that a contractor is evading tax in some way.
Our practical advice for recruitment companies
- Read the legislation in full
- Carry out a thorough risk assessment
- Analyse your internal processes
- Get commitment from your top-level management to develop a culture where tax evasion is never acceptable
- Hold a training session so your employees understand this and the rules – We are currently running sessions with our agency partners
- Check that all of your preferred providers such as your umbrella companies or contractor accountancy providers can prove they follow high professional standards
Still got questions on how to deal with the Corporate Offence of Failure to Prevent the Criminal Facilitation of Tax Evasion? Then take professional advice. We can help you here.
Contractor numbers have soared since the millennium. More workers in all sectors are reaping the benefits of freelance employment and a better work-life balance.
This widening shift to global flexible working is positive news for international recruiters and overseas employers alike.
Global mobility on the up
In the UK alone, the number of ‘iPros’ has risen by 63% since 2004. These are people who work for themselves in skilled service activities.
It’s a phenomenon that covers multiple industries. Sectors include IT and computing, telecoms, oil & gas, construction, and more.
A similar picture can be seen across all EU member states, especially in the Netherlands (95%), Poland (88%) and France (85%).
There’s a growing movement among organizations to tap into this flexible manpower for their worldwide contracting challenges.
Contracting has become an ever more important solution for end clients, with more international businesses recognizing the important work carried out by flexible workers familiar with project-based work.
The future growth of the global economy looks dependent on it too.
The Brexit-Trump factor
But two factors will probably be worrying contractors and recruiters right now.
The election of Donald Trump in the US, and the vote for Brexit in the UK,
We’re in uncharted territory. Just how Trump and Brexit (if it happens in practice) will affect globalisation trends and freedom of movement, nobody yet knows.
But it’s likely there could be new hurdles for contractors to continue working in EU countries. It all depends on the deal the Brexit negotiators strike with Brussels. It’s certainly possible that UK contractors may need a visa to work in the Union in future.
And what about regulations for contractors to the US? This, too, is unknown.
But despite Trump’s ‘Hire American’ push, there’s no denying there’s a shortage of qualified Americans in many sectors. It’s especially true of scientific and programming jobs. It’s what’s forcing US companies to turn overseas to meet their hiring needs.
And in the end, even in the US, pragmatism about worldwide contracting challenges may well win out…
Supply and demand for global talent
There’s a positive side to this uncertainty though. International recruiters who specialize in sourcing skilled contractors are in the perfect place to take advantage.
That’s because unpredictability always means a shift by global companies away from permanent hires. In times of economic insecurity, contracting makes far more sense. Organizations tend to change their mindset. They go from: ‘I need to hire a person’ to ‘I need to get this job done.’
In this scenario, contractors are the perfect short-term solution.
How contractors are filling the talent mismatch
According to Manpower Group’s annual talent shortage survey, 40% of global employers have talent shortages.
In many parts of their world, there’s a glaring scarcity of homegrown talent. Emerging markets such as Latin America the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe are feeling the pinch most.
The main shortfall areas? These include IT and telecoms, infrastructure and construction, skilled trades, life sciences and healthcare, engineering, energy, and oil & gas.
Employers in EMEA are facing talent shortages at the highest levels since 2006. There, 36% of employers report struggling to fill vacancies. In Romania, Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece, employers have “acute difficulties”. In Asia, it’s 46% of employers and in the Americas, 42%. Argentina’s the worst hit, with 59% reporting an “acute talent shortage”.
So, despite all the uncertainties right now, one thing’s for sure. The war on talent points to an increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting talented and flexible workers.
That’s good news for contractors , and good news for international recruiters ,too.
Are you an international recruiter? Tell us about your experience below
Expert advice: the ultimate pre-flight checklist for international contractors
Tempted to broaden your horizons and get an overseas contract? You’ve a lot to look forward to.
So what are the perks for international contractors?
First up, the sheer joy of travel: you’ll get to explore the world, enjoy sunny climes and discover new cultures. Plus have the freedom and flexibility to take downtime when you fancy.
Then the bucks: you’ll be able to cash in on favourable tax regimes and earn up to 50% more than at home.
And finally, the career blessings: you’ll be able to bag varied and exciting job opportunities to boost your CV and skill set.
Landed your first overseas contract?
Great news. But don’t just dash to the airport. Take time to understand the legal and tax implications for international contractors. This goes for wherever in the world you’re heading. And for whatever your job area: telecoms, IT, energy, oil & gas, construction or any other.
Here’s a pre-flight checklist.
1. Get paid fast with the right employment model
Make sure you’re tax-efficient and tax-compliant by getting this buttoned down. You’ve several choices for your employment (or trading) model.
Each country has different rules for international contractors. So your options depend on your job, end client and contract length. It’s always a good idea to get individual advice on this. You’ll save yourself money and worry.
The choice includes:
- Limited company: a popular and tax-efficient choice. But you’ll likely still have to pay corporation tax in the UK. It’s also not suitable for all host countries so talk to an expert first.
- Umbrella or payroll company: a hassle-free option for international contractors on shorter contracts. The umbrella company looks after your monthly payroll. It bills your agency or employer and debits your tax and social security liabilities so you have total peace of mind.
- Self-employment: you’ll have to meet certain criteria for this. Such as having more than one client you work for.
2. Enquire what currency you’ll get paid in
Think about the impact of currency exchange rates. Sterling, for example, has fallen against the euro since Brexit. How a currency fluctuates could mean a pay drop (or a pay rise) for you. Consider where you’ll be spending the biggest part of your salary and how much you plan to save to take home to help you decide the best currency to be paid in. You can also use a foreign exchange currency company to protect your exchange rate for the length of your contract. Your payroll company will be able to help with this.
