Whether you are attracted to populated areas like Japan and Italy, isolated places like Diego Garcia and Kwajalein, or hot spots like Iraq or Afghanistan, there are a number of things to consider before you pack your bags.
First and foremost, there is the matter of actually finding a job. Start by asking your current employer if there are any overseas opportunities, or if the company has an ongoing relationship with any foreign contractors. Also, reach out to former colleagues and employers who may have direct or indirect foreign connections.
One preliminary matter may be a security clearance because, as a rule of thumb, all employees at government-secured facilities must have one. Individuals cannot obtain a clearance on their own, and because the process is so complex and costly, many employers are reluctant to pursue them. Many contractors, especially security and construction workers, can get by with a “confidential” level clearance.
Visa requirements vary significantly by location, and the rules are almost constantly changing. For example, the regulations for Afghanistan recently changed almost completely. Before, an American citizen could work in the country without a passport, in some cases. Now, in addition to holding a valid passport, contractors must obtain government visas from their current or prospective employers before they can enter the country.
Be sure your bank accounts are squared away. Many larger U.S. financial institutions partner with foreign banks, but even then, the transition may not be seamless. These relationships are set up for travelers, and not semi-permanent residents. Moreover, even where these partnerships exist, high fees and limited services are often the norm. Additionally, smaller American banks often have no services at all outside the U.S. Make sure that you do not arrive in-country before your money does.
Get prepared for a culture shock, particularly regarding payment for goods and services. Many Americans have grown used to paying with credit or debit cards for almost everything. But a lot of overseas businesses – particularly small vendors – only accept cash. The local currency may not be the currency of choice, as the dollar and Euro are still king in many areas. This need for cash underscores the need for a local bank.
Before you leave, you will need to have a lot more than a toothbrush and a change of clothes. Spend some time thinking about everything you will need for each of the next 90 days, including prescription medication, and pack accordingly.
Overseas Work Environments
Workplace safety is not normally an issue for foreign contractors, but it is a matter to keep in mind. Most U.S. watchdog agencies, like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, do not have jurisdiction in some foreign countries, especially if the worksite is not actually on U.S. government property. Even if the agency does have the authority to inspect, while there are plenty of OSHA inspectors in and around Naples, Florida, there are very few stationed in Naples, Italy.
Somewhat complicating matters, some foreign governments may be unable, or unwilling, to oversee U.S. contractors. That is assuming that such agencies even exist, and in many cases, they do not.
Private Contractor Injured Overseas
The reality is that, no matter how safe the work environment is, unexpected events will happen. The most well-organized convoy in Iraq can be crippled by a wayward RPG from a single ISIS fighter, and a construction site in the Philippines that had an accident-free record is just as susceptible to a motor vehicle crash as any other location.
A workplace injury is a very jarring event in and of itself, but when such an event occurs overseas, the financial and emotional fallout is usually even greater. The Defense Base Act is basically federal workers’ compensation for overseas contractors. It provides insurance benefits that cover economic losses like:
- Hospital bills,
- Follow-up care,
- Prescription drug costs,
- Medical devices, and
- Rehabilitative care.
The DBA also pays for lost current and future wages.
Obtaining Compensation When Injured
As can be expected, being eligible for DBA coverage does not mean that the insurance company simply gives the benefits away. Even though the DBA normally applies whether or not the injured victim was “on the clock” and “at work” at the time of the incident, many companies challenge claims on the basis that they were not workplace injuries or illnesses.
If this challenge fails, many companies question the amount of benefits. Medical expenses or procedures are challenged as not medically necessary, the nature of the victim’s disability is questioned, and the AWW is calculated in a way that produces the lowest possible benefits.
An aggressive attorney can step in and fight for the benefits you deserve.
Contact us today for more assistance with your DBA claim.