Unlike traveling leisurely, working abroad typically requires a contractual commitment. Overseas professionals don’t measure their stay in a country in terms of long-weekends or vacation leaves, but by the length of their work permit. It conditions us to think ahead, to constantly re-think our priorities and consider several factors.
The “What’s next?” is not that simple when you’re working overseas. It can refer to the next job, the next country you want to live in, or whether it’s time to go back home.
I’ve been living in Singapore for 2 years, with more than 1 employer under my belt. So I’ve picked up a couple of things about the paper work and discernment process involved when transitioning in-between jobs or job-hunting overseas. This is what I learned:
Your right to live in a foreign country is tied to your work permit.
It’s like a race against time, whether you decide to continue working in the country and need to find a new job, or to pack up your belongings and go.
Once your employee contract is terminated, so is your work permit. If you’re in Singapore this gives you 30 days to legally stay in the country or else you have to do a ‘visa run’ by crossing the border and re-entering as a tourist.
Save to sustain your life overseas
When we’re young our instinct is to spend now and save later for when we’re older. But working overseas forces us to change that mindset. We need to save to sustain our life abroad; especially with a volatile job market or when we’re in-between jobs with no idea where the next pay check will come from.
Expats and foreign workers don’t live with their parents so rent becomes the biggest leech, especially in Singapore, which was recently dubbed the most expensive city in the world. You should also save so that you can travel guiltlessly before you start your next venture.
Where is the pension?
As a twenty-something, a pension fund is the last thing on my mind. It’s another piece of paper work in a government system that I don’t fully understand. While Singaporeans have CPF my dad recently pointed out to me that working abroad doesn’t automatically add to my SSS or Social Security System retirement fund. So it’s worth trying to understand the legal jargon that we might have taken for granted if we stayed at home.
Perhaps the most difficult part of working abroad is discerning whether to stay, when to leave or to go back home. I have faced this crossroads more than once in the last 2 years. My choice was always to work abroad for the opportunity to be shaped by the world. There is no right or wrong, only trial and error in discovering what’s next.