American guy and British girl - how and where to work and travel together?
August 2, 2009 7:43 AM   Subscribe

American guy and British girl - how and where to work and travel together? Looking for advice / tales of experience

My girlfriend and I met while traveling but for the past few months have been living together in her home town in England. We'd now like to go out and see the world again. Ideally we'd like to spend 3-6 months in a given place, working and living there and exploring the nearby area, and then move somewhere new and repeat. We're open to most places where the temporary work/live situation would be profitable and the place is itself is interesting / located near other places of interest

Starting to do the job search now, a big problem seems to be that as a UK/EU citizen she can feasibly obtain work visas to quite a few more countries than I can. This isn't necessarily a problem - I still have savings left and can possibly make more money doing freelance work (I'm good with computers/web programming). However, many/most of the ideal temp jobs seem to involve working/living in the same place(e.g. ski lodge, water sports camp, etc.). The problem is I wouldn't be allowed to work(and therefore live) anywhere paying "above the table" because of the visa issue

She doesn't really want to spend all the time working bar jobs - so we're looking for a situation where she can do some sort of interesting/engaging but largely unskilled work(she has sales/administrative skills, but it seems unlikely to find relevant jobs that would want temp workers), and I can either live with her in cheap accommodations or "onsite" in provided lodging, working under the table or not working

Other than that, anywhere (reasonably safe) in the world is OK - we're doing this for the experience

Too much to ask in the midst of a global recession?
posted by crayz to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When I was trying to work this out myself (as an American with a Brit partner) New Zealand came up as hands down the easiest place for both of us to get work visas. We never did it, but when I looked into this a year ago you could apply and receive permission to work/live there for, I think, a year or so (depending) without going to the country/lining up a job first. Might be worth checking into.
posted by Polychrome at 7:55 AM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding NZ. plus, it's gorgeous and a great jumping off point for more travel in Southeast Asia...and, for that matter, the rest of Asia...should you eventually be inclined to wander that way.
posted by squasha at 8:18 AM on August 2, 2009

Possibly not the answer you are - but worth stating since it would solve many of your bureaucratic problems rapidly: get married. That opens up either the UK or USA as somewhere where you can both work. The right to work in the rest of the EU for you would be dependent on getting citizenship of a European country and thus would be a few years off. (I am a Brit with an American partner living in the UK).
posted by rongorongo at 8:21 AM on August 2, 2009

Work visas are always tough to come by, even in relatively buoyant economic times as most countries (the US included) prefer to offer jobs first to folks that were born there.

That being said, is there any chance of getting married?

Realise this wasn't mentioned, but speaking as a long term American ex-pat (left in1997), you're going to have far more problems than her and not just with getting into a country.

For example, you're probably here in England on a six month tourist visa. They are seriously tightening up on those things, fully aware that lots of folks overstay, intentionally or otherwise.

You don't really want to be overstaying your UK visa as they may ban you from re-entry for a year or more. You won't find out until you leave, and you may be detained for a day or two while they investigate to insure you weren't working while here. They've been known to demand bank records, and if any money was paid into your account from employment while you were in the UK they'll force you to repay it to the government. And possibly with penalties.

The same problem applies to lots of other countries where you two might end up. Due to somewhat to the global recession but mostly to the last occupant of the White House, many nations are seriously cracking down on US tourist visas, either making them far more difficult to obtain or cutting back on duration.

Your girl friend will have lots more flexibility here, and in many countries the old trick of leaving simply to re-enter twenty four hours later with a fresh tourist visa no longer works, as some friends of mine found out the hard way in Croatia recently.

So can you just avoid the problem entirely?
posted by Mutant at 8:37 AM on August 2, 2009

It may possible for you to live and work in any EU country through the rights of your British partner (I assume you are not married). However, you're going to need to do a lot more research then the answer I'm about to sketch out.

You probably already know that EU citizens have Four Feedoms vested in their EU citizenship. One of then, the freedom of movement and establishment, allows EU citizens to work and live in EU member states. Great for your partner, but not so great for you.

However, EU citizens also have the right to bring their family members with them as they move freely about the EU (think about how restricting it would be if EU citizens could move around, but they couldn't bring family members). This right even extends to family members that are non-EU citizens. Essentially, your rights flow from those of your partner. She can move around. She can take her family with her.

The question really is whether you qualify as a family member. You're going to want to look at Directive 2004/38/EC which defines a family member as basically a married spouse, a legally recognized domestic partner or a child. You don't seem to fall under that category. However, there is a second category of extended family members that can include unmarried partners in a "durable relationship." Here's some thoughts on what it means to be in a durable relationship.

You're probably wondering what this all means -- can you travel around with your British partner through her EU citizenship rights or not? Ultimately, the answer is that I don't know. I hope somebody else will come along and flesh out my answer with real life experience.

If you're really serious, I recommend meeting with a fully-qualified lawyer (which I am not yet) who will be able to properly advise you on your rights. PM me if you'd like to discuss further.
posted by jrholt at 8:38 AM on August 2, 2009

You won't find out until you leave, and you may be detained for a day or two while they investigate to insure you weren't working while here.

