Five Things You Need to be an Overseas Contractor

Five Things You Need to be an Overseas Contractor

For many people, the excitement of traveling to a place like Japan, the opportunity to be immersed in a different culture, the substantial financial benefits, and some of the other perks are too good to pass up, so it seems like a great idea to take their skills overseas, and that typically is a good idea.

Before you board the plane, you will probably need more than a toothbrush. There are also some steps to take before you start looking for a job to help ensure that you get the one you want instead of the position that no one else wanted.

A Sense of Purpose

Why do you want to work overseas? If the honest answer is “more money” or “to get away from my neighbor,” a short-term assignment is probably best because the new car smell wears off very quickly and the yearning for a cheeseburger will quickly supplant the yearning to be in a different place.

If, on the other hand, you want to share your skills with other people and truly make a difference somewhere else, a long-term assignment might be more suitable. There is only so much good you can do in a few weeks.

Many people fall somewhere in between, and that is okay, as well. There are a good deal of temp-to-perm assignments, wherein the first temporary job is more like an extended interview. If you like the position, and your bosses like you, stay. If that is not the case, go home.

A Good Job Source

Many people obtain job satisfaction by answering Internet ads and mailing out resumes. Such tactics demonstrate an initiative that employers like to see. Just be sure you customize your resume and cover letter to each job posting to drive home the point that you want that job as opposed to a job.

Networking is very good, as well. Most people have many more connections than they think, and most people are also willing to go at least somewhat out of their way to do a favor for a friend, or a friend of a friend. If the connection is not too tenuous and the person has some real influence on the decision-making process, go for it.

Security Clearance

Some people place this area a little further down the chronological list, reasoning that an employer will take care of this aspect of the job if necessary. That may be true, but a security clearance also makes you more marketable not only for this job search, but for future job hunts as well. The upside of waiting for a job offer is that your future employer will likely cover the cost, which averages about $1,230 for an Office of Personnel Management investigation.

There is also a time investment. On average, the application takes about four or five hours to complete, most interviews last about an hour, then there is all the miscellaneous time as well. The OPM usually takes about two months to either grant or deny a security clearance, and the waiting time has dropped considerably in the past several years. The clearance will either be:

  • Top Secret (the individual is privy to information which, if disclosed, could gravely damage national security),
  • Secret (seriously damage), or
  • Confidential (damage).

Most people start with the Confidential classification because the investigation is less rigorous, the fees are lower, and the processing time is faster. It is much easier to upgrade a security clearance than it is to obtain one from scratch because most of the groundwork has already been laid.

The Code of Federal Regulations lists the general outline for not only the initial investigation, but also the grounds for adverse action against a security clearance in the future.

Your Travel Plans

The contractor will take care of many travel arrangements, most notably things like work visas and living arrangements during the job. Even if you have a return date, it is normally a good idea to assume that you will be away indefinitely, so make plans accordingly.

Many people believe that the money they earn as overseas contractors is “tax free,” but that is not entirely true. For 2017, the foreign earned income exclusion is $102,100. Contractors must pay U.S. income taxes on anything above that level unless they renounce their citizenship. Many states may tax income above the exclusion as well, even if you have not lived in that state for quite some time.

An Injury Plan

If workers are hurt on the job in the United States, a good doctor is usually just a phone call away. In many cases, injured workers can even select their own doctors under the state’s workers’ compensation laws.

People who are injured overseas have access to a similar system because of the Defense Base Act. Victims who work for a U.S. contractor (narrowly defined as a contract that lists the U.S. government as a party) in an overseas war zone (broadly defined as any country that has a U.S. military base) are eligible for:

  • Lost wages, and
  • No-cost medical treatment.

DBA victims may choose their own doctors.

For more information about your rights under the Defense Base Act, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel.