Looking for a job and launching a company both present their own unique challenges. Pile on moving to a new country and your head will be spinning. Still, I managed to do all three.
Five years ago, I decided I wanted to leave London and move to New York City to pursue a career in PR. Looking to jump head first into the land of opportunity, I applied for a job, flew over for the interview and landed the role as an account executive at a firm.
I then realized one horrible fact: I had no idea what I was doing.
Moving from one country to another, even one that's culturally and linguistically similar to yours, is an incredibly difficult experience. Yet, it paid off for me. I ended up working at a PR company and eventually started my own firm called EZPR.
If you are looking to relocate to a new country for a job or entrepreneurial aspirations, here are four ways to make the transition easier:
1. Learn the law.
Rule No. 1: Know the legal system. I agreed to take the job before I knew anything about how I was legally going to stay in the country. I guess, it's easy to be flippant, as movies and TV make it seem like getting a work visa is as easy as picking it up at the grocery store. But getting up and moving without knowledge about the foreign country's law isn't a strategy I'd recommend.
Being from England, I had only one option: the J-1 Visa. I was granted a visa, because I was fresh out of college, was technically a PR trainee, and the company created a program inspected by the government. Plus, I found a lawyer who understood the system. I got lucky.
For others that need to get a work visa, you may not be as fortunate as I was. Keep in mind, there is a quota on how many temporary work visas (H-1B) can be granted each year and the limit tends to be reached quickly.
If you are thinking of packing up and moving to a different country, reach out to a lawyer or a professional that understands the ins and outs of the system and comes highly recommended.
2. Get your paperwork together.
Even if you have been offered a job and signed a contract, do not think you can just get on a plane and begin your new job the following week.
Not only do you need a visa, but you need other necessary paperwork, which means you need to start planning immediately after you are offered a job. Reach out to government agencies both in your current location and new one to see exactly what type of paperwork you need.
The consequence of not having the right forms is simple: You will be sent home on your dime. Plus, the country will most likely have a record of you being denied entry to the country, which could impact future immigration decisions made about you.
3. Watch out for scams.
If someone says they can guarantee you anything in the process -- from a work visa to a green card – he's lying. It's simply not possible. The only available shortcut is the ability to speed up the H-1B processing by paying an expedited fee. That's it. If people tell you otherwise, do not listen to them.
4. Don't get caught up in the startup hype.
If you are looking to break into the startup world in the U.S., or any other tech hub, don't expect it to be easy. Just because your startup is hot news to the press or people in your country love your product doesn't mean you get to pass go. The government doesn't read TechCrunch and doesn't care that you've got 100,000 users. So, don't expect a simple way in. You are going to work just as hard as the next person.
What other tips do you have for someone looking to start a job or launch a company in a different country? Let us know in the comments below.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.