3. Find out if you need a visa
If you’re a UK or EU citizen, the EU is open to you. You won’t need a visa or permit. We’ll be keeping you updated on any changes that get made to the free movement of labour following Brexit negotiations. But if your contract’s outside the EU, you will need a visa. Your umbrella company can help, often by having a local company sponsor you. Many countries also offer special visas for skilled international contractors. So take good advice.
4. Check your legal status
Find out which country’s law applies to your work contract. Do other local laws apply to the services you’re providing? Usually, the law that applies to the contract between the client (or umbrella company) and you decides this. In the EU, your contract will usually be in the law of the country where you’ve ‘habitual residence’.
5. Get your accommodation sorted
Where will you live? Is accommodation part of the contract package with your end client? Often it’s not, so it’s up to you. Find out if your employer can recommend good-value accommodation. If not, look at serviced apartments. They often work out cheaper than hotels or B&Bs.
6. Don’t overlook liability insurance
You’ll need to be covered with specialist policies for third party liability, professional indemnity and professional travel insurance for you and any accompanying family members. A good payroll services provider will help you organise these.
7. Make sure you’ve got your health covered
You may be fit and healthy now but what happens if you get ill? There’ll be no NHS to fall back on. As an international contractor you’ll need to arrange health insurance for yourself. The right cover will depend on the country you’re going to so it’s best to get professional advice.
8. Ready to go? Don’t forget these essentials
- Passport and visa
- Will and power of attorney
- All your insurance documents
- Any personal medications (at least a 90 day supply) and medical tags
- Extra eye glasses
- Dollars to exchange in case of emergency, some local currency and your personal credit card.
- Plug adaptor, mobile phone and charger. Check roaming charges before you go. You might be better with a local SIM.
Follow our tips and you’ll be living your career dream. Doing work you love, earning a great salary, in exciting locations and at the pace you want.
Does that sound like you?
Are you an overseas contractor? Anything we’ve left out? Let us know below.
Essential steps to finding a contract job overseas
Tempted to find a contract job overseas? You’re not alone.
More of us are grabbing the perks that working as an overseas contractor brings. So it’s good news that worldwide contract openings are on the up.
Here’s what the UK’s Centre for Research on Self-Employment has to say. “The EU has seen a new phenomenon. It’s the rise of the independent professional, or iPro, often referred to as freelancers. Their rise represents a major shift in the nature of work and ways of working.”
Worried about Brexit? Don’t be
Brexit is part of this picture. It’s likely to mean more contracting opportunities globally.
Why? Because when things look unstable, companies prefer to hire contractors, not full time employees.
Across the world, overseas opportunities are on the rise. Energy, telecoms, IT, oil & gas and construction are the big shortage areas.
This has a lot to do with the push by emerging countries to improve infrastructure. There are skills gaps for overseas contractors to fill. And market demand is good for day rates.
It’s official: overseas contractors are happier
The bonuses of working overseas as a professional contractor are pretty clear. You get:
- To travel the world and be paid handsomely. Thanks to tax breaks and contractors’ better rates of pay (up to 50% more than employees).
- The flexibility to decide when you accept a contract. Or take downtime, for holidays or relaxing with friends or family.
- A bigger choice of job opportunities. So you can broaden your technical skills, learn a new language, and improve your employability.
- To become more resilient and adaptable. Plus a strong global market understanding. All assets for your future professional working life.
A survey by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) shows that 97% of contractors are “much happier than employees”. They’re more satisfied in lots of ways, says MGI. Good salaries, flexibility and opportunities for professional development are just a few. As well as not having to put up with office politics…
Hot spots for contract jobs overseas
So where are the lucrative areas in the world right now for work? Here’s a snapshot:
- Poland: It has 200,000 contractors working in offshore IT and technology operation centres.
- Switzerland: Its buoyant economy means it needs pharmaceutical, banking and IT staff.
- Norway: Oil & gas is big here, with skill shortages in other sectors due to small population.
- Germany: It needs new recruits in mechanical, automotive, and electrical engineering.
- Brazil: An emerging world power, it has openings in oil & gas, energy, mining and IT
- Chile: There are massive infrastructure projects underway. So skilled construction workers are in demand, as well as IT specialists
- Latin America: Oil & gas is under reform and there’s a big rise in exploration.
- Kazakhstan: This has the Kashagan reserves, the world’s largest oil-field discovery in the past 30 years. Commercial production is now underway
- South East Asia: It has lots of opportunities in telecoms, oil & gas, mining & minerals and power & energy industries.
How to find your perfect contract job overseas?
Check out the global recruitment agencies that connect talent with employers across the world.
Get in touch with the ones that specialize in your industry – oil & gas, IT, engineering, telecoms etc.
Keep an eye too on the careers sections of global employers if you know they’re a big player in the country of your dreams.
Get interview-ready for a contract job overseas
Don’t expect your interview to be in person. Geography means more companies are hiring contractors after a Skype interview.
So choose a quiet place and get your Internet connection ready. Log in to Skype with plenty of time to prepare. Dress as if you were meeting face to face. Study common interview questions related to your career field. Write down any questions too that you want to check about the contract. Make sure your answers are clear and direct.
The good thing about phone and Skype interviews is that you can look at your notes. Have your CV and employment details handy too. Afterwards send a short thank you email to show how keen you are for the job offer.
So, is working abroad for you? If it is, it could be the career adventure of your life.
Find out how to get ready for your contract job overseas with our checklist here.
Are you an overseas contractor? Tell us about your experience below