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4 Types of Work Visas to Help You Move Abroad

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Applying to jobs in overseas career portals rarely works.

Part of the reason why is because employers do not want to deal with the hassle of moving someone over from another country and having to apply for work visas for them.

There are work visas you can obtain directly from the government without involving employers, but they're not the easiest thing to get. Let's explore the 4 main types of work visas, and hopefully by the end of this article, you will have a better understanding on how to get one.

4 Types of Work Visas to Help You Move Abroad


4 Types of Work Visas to Help You Move Abroad

First of all, before we get to the types of work visas, you need to understand what work visa sponsorship means.

What Is a Work Visa Sponsorship?

When browsing job listings, you may have come across the term "work visa sponsorship". If a company offers a work visa sponsorship, it means:

  • They are open to hiring someone from another country, and
  • They will apply for a work visa for you from the government.

This brings us to the first type of work visa:

1. Employer-Restricted Work Visa

If you obtain a work visa as a result from an employer sponsorship, you would typically have an Employer-Restricted Work Visa.

As someone on an employer-restricted work visa:

  • Your stay in the country is very much tied to your employment in the company. If you resign or are let go, you may have to leave the country unless you can get another visa somewhere else.

  • This also means you have one less advantage in getting a better salary or position—you can’t just get a “better” job without risking having to leave the country. You still can, but you have to be extra tactful.

There are 3 factors that makes a company willing to sponsor someone's work visa:

  • You have exceptional or in-demand skills they have a hard time getting from within their own country.
  • How much the recruiter or interviewer understands visa matters. Sometimes you will come across recruiters who don't quite understand it, and they don't even want to try to.
  • Whether the company has the resources (HR and legal team) who can help with visa matters.

To get a work visa sponsorship, you need to convince a prospective employer twice.

You need to convince them that:

  • You are qualified for the job itself, and
  • You are worth sponsoring a visa for.

But this isn't where it ends. A lot of people think if they can get a company abroad to hire them, that would be the end of it. But there is a government component—the government needs to issue you a work visa, and if they deem your job position as something that can easily be fulfilled by the local workforce, you might still not get the visa.

Here are 3 tips to get an employer-sponsored work visa:

  • In job search websites, search for "visa sponsorship + [job title]".
  • If an employer explicitly specifies that they do not offer visa sponsorship, move on.
  • If you find it hard to get a visa sponsorship, it's time to improve your skills. In many cases, you have to be an exceptional applicant or have an in-demand skillset to get a visa sponsorship.

Will it be easier to get a work visa sponsorship if you travel in person to your destination country?

In most cases, no.

If an employer doesn't offer a work visa sponsorship, it does not matter if you can travel to the country at your own expense, because what matters here is that you do not have a work authorization from the government as a non-citizen of that country.

Some employers simply do not want to deal with the bureaucracy of applying for a work visa from the government.

Is it easier to get a work visa in a neighbouring country?

Short answer: Possibly, but not always.

For example, take a look at NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), also known as the USMCA, which is a trade agreement between United States, Mexico, and Canada.

These are neighbouring countries that do not share a freedom of movement arrangement, but they do make it easier for citizens to move, live, and work in another neighbouring country.

Under NAFTA / USMCA, there is a provision on the Professional Visa (TN Visa) that allows Mexican 🇲🇽 and Canadian 🇨🇦 citizens a much easier access to work authorizations in the United States 🇺🇸 for qualifying professions.

The TN Visa is a temporary visa, but:

  • It is easier to get compared to other U.S. work permits, and
  • It allows unlimited renewals.

Because of this, it is easier for Canadian and Mexican employees to secure a position with U.S. employers compared to citizens of other countries (as long as it is a qualifying occupation for a TN visa).

U.S. employers are also more likely to hire Canadian or Mexican employees under this visa scheme because its outcome is more predictable and less risky.

2. Open Work Visas

Now, if you have an Open Work Visa, you would technically be in a better position compared to other work visa holders because:

  • Your residency in the country is not tied to your employer.
  • If you resign or are let go, your ability to remain in the country is not affected.
  • You have better bargaining power over your current employer, and against other potential employers as well. This is because you can switch employers without needing to worry about the risk of having to leave the country.

Being on an open work visa gives you more freedom, where if you are unhappy in a job, you can leave for another without risking having to leave the country.

Granted, open work visas are not too easy to come by, and not all countries offer it. Here are 3 of the most common types of open work visas:

  • Post-Graduation Work Visas or Job Seeker Visas
    These are work visas issued in some countries to international students after they graduate. Depending on the country, holders of this visa can work for any company they want and employers do not necessarily need to be involved in the visa process at all.

  • Dependent Visas
    These are visas issued to spouses or children of individuals on another visa. For example, a married couple moves abroad and the husband holds an employer-restricted work visa. If the wife of the husband holds a dependent visa attached to the husband's visa, this may allow her to work for any employer (though rules regarding this varies from one country to another).

3. Remote Work Visa or Digital Nomad Visa

With the surging popularity of online businesses and remote work, several countries around the world have begun offering Remote Work Visas or Digital Nomad Visas. These are visas that allow you to work for a foreign business or a foreign employer.

You can learn more about this visa here: 5 Things to Know About Digital Nomad Visas

4. Occupation-Restricted Work Visa

Occupation-Restricted Work Visas are quite uncommon, but they exist.

This visa is a combination of an Employer-Restricted Work Visa and an Open Work Visa. Essentially, with this visa, you can switch employers without having to risk leaving the country, but you cannot change your occupation type unless you also apply to change your work visa.

For example, Canada 🇨🇦 offers this type of visa for Home Child Care Providers or Home Support Workers.

There are also variations of this visa where its holders are not technically restricted to working in a certain occupation, but if they do, it will help them remain in the country for the long term. For instance:

  • Germany 🇩🇪 issues 18-month work visas for eligible non-EU graduates during which time, holders should find an employment related to their field of study in order to be eligible for permanent residency later on.

  • Holders of the visa can technically work in other non-related occupations, but this will impact their ability to reside for the longer term after their 18-month work visas expire.

Over and Out

Getting a work visa can be a challenging process, but there may be more than one option available to you. Understanding the variations of work visas should help you get a better idea on what exactly to research on your destination country, so you can take the next step forward.

Here's a summary of the 4 types of work visas explained above:

    1. Employer-Restricted Work Visa, meaning you can only work for the employer who sponsored you for the visa.

    2. Open Work Visa, a visa that allows you to work for any employer in the country without company sponsorship.

    3. Remote Work Visa or Digital Nomad Visa, a visa that lets you work in another country for a foreign business.

    4. Occupation-Restricted Work Visa, meaning you can work for any employer but in specific occupations only.

    Want to Move Abroad?

    Learn about the cons of moving abroad, and how to get a visa if you think moving is right for you. More about this here.