How to Stay In A Foreign Country After Your Program Is Over

Nowadays the world is more connected than ever, the mobility of people is rising, and young people are routinely deciding to go abroad to study and work. But despite all of this, many find it a challenge to stay in the country of their dreams. Visas are constraining our lives, and many of those who come from a country that has no preferred status face discrimination in every job interview – because they need just one more paper from the future employer. Of course, there are success stories, too. But if you want to become one of the success stories – except for luck, which can turn out to be the most important – you need to pay attention to some strategies that can improve your chances to stay.

I. One of the most important things, wherever you are, is the language. Use the chance when you are already there, and do your best to learn it. Don’t be shy and lazy, because people appreciate it when they see that you are trying, that you are ambitious and persistent. Moreover, in many countries it is easy to find really cheap or free classes, especially at the universities. The good thing is also TANDEM – a system where people offer to teach their mother tongue and ask for help in learning another language in return. In addition to the fact that it is free (it will cost you a cup of coffee if you meet in a cafe) it is also a good way to meet the locals and get some tips and learn some tricks. You can find your tandem usually at the local university (just check the info-board or go online) or search some websites, there are a lot of them. If you want to learn the language and find a language school, you will also have an opportunity to extend your visa or get one in the first place. In most countries you just need a confirmation of course-booking from your language school, and paid insurance in order to get a visa.

II. One option that almost can’t fail is studies, and here are a couple of things that you have to know. First, if you are finished with your studies, check if your diploma is recognized in the country that you want. Second, it is really important to understand that many countries accredit degrees earned at their own universities more than they do foreign ones. Therefore, if you are ready to study one more year – think about a Master’s program. Aside and apart from the fact that this will ensure you a permit to stay, it will also help you in the future when you look for a job. You would be well advised to think about what would be the most useful thing to study. Don’t limit your decision-making process to your own field, but see if there’s something that is needed in the local job market. In most cases, people who have graduated from college or university in the country where they want to remain can get some extra time (a visa) to search for a job, without facing a particularly complicated process.

III. Since nothing will happen after office hours, and especially since bureaucratic processes can last forever, start thinking about the issue of time. Give yourself two-three weeks and then start searching for options. Nothing kills opportunities like panic. Therefore, as soon as you get familiar with your new home, start looking for options and what is more important – find out what the conditions are for you to stay. At this point, try to think what you can offer that others can’t. Is it your degree, skills, language…? What advantages is your background offering? See if you can connect with organizations/companies that are working with your country of origin. They are usually seeking someone who is familiar with the region, speaks the language, and has connections.

IV. Meeting people is the golden rule. You never know where you will get useful information. Sometimes things happen spontaneously, so you have to be really open to communication, and moreover keep in touch with the people you meet. Networking is a word you have heard a lot, but for some reason, many people take it for granted. Be active on social networks, so people will know what you are doing. It is entirely possible that someone who has not been in touch with you for ages will contact you because they think that you could be the best person for a newly available job opportunity. And not just that, you can also learn a lot from people, hear their experiences, and get motivated to change something, to fight for your dreams.

V. It is hard to speak about this issue in general, since the rules in every country differ, and not all of the professions are in the same demand. But one thing is always the same: you have to be well informed about the options. Something that not so many people know, for instance, is that international journalists can get visas easily with proof that they are working abroad. There are many such options that you just have to explore.

In the end, it is always the best option to find a job in your own field of interest, which is always hard if you are a foreigner. But, if you try all the things mentioned above, your chances will improve. Remember: language, diploma, networking, the advantages you have as a foreigner, information. Also it is good if you resolve to be flexible and search for a job in second tier markets. Usually everybody goes to capital cities and huge industrial centers, where the job-seekers are numerous and your chances may be smaller. If instead you give a chance to a smaller place, where not so many international job-seekers come with their language and professional skills – you might get a dream job!

Photo: From the Archive of Katarina Monojlovic

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