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The opportunity to fast-track a career or start a new business in an exciting new location is an intoxicating prospect for the 320,000 people who leave the UK every year. Many countries have relaxed their visa controls in the past 12 months in order to attract people with key skills, and to encourage investors and entrepreneurs to boost the local economy. But what happens when your partner lands their dream job abroad, not you?

The most common reason that a relocation doesn’t work out as families had dreamed is that the whole family is not able to settle, so it’s really important that the partner and the whole family understands what is and isn’t possible and can plan accordingly.

Here are some top tips to ensure you live the dream when your partner lands their dream job abroad:

Find out if you are entitled to work

The UK has the least restrictive immigration laws for husbands and wives; in this country if a spouse arrives in the country with a partner who is guaranteed work they are generally free to work in the UK too (although restrictions apply for certain professions such as doctors, dentists and professional sportspeople).

The rest of Europe – and indeed the Middle East and Africa – generally has more restrictive rules. Although there are variations, almost all require a spouse to apply for a visa to work if arriving from outside of the EU – and typically they will need to find a company to sponsor them too.

There are not vast differences between countries but each does have slightly different regulations – and there are certainly different rules for those moving inside the EU compared to those arriving from other continents.

Consider studying to further your career if you are not able to work when your partner lands their dream job abroad

Many accompanying spouses or partners use the opportunity to have a career break. A spell abroad is the perfect opportunity for professionals to study for a qualification, such as an MBA, in order to boost their career prospects on their return to the UK. In most countries, a study visa will also be required so make sure you research this in advance. The process is more simple than applying for a work visa but do be aware that almost every country will still want evidence that you can fund your stay – so expect to be asked for bank statements at the very least.

Look into setting up your own business

Some countries have offered fast track visas to attract entrepreneurs. Spain for example has relaxed its immigration rules and is even offering a VIP visa for entrepreneurs; for high earners the process is speeded up. In Denmark there is an interesting scheme which allows students to obtain a work permit for two years after finishing their studies – designed to encourage start-up businesses. Canada launched the world’s first Start-up Visa in 2013 – it grants permanent residency to entrepreneurs who can start a business in Canada and raise enough venture capital.

Consider voluntary work

If you can’t or don’t wish to work, getting involved in volunteering can be a hugely rewarding way to feel connected to your new home and community, and to stay active. Consider whether you’d like to help out in local schools, work with local charities or even volunteer in refugee camps. Some countries, for instance Kenya, offer a voluntary work permit which is even simpler to obtain. But don’t assume it is a formality – some countries will still want evidence that you have enough funds to cover your trip. In many countries in Africa the process can be slower than you expect and legislation can change quite regularly.


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