Software development jobs overseas for non-rockstars.
November 8, 2017 7:27 AM   Subscribe

I am an apartment-dwelling 30-something web developer working for a boring Fortune 500 company in the midwest. I've recently been re-assessing my life, which is sans partner or children at the moment and likely to remain so for awhile, and thinking I need a change. This is probably going to involve relocating in the US, but I got to thinking... if I was just willing to broadly move basically anywhere in the world that's interesting and is generally safe and politically stable, how hard would it actually be for me to get a job overseas?

I've been either in survival mode or trying to plan my life around someone else's needs for a lot of years now. I'm not necessarily looking to move permanently, but I'd like to be able to look back on my life in 40 years and think that I actually did some interesting things. I'm no longer in contact with any living family and most of my friends are on the internet. I'm kind of risk-averse, but I'd like to have something of a few years of an adventure. I'm not making the kind of money where I can easily save up tons to finance most of it, but I'm in a position where I could be pretty flexible about where/when/how.

So: Is this a silly idea, or would I have some chance of being able to make it happen in a 2-3 year timeframe with relatively up-to-date skills but not a TON of job experience or rockstar qualifications?

If the details matter: I have some Rails/Grails background but I prefer front-end or full-stack JS, I know Vue and I'm working on getting similarly up to speed with React. I'm perfectly adequate at what I do but I'm not going to be somebody's ever heard of, I don't have a big open source background, etc. I don't presently speak any foreign languages but I'm not at all averse to learning one, although I might not be able to get fluent before going. I do not have a CS degree, if that matters. (My undergrad was in accounting.)

I'm thinking primarily about Europe here, but I'd be willing to consider other places if they'd meet similar criteria of being a good travel/cultural experience and safe, in particular as an LGBT person. My company does not have overseas business so relocating through my current employer isn't an option.

Just in writing this all out I keep looking at it and thinking, it would be way simpler to go spend a few years living in a big coastal US city, and that sort of thing is also an option I'm considering, but I figured this was at least worth poking at.
posted by Sequence to Work & Money (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Not an expert, but as far as I recall from other people talking about it, it's not terribly easy to immigrate to European countries. Your best bet would probably be to get hired by a US company that does significant work in/with European countries and then get transferred somewhere via your company.

I'm sure people with more expertise than I have will weigh in.
posted by cooker girl at 8:07 AM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I realize that broadly it's more complicated but the general wisdom is that software developers are more in-demand--if that's not true, it certainly simplifies things.
posted by Sequence at 8:27 AM on November 8, 2017

Funny, I just read a note on this on my intranet -

an article in the New York Times called “The Digital Nomad Life: Combining Work and Travel” that highlighted a company called “Unsettled” which is a new start-up that organizes 30-day co-working experiences around the world for creative people, entrepreneurs and other professionals seeing to combine work, travel and redefining themselves. This is one of a few recent start-ups targeting nomad and mobile workers.
posted by rebent at 8:41 AM on November 8, 2017


Most countries in the west (including Australia and New Zealand) work on a point system.

You are correct IT workers are in demand. Expect the process to take 1-2 years. You also will need cash reserves. Many colleagues have gone through the same thing. Most important is to be realistic - moving to another country is challenging by itself. Given that you have a skill it easier but seriously - take into account what you are doing. Have had friends that regretted the move almost instantly after longing for the comforts taken so easily for granted in your native environment.

Check out Australia for example for there skilled workers immigration platform. It includes requirements and information related on how to apply:
posted by Funmonkey1 at 8:42 AM on November 8, 2017

You could look for something like Peace Corps Response. It's a shorter commitment but you'd have to find something that actually lines up with your work. I wouldn't consider it to be advancing your career but it may scratch an itch.
posted by raccoon409 at 8:54 AM on November 8, 2017

Relevant additional details: I don't care about getting rich but I do have a fairly epic quantity of student loans and so need to be employed making at least enough of a living to be making some progress on those. Also, in general, I have cats and I'm not really up to doing a ton of moving around; I'd prefer to pick one place and relocate for a period of 3-5 years. My lack of connections falls more into the tier of "hermit" than "nomad"; I can pick up and move to a new cave without having too much to miss but I don't want to be doing so repeatedly within the span of a few years.
posted by Sequence at 9:07 AM on November 8, 2017

The tech company that I work for (big one based in the bay area and you have heard of it) has offices around the world and they do hire Americans as new hires to immediately go work in these overseas offices. You do not have to start in one of their US based offices and then transfer, though that is another option. Generally speaking it seems the overseas offices don't pay nearly as well (especially in London) so it's harder for them to fill engineering roles in those offices.

One caveat is I believe the company has to prove they were not able to fill the position with a resident of that overseas country and that hiring an American was the only option. I don't know how much of a bottleneck that is.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:11 AM on November 8, 2017

Is going into business for yourself an viable option? If so, there's the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty. (Profile; someone's personal experience with the application process; application)
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:56 AM on November 8, 2017

Im a software developer and have also been considering something like this for a while. After evaluating a whole host of potential destination countries I settled on New Zealand as my number one emigration pick. They have web developers listed as high skilled labour, so you can skip a lot of the lottery stuff in getting a work permit. Basically you just need to find a company to sponsor your visa and you're good to go. They even have a site setup to help potential candidates get in touch with employers looking for applicants.
posted by KeSetAffinityThread at 3:19 PM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Do you have to work for a company in the country you live in? I mean, I'm one of many, many developers that work remotely for an American institution or company but live abroad. Most if not all of the job-search sites for developers have a 'telecommute/remote' filter to aid your search.
posted by bricoleur at 5:29 PM on November 8, 2017

Software development does indeed open the door wider in many countries. Some caveats:

The hoop-jumping required varies widely by country, from straightforward to so expensive and time consuming that it's hardly worth bothering.

English-only employment is rare in non-English speaking countries, and even then not knowing the local language can be a PITA. So you need either an English speaking country, or you need to make your choice & get serious about learning the language ASAP.

Visiting before you make the jump is a good idea.

If you're looking to bring cats, be aware that moving them to a rabies-free country [ e.g. NZ or Aus ] is time-consuming and expensive - ~ 6 months of anti-rabies treatment before departure, somewhere north of $US5k per cat, plus months of in-country quarantine.

If you can swing it, it's definitely an experience worth doing.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 5:49 PM on November 8, 2017

Look at apify. They’re looking for developers and their office is in the middle of Prague.
posted by bendy at 2:45 AM on November 9, 2017

I've been living in the Netherlands for 10 years, and every company I've worked for has complained about the difficulty of finding software engineers here. In my experience, hiring managers here value 'fit with the team' as much as they do technical prowess, and are pretty skeptical of "rockstars". It also helps if you don't have Silicon Valley-style pay expectations; the average developer salary is about €43k, and I've seen companies turn down Americans who ask for €100k+ because that's what they're used to.

There isn't a point system; if you find a company that wants to hire you, they can do so through the highly-skilled migrant program. This is much less risky than the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty because the employer handles all of the paperwork and all of the fees. They might even help you with relocation cost.

If you have any questions about job-hunting in the NL, send me a MeFiMail.
posted by neushoorn at 2:24 AM on November 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

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