Finding a Job Overseas

Emily Matchar‘s report of many, including professors, seeking employment overseas:

After applying for 279 jobs over two years, my husband finally got the offer he’d been hoping for: a well-paid position teaching philosophy at a respected university. We should have been thrilled. There was just one little thing.

The job was in Hong Kong.

“I feel like we’re being deported from our own country,” my husband said.

“It’ll be an adventure,” I replied, trying to sound game.

“I wasn’t looking for an adventure,” he said. “I was just looking for a job.”

We didn’t know we would be part of a wave of educated young Americans heading overseas in search of better employment opportunities. According to State Department estimates, 6.3 million Americans are studying or working abroad, the highest number ever recorded. What’s more, the percentage of Americans ages 25 to 34 who are planning to move overseas has quintupled in two years, from less than 1 percent to 5.1 percent. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 40 percent are interested in moving abroad, up from 12 percent in 2007.

In the past, Americans often took foreign jobs for the adventure or because their career field demanded overseas work. Today, these young people are leaving because they can’t find jobs in the United States. They’re leaving because the jobs they do find often don’t offer benefits such as health insurance. They’re leaving because the gloomy atmosphere of the American economy makes it hard to break through with a new innovative idea or business model. “This is a huge movement,” says Bob Adams, president and chief executive of America Wave, an organization that studies overseas relocation.

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  • Joe Canner

    This raises an interesting question, one that arises every so often and which will no doubt arise again, perhaps even soon: should foreign-earned income be tax-exempt? (Currently the first $100,000 or so of foreign income is exempt.) In the past it has been argued, among other reasons, that people who work overseas are doing a useful service (aid workers, teachers, etc.) and should not be taxed. However, if people are going overseas because they can’t find work here (or similar reasons), that argument starts to disappear and the folks in Congress are going to start wondering if they are missing out on a source of tax revenue.

  • Jeremy B.

    Joe – We’re the only country in the world that taxes its citizens living abroad. The entire argument that anyone living in another country should be taxed solely by virtue of citizenship is an odd one at best. At least unless your purpose is to force them back into the country or to renounce their citizenship anyway.

    I actually think this is a definite sign of the decline of American supremacy, but ultimately, will be a good thing. It’s striking how living abroad tends to change one’s perspective on things.

  • JoeyS

    My cousin is a professor of philosophy at the University of Beirut for that very reason. He previously taught at the American University in Cairo but left a few months before the revolution.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    It’s a good thing. Speaking as one who accepted a job 9500 miles away from where he used to live.

  • PLTK

    The main reason those of us living overseas are exempt from taxes is because of double taxation. We generally pay the national and local taxes wherever we live. And if we are overseas enough to be exempt from US taxes on that first portion of our income, we obviously aren’t a heavy load on the U.S. infrastructure, although such things as military and diplomatic expenses could be counted as still supporting (or hindering!) us.

  • Joe Canner

    Jeremy #2: I have my doubts as to whether taxing overseas income over $100,000/year causes people to come home or renounce their citizenship. Perhaps if the threshold were lowered or eliminated, you might see more of that, depending on how many people there are who work overseas just for the tax benefits. Anyway, I think at least some taxation might be appropriate in recognition of the State Department services that are provided to US citizens abroad, as well as *all* of the services the government provides so that one has a decent home to come back to.

    Perhaps more to the point is the fact that in many cases one can get a tax credit for taxes paid to the country of residence. I suspect this works out well for most people since tax rates are typically higher overseas.

  • Jeremy B.

    I lived outside the US for a number of years and made less than the requisite $100k. It’s a huge pain in the butt as you have to file US taxes even if you have no US holdings, use state department services or set foot on US soil during that year. Nevermind that you’re going to need a tax accountant that is able to navigate the intricacies of your country of residence’ AND US’ tax code.

    The renouncing thing happens more often than you’d think. The IRS sent a bunch of letters to people living abroad a couple of years ago essentially threatening audit and tax evasion charges even though they hadn’t lived in the US for a very long time. Renounce or face felony charges while living in a country with an extradition treaty? Yeah, I’m out.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Jeremy B – there was one case highlighted here in Canada: They wanted to go after a lady in her 70’s. Her parents lived in SK, close to the US border, and when she made an early appearance, they had to rush her to the nearest hospital, over the border in North Dakota. 3 Days later, she came home. But because she was born in the US, and never filed taxes there, she was in trouble… even as a Canadian citizen.

    I kid you not.

  • Patrick

    If I worked outside of here, I’d prefer paying taxes to where I live personally, they would be the ones I would be using their facilities, not the US.

    Canada’s unemployment rate is 4.5% and they are begging for English speakers to work in Alberta if anyone is seeking employment . Ft MacMurray is a super boom town. Cold, but, the opportunities are awesome.