I want to move internationally - and keep my job
February 26, 2020 7:09 PM   Subscribe

Have you worked for a large multinational corporation and engineered an international transfer between offices for yourself (i.e. the idea for the move was yours and you successfully/unsuccessfully convinced The Powers That Be to go along with it)? Please tell me about it!

Background: a couple years ago I moved 1000 miles from my hometown to BigCity to work at the head office of BigCorp. I like my job and BigCity is fine, but for various reasons I can't see myself settling here for good and would very much rather be in Hometown, where I have a strong network of family and friends. BigCorp has a small satellite office in Hometown.

As it stands, my job is such that I definitely can't just pick up and work from anywhere, but I'm thinking medium/long-term, it's possible that I could bend my responsibilities to be more conducive to remote work, or just up and try to transfer to a team in Hometown the next time they have an opening. I figure it's worth a shot, since Plan B is to just stay here for a while longer, and then quit and move back with my BigCorp resume to try and find a job in Hometown anyway.

Here are a few questions as prompts, but really I'm interested in any anecdotes around this topic!
  1. How did you broach the subject with your boss(es), and how receptive were they to it (vs thinking you were about to quit and move away anytime)?
  2. 2. Did you have to significantly shift the type of work you did, or were you able to stay on the same team and work remotely?
  3. How long did the whole process take?
I realize that BigCorps all have their own idiosyncrasies and your experience doesn't necessarily generalize to what mine might be, but all the same I would like to hear from people who have tried to do this before. (Note: the wording of this question is focused on office-to-office moves but I would also be interested in hearing from people who transitioned from office to remote/work from home, as long as the team you ended up on was still based in an office elsewhere and not 100% remote.) Thanks!
posted by btfreek to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It sounds like Hometown and BigCity are in different countries. But you’re authorized to work in the place you want to go already, right?

I requested a temporary (less than 6 months) move to my prior employer’s office in another country when my spouse was going to that country to work for a short period. Asking initially was very awkward because I had no idea how it would be received. My immediate bosses said they’d think about and then coincidentally got a request from the office in the other country asking for help because of a temporary staffing need. If that hadn’t happened, it probably wouldn’t have worked out. But because of that, it changed from them doing me a favor to me doing them a favor (sort of). I did some work for the local team in my new office and some for my old team. My work can easily be done remotely. What do you know about the needs of the office in Hometown?
posted by rustcellar at 7:51 PM on February 26, 2020

I have been investigating this myself and talked to a lot of other people at my large corp who have done this.

In general, remote work from other countries is not allowed. If you are going to regularly work in a foreign country, you probably need to be paid in that country (in other words, your company needs to comply with local laws about taxation, wages, vacation, etc). If your company has an office there, it means an actual transfer is probably needed rather than just remote-working from the other office.

At least at my company and many similar ones, this is a fairly big/official process, but not at all uncommon. You are often technically leaving BigCompanyCountryA and joining BigCompanyCountryB. It sometimes can reset things like vacation days (here I would get a payout for my current vacation time and thne start accruing under Country B's policy).

However, this is basically all HR/payment stuff. In my company, it's quite possible to keep your same responsibilities and team and move to a different country. It's just the paperwork / where you get paid / etc stuff that changes. [Unless of course you are ALSO changing teams/departments]. A very large percentage of teams are split across countries, so "which country you work in" and "which team you work for" are completely separate facts.
posted by thefoxgod at 7:57 PM on February 26, 2020

Does your particular bigcorp have rotational programs where you can try a different-but-related position in any office where said position is available? And then stay?

Men at my bigcorp routinely move to stay with their wives as they do medical residency. (ok "men" = four of my friends / acquaintances) Sometimes they have to find a team working on a different product, but usually the transition seems to be ok.
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:42 PM on February 26, 2020

This is sort of how I ended up in London.
I worked for MegaCorp. I searched for internal positions of the same title and responsibilities. Exactly the same everything, just a different team. Found one in England. Applied. Got offer. Accepted. They paid for my move. Honestly, it was as straightforward as that and it ALL happened in about a month or so. I didn't even tell my boss back at my original job until I got the offer, same as any other new job. Their reaction was delighted for me.

Some particulars about my circumstance that are probably relevant:
- This was around 2006. At this time MegaCorp was very well funded and despite the fact that I was just a medium level technically skilled worker, I got quite a decent relocation package. I think relocation packages are much rarer these days, so don't make the move contingent on getting that.
- Despite being well funded as a larger company, my local office was having threats of downsizing. So I was going from remote office to head office (I mean, remote office still had like 7,000 people). I think this made the company keen to 'prioritise' my re-employment at another office as it was cheaper to keep me and my skills than to make me redundant and lose me to a potential competitor? I don't know, this part is speculation.
- It was easier for companies to to sponsor work visas back then. Plus the fact that I already worked for them, they could reasonably state that I had unique skills that they could not find locally.

It doesn't sound like you're even moving countries? I think transferring to the remote office in a similar role is very possible, as soon as there is an opening.

Petitioning to move you there as a remote worker will be more difficult and I almost wouldn't bother asking. There's just a lot more overhead and management they probably don't want to concern themselves with when it has very little benefit to them. Plus it opens up a can of worms when other employees will be asking to work remotely too. Why should you be an exception? Not to be snarky, but serious question. If you can't answer why you are a unique case for the company to jump through hoops to accommodate your location preference, don't bother asking them to come up with reasons themselves.

But if there is an opening for something suitable for you in another team or department, I would just apply. Being an existing employee will be attractive, particular one with "head office experience". Theoretically Head Office shouldn't take it too personally. They can backfill your position easier than the remote office and it's better to retain talent within the wider company. MegaCorps have the advantage of being a bit more objective and business like about this sort of thing and internal transfers probably happen more often than you think.

As for giving your boss a heads up, Ask A Manager suggests that you do. Second question here. And depending on their application systems, they may be notified anyway and you don't want them to find out not from you without any context. I think when you apply you can be quite honest about your reasons - wanting to build your life back in hometown, miss your network, etc. If you find a position where it would actually even be a promotion for you, even better! These are all very reasonable motivations and only the craziest bosses would take it personally.
posted by like_neon at 1:31 AM on February 27, 2020

Yeah, the "new job with BigCorp in Hometown" is going to be much easier than "mostly same job in Hometown". there doesn't necessarily have to be a current opening there, you can go to your boss and say that you are interested in relocating, and to ask them to put out some feelers to see if there are any opportunities coming up in that office.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:05 AM on February 27, 2020


As in, find out what the Hometown office is working on and get to know the people there. At least by email or video conference. Cold-ping (is that a word?) some people in the Hometown office who work on the same kind of things you do or you have something in common with and say you're from BigCity and just curious what kind of work they're doing there. I'll bet someone will talk to you, maybe go out to lunch with a group, maybe introduce you to their boss. Maybe there's someone in Hometown who really wants to move to BigCity which may not be a one-for-one trade but at least you can help each other out. I'll bet there's more people who want to move up to BigCity than down to Hometown, so you may be a hot commodity for a Hometown manager. At a minimum it'll help you know how to position yourself to be attractive prospect for them. Maybe they'll give you tips on upcoming openings. Maybe they'll even create an opening tailored for you.

Oh and, if it were me, I probably wouldn't tell my boss about all this until you actually make some progress towards an offer. It always changes the dynamic when your boss knows you're interested in leaving and makes them question your loyalty even if unconsciously. But maybe I've had more evil bosses than you.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 7:17 AM on February 27, 2020

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