Expatriating to Asia with a work from home job: how do I get a visa?
September 11, 2013 9:21 PM   Subscribe

I have two fantastic work from home jobs that involve frequent international travel. Both of my employers are U.S. companies and I am a U.S. citizen. I want to continue working, but relocate my base to Asia for a year or two. I'd prefer to live in: Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Japan or Bangkok, but am open to other options. I do not want to get a local job, but to keep my current gigs. So, the question is: how can I get permission to stay without a local job? I have plenty of money coming in, but I won't be able to rent an apartment on a tourist visa. What are my visa/immigration options? Any advice for the above listed destinations or other fine cities in Asia, would be much appreciated. I have more than a decade of long-term travel experience in Asia and speak Japanese and basic Vietnamese, FWIW.
posted by dead_ to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
In Thailand it's really common for expats who do this to do "visa runs". These are trips every three months or so to a neighboring country so they can leave and re-enter which renews your visa. It's so common there are many agencies that offer this service to different destinations in southeast asia.
posted by seesom at 9:49 PM on September 11, 2013

How cool, I am expatriating to Africa with a work from home job. :) I guess the visa run idea that seesom suggested is close to my recommendation, except in Ghana they have you fill out an application to extend your trip after 90 days. That's if you're there on a tourist visa. I was going to suggest you find out if that's an option, but seesom's suggestion seems more location appropriate. Best of luck!
posted by Cybria at 9:54 PM on September 11, 2013

I'm not sure how possible this would be in Japan. You could self-sponsor yourself for a visa of some sort, but that would then mean declaring income and paying Japanese income taxes, which in turn would set off the nightmarish overseas IRS paperwork American expats are doomed to live with.

I'm pretty sure you could find a place to live in Japan on a tourist visa, but as you probably know, if you leave the country after 3 months to get another visa, there is no guarantee they will let you back in.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:55 PM on September 11, 2013

The economies in these places (perhaps with the exception of Japan) are amenable to less than official rent solutions. Especially if you pay in advance, say quarterly.
posted by flippant at 10:25 PM on September 11, 2013

What about Hong Kong? There's a points-based immigration system called the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme you might be able to qualify under. There's no "self-employment" visa as such, though.

HK has people from all over and comparatively free movement of people in and out. There are LOADS of expats here and English is the only language you'll realistically need in day-to-day life. HK is super-efficient and low-hassle for business as well. I can't imagine that there simply aren't people here who do what you do.
posted by mdonley at 10:32 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've done the visa run in Japan for nearly two years. I don't know if I'd entirely recommend it, but it worked for me. I did once have a private chat with an immigration official on entrance, but that was because I checked "business" on my entry form for some reason. It was a pleasant conversation, I was let in and never given any further trouble. I did usually spend at least a week outside Japan when I reset my Visa.

I stayed in a business apartment/hotel. The rates were reasonable when paid by the month. It was nice, conveniently located, and they don't need a visa. It didn't cost too much more than a comparable apartment in the same neighborhood and had a small kitchen and laundry in room.

At the time, my hotel address, my passport, and a credit card was enough to get a mobile phone contract, though I think they might have tightened that up.

For mail I set up a post box in the US and had them forward anything important. (Though Earth Class Mail is a better deal now.)

My US bank let me withdraw foreign funds at market rates without a surcharge. It can save you a bunch of money, so if your bank doesn't do it, look around for one that does.

So that's the kind of running around you'll be in for if you do it on a tourist visa. Other visa types are a lot more work. For Japan you might be able to get either a Cultural Study visa or an Artist visa, but I don't know enough to say if they would work. Cultural study visas are incredibly interesting, but can be hard to find someone to sponsor one.
posted by Ookseer at 10:32 PM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for comments so far. I am hoping to avoid the "visa run" situation, but I am aware of that option.

Regarding Japan -- I actually had a cultural study visa about 8 years ago, but don't think that is an option for me this time as I was sponsored by a group in Tokyo.
posted by dead_ at 12:45 AM on September 12, 2013

If your US companies have a Malaysian branch or representative office, it's fairly easy to apply for a Professional Visit Pass from the immigration, BUT it needs someone local to apply for it. You could technically have it done once you're in KL, iirc, but you'll need to pay a penalty for the change in visa status. I've never applied for more than a year, but it's possible, and they don't really do spot checks on that sort of work permit. Immigration is a mess though, so you may have to cough up the fees to have a local work agency arrange it for you.

Generally, it's not hard to rent a property - the landlords are more concerned with long-term lets than your visa status.
posted by cendawanita at 2:31 AM on September 12, 2013

What about Hong Kong?

For a US passport holder, there is visa-free access to Hong Kong. For a no-frills stay, it's good for 90 days.
posted by Mister Bijou at 3:33 AM on September 12, 2013

Note: Visa runs are not possible in all countries, and may have been tolerated as loopholes by some due to technological reasons. But new technology for tracking number of days stayed in a country is making those loopholes close for some.
posted by eas98 at 6:54 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

there is visa-free access to Hong Kong

For tourists and other short-term visitors, yes - but to set up a local phone, rent a flat, or do lots of other things you need a Hong Kong ID, something only given to people here with long-term visas. It's also very hard to get any kind of credit without one, so banking can be difficult as well.
posted by mdonley at 7:22 AM on September 12, 2013

I was based out of Manila, Philippines for a bit over two years during my last job, and found it possible to extend my US tourist visa to six months for a nominal fee, possibly longer though I didn't personally need a stretch longer than six months.

I didn't have any hassles renting a flat, either; I explained my situation and paid the necessary deposits and fees and everything was fine. You may enlist the help of someone local to smooth things out but in Manila it's generally possible to work out some arrangement.
posted by a halcyon day at 8:20 AM on September 12, 2013

« Older How do I un-stick a multi-hinged door?   |   Novels in 1st and 3rd person Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.