The relocation process is often stressful and fraught with uncertainty. If you're considering relocation as an option, here are a few things you should pay attention to beforehand so you can settle into your new country with minimal stress.
Where To Start?
Most countries are quite different from one another (even those located within the EU). They have diverse requirements, attitudes, etc., so you should start by picking both the country and the city where you want to live.
Test the waters, study other expats’ feedback. Your best bet may be saving up some money, researching the country you enjoy, then going there to see what is around and what the people are like.
The more you know about the country and city you want to move to, the less stressful your relocation will be. Once you have your target city narrowed down, you can start searching for a tech job in your soon-to-be home.
Cost Of Living In Your New Locale
When moving to another state or out of your home country, figure out the cost of living in your new locale first – it can vary dramatically from location to location. There are tons of websites available (e.g. Numbeo or Teleport) that you can use to get an idea of your estimated expenses.
If you've already received a specific job offer, assure that the salary you're offered will be sufficient. Remember, each country is unique, so bear in mind the varied costs of living.
For example, while living in San Francisco, one can currently expect to make $100-120K. In Portugal, on the other hand, a more realistic salary might be €20-24K (depending on the specific job). The good news is that you can live comfortably with €2000 per month in Portugal, as food and housing are very cheap. An engineer that might bring in $150k in Chicago or Seattle would net about €50-55K in Berlin. In Spain, developer salaries are not so high either, but compared to what? Developers will rarely make more than €1500-2000 per month, but that salary is considered substantial in Spain and you will be able to live comfortably – all your personal needs will be met. If you want to relocate from the UK to Switzerland, yes your salary will rise significantly, but it won’t make you better off, because you will be spending more. Thankfully, though, most European countries don't have a huge income wage gap for software engineers.
Depending on where you go, it’s quite possible that a lower gross salary could end up being quite reasonable because expenses are lower, apartments are cheaper, you might not need a car, etc. Remember to take other factors into consideration as well, such as quality of life, benefits, tax advantages, advancement opportunities, etc.
Make Sure You Know Exactly What Your Relocation Package Entails
Another thing you should pay close attention to is what your future employer will and won’t offer in terms of relocation support. The offers you receive might differ to some degree. Some companies hiring international talent can only cover basic expenses such as visa/paperwork and flight tickets, while others can offer their potential employees much more advanced relocation assistance. This is generally dependent on the size and age of the company in question.
Is English Enough To Live And Work Abroad?
Language is also something to be taken into account, as it varies greatly from country to country (both the languages spoken and how common multilingualism is). In most cases, there’s no need to worry about the local language. You will be able to get a great tech job in many countries by being fluent in English only. However, there are exceptions, and how easily you can get a job and carry on daily life will be affected as a result.
Let’s say, for example, you’re thinking about joining a new project either in Berlin or Copenhagen.
You can get many jobs in both Denmark and Germany speaking only English, but in Denmark you can also do almost everything else in English (all government agencies speak English, most forms are bilingual, banks and doctors’ offices all do English, etc.). In Germany, on the other hand, the civil service and even doctors generally expect you to interact with them in German. Not that you shouldn’t also learn some Danish in Denmark, but how critical it is to quickly become proficient in the national language(s) varies a lot between countries.
So, with that in mind, it’s a good idea to check the EF English Proficiency Index before choosing your next work destination abroad.
Either way, if you want to fully integrate into your new country, you’ll need to learn the language (though, many haven't and manage to do just fine).
Bonus tip: Do learn some of the native language of your target country before you apply. Having that on your resume and being able to handle small talk during the interview demonstrates that you are serious about staying in your new country.
While each country is a little different when it comes to visas, generally speaking, being sponsored by a company is all you need to acquire one. So, your first step should be to find an employer that is willing to sponsor your application for a work permit.
What If You Don’t Have Formal IT/CS Education?
Of course things like a university degree and work experience in your field will make your job hunt easier. In some situations, it will be very hard, nearly impossible, to secure a job with relocation without a combination of prerequisite education and on-the-job experience. However, there are also a number of overseas companies which don’t consider the lack of a formal degree as an obstacle to hiring, and they would sponsor a work visa. For example, in the Netherlands, it isn’t essential for a “highly skilled migrant” visa to have a formal education in IT. This is also the case in places like Denmark, Ireland, etc.
The hardest part about landing a tech job abroad is finding one that won't low ball you because you might lack formal schooling.
Note: If you are passionate about technology and programming, don’t stop at university. It will be tough to compete with other candidates if you rest on your laurels. Do your own side projects, get a GitHub account to display your skills, work internships, attend meetups, and network to gain an advantage.
And last, but not the least, ensure your significant others are on board with your decision to move before you start the relocation process. You should try making use of services like Relocate or whoishiring.io to help organize all the information you'll need to know about relocating, then make a convincing case to your family and friends that your decision is the right one.