When I lived in the UK up until a year ago there was no passport control upon exiting the country. Has this changed? Overstaying is a bad thing though, and can land you in lots of trouble—don't do it.
posted by grouse at 8:43 AM on August 2, 2009

Response by poster: jrholt - your idea about the looks interesting. It looks like a lot would be up to the individual country we applied to and how well we were able to present the partner argument. It's definitely something I'll look into further - thanks

Mutant - Thanks, I was considering overstaying my UK visa, but hadn't researched the consequences much yet. Sounds like it'd be a bad idea


Getting married is probably out. We certainly aren't at a point in the relationship where we'd want to get married, and doing so for the legal convenience alone, while an interesting idea, is not what I think either of us want right now

My general idea was even though I couldn't get a work visa, I could probably get 3-month travel visas to most places, and perhaps tell immigration that I was using savings (which is true, and I can show bank balances) or go back to the US from time to time - there's a legal company (LLC) there I can say I work for, but I don't know what sort of tax situation that would create. In any case once in I could work under the table or simply live there. I don't necessarily need the ability to legally work, just the ability to legally stay for a while and the practical ability to work (locally or online) and live with my girlfriend
posted by crayz at 8:54 AM on August 2, 2009

I'd say stay out of Europe and the US, because it's going to be really difficult for both of you to have any sort of "equal" status.

Mexico is probably the easiest option - it's cheaper, you both get 6 months/180 days entry on normal tourist visas (which is extendable), and it's easy to convert a tourist visa into something else, like a work visa. She and you could undergo the same process. And hey, you can drive there!

Under-the-table work would probably be easy enough to get, and if you were freelance-teaching English part-time (at businesses, perhaps?) in a medium-sized city, you'd be able to support yourselves a bit.

You could also both take up Spanish, which is super-useful if you return to the States and want to work in, well, any field, really.

The Instituto Nacional de Migración has all kinds of things to read about this; start with the "topics of interest" at right on this page.
posted by mdonley at 9:18 AM on August 2, 2009

Also - look at places that haven't entered the EU yet - most of the Balkans and Turkey - as well as working holiday visas for New Zealand and Australia.
posted by mdonley at 9:21 AM on August 2, 2009

grouse -- "When I lived in the UK up until a year ago there was no passport control upon exiting the country. Has this changed? Overstaying is a bad thing though, and can land you in lots of trouble—don't do it."

Yeh, exit controls at UK borders are definitely inconsistent, and something that you'd not notice unless entering and exiting the country regularly. While I was in banking I was in and out every week, and sometimes the same flights departing from the same airport got checked and other times not. I'm not sure if this is due to funding or its intentional so folks won't know precisely where passport examinations are taking place.

Regardless, according to The Home Office [ .pdf ]:

Effective 1 April 2008, there will be an automatic ban placed on overstayers once they leave the UK.

7.25. Applicants who have been refused entry clearance after having used deception in their applications will have any future applications they make refused for ten years. Other immigration offenders (other than those who overstayed for 28 or fewer days and left at their own expense) will be refused for the following periods
  1. One year if, following their breach, they left the UK voluntarily at their own expense
  2. Five years if, following their breach, they left the UK voluntarily at public expense
  3. Ten years if they were removed or deported from the UK following their breach
  4. Apparently what really angers Immigration is if folks do things that are intended to obscure the total length of time they've been in the country e.g., entering the UK via Dublin then taking the ferry to England (Irish Immigration upon entry and apparently the ferries are very lax), leaving the reentering a sort while later. Any time the economy gets into the toilet they start to tighten up on the borders.

posted by Mutant at 9:26 AM on August 2, 2009

Canada? It's worked pretty well so far for the Scottish me and USA ms scruss.
posted by scruss at 9:58 AM on August 2, 2009

You definitely do not want to overstay your visa.

Also, not sure if you or your girlfriend are students or recent grads, but have you looked into the BUNAC program? It's a fantastic option for both Americans and Brits to work/live in Commonwealth countries. I took advantage of the BUNAC program twice to work/live in the UK for 6 month periods.
posted by jrholt at 1:10 PM on August 2, 2009


If neither of you has Canadian relatives, or skills that are in demand, it's unlikely that Canada is an option. I think Brits may be able to do a working holiday in Canada.
posted by oaf at 1:16 PM on August 2, 2009

Neither of these are particularly "adventurous" options, which it sounds like you're looking for, but:

I'm Irish and my husband, though not american, lived in the US when we met. I got one of those 18-month "internship" J-1 visas and then worked connections to get a H1B, and ended up staying in the States for about six years with few issues. I guess sponsorship may be harder to come by now but the working visas are still around.

Then before we got married we decided to move to Canada - it's not something you can do overnight, but if you're fluent english speakers, college educated, young and have a few years work experience to show, check if you'd pass the points test to get permanent residence. It took about a year for us to get approved. Canada's a large and fun place to live.
posted by jamesonandwater at 1:54 PM on August 2, 2009

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