Issues to consider
Providing work abroad is big business
Apply direct to employers or through a work experience scheme?
What do schemes offer?
If you decide to use an organisation where you pay a fee for their assistance, then you become a customer of that company and you should check what you are getting for your money.
Many work abroad organisations provide assistance with visa applications or act as an official sponsor for visas. However, they often provide a package of additional services like orientation, transport, accommodation and an advice helpline. This will vary from scheme to scheme and although it can be the easiest option you will pay a premium for their help. Compare different schemes, ensure you know what you are paying for and decide what level of support you really need.
Some organisations provide gap year type experiences rather than a placement or internship, for example incorporating PADI scuba training, ski instructor training or a guided tour, and accommodation and meals. Be clear that in these cases you are buying training and a general experience, rather than applying for a job. They may give you less useful work experience than you think, so consider realistically what is on offer and how that will be helpful in your career.
Check whether you need to obtain a visa, work and residence permits for the country you want to work in. You may need an employer or work abroad scheme to support your application for a visa. Applications for visas are through the relevant Embassy for that country, check the Embassy World website for contact details. Most EU citizens can work anywhere within the EU without a work permit, however there may be different rules for members of the newer EU member states that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007. Check the My Europe website for details.
Salary and living costs
Illness, loss of belongings and accidents can happen anywhere, but when working abroad the results can be stressful, expensive and very complicated if you aren’t prepared. Arrange sufficient insurance cover for your travel, medical costs and belongings while you are on your work experience.
If your work experience is in the EU, obtain a European Health Insurance Card before you go, to ensure you can access the same medical care that a national of that country receives. Find more information on the NHS web page on working abroad.
In addition check if the employer is insuring you to work on their premises, or whether you need to arrange this yourself to be protected in the event of accidents, either to yourself or those you come into contact with. In the UK employers must provide this, but this is not necessarily the case abroad.
The following are specific types of insurance which you should ask either the employer or work experience scheme if they provide:
- Employer’s Liability (sometimes called Worker’s Compensation)
Provides you with cover if you have an accident or are unwell while undertaking your work.
- Public Liability/Personal Liability
Provides cover if you accidentally injure someone else or inadvertently cause damage, and are then sued.
- Professional Liability/Indemnity
Needed if you are practising a profession like medicine, dentistry or veterinary science, but not needed for all roles. Provides cover if someone claims you made a professional error or were negligent in your job.
If the employer or placement provider does not provide the above, then either you or the university may wish to arrange them. If your work experience is part of your degree the university may provide some cover, check with your School placement co-ordinator.
If your work experience is outside of your course, speak to insurance companies to find out how to arrange your own cover and how much it will cost. Use search engines to find ‘work abroad insurance’ or approach individual insurance brokers. Make it clear where you are going, the length of your trip and that you will be working the whole time, as many standard travel insurance policies will not insure you within the workplace.
Safety is important when working abroad, as safety legislation and standards in some countries will not be as rigorous as in the UK. This is particularly important if the work environment is potentially hazardous (eg engineering, labs, factories), unpredictable, or the area is remote, politically unstable or there are health risks due to poor sanitation or disease. What you can do:
- Does the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) approve of travel to this country?
- Google the organisation, any evidence of safety concerns?
- For work experience schemes ask further questions: How do they assess the safety of organisations they work with? Do they provide in-country support or advice if anything goes wrong?
- Check the FCO website for tips and advice on staying safe abroad
- If you are doing a placement as part of your course, your School Placement Co-ordinator should also check with the employer regarding safety.