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I am looking for Remote Jobs worldwide. It confuses me a lot that some US companies say that I have to have permission to work in the USA and some don't.

I am not sure if its because:

  1. They have this kind of language on every position and forgot to take it out for the Remote-only jobs
  2. They actually care about your visa status even if the job is completely remote

Here's an example:

Applicants must be currently authorized to work in the United States on a full-time basis now and in the future. This position does not offer sponsorship.

I think I haven't seen one that specifically said you could live overseas but need authorization to work in the US. Maybe they all want candidates who live "anywhere", but "anywhere" must be within the US.

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    Something of interest: here. Apr 25, 2019 at 10:43
  • What kind of visa do you mean? A US visa?
    – user1602
    Apr 25, 2019 at 10:58
  • Yes, I mean an U.S. work visa Apr 25, 2019 at 11:05
  • You utterly, absolutely, do not need a US work visa or US papers of any kind.
    – Fattie
    Apr 25, 2019 at 11:29
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    @Fattie here you go. Though not completely sure if this is just a template or if they actually mean it. Sep 20, 2021 at 2:04

3 Answers 3

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This is completely, totally, normal.

(Just by way of example, as of writing we've placed three (3) software engineers, specifically working for US companies, who live in Europe. ("C" - Italy, major US corp. "S" - Poland, large US social startup. "M" - eastern europe, US startup.))

It confuses me a lot that some US companies say that I have to have permission to work in the USA and some don't.

If it's for a position working in the USA:

  1. For every single programmer job ad, companies get many, many resumes sent in from folks who live in India, Europe etc, where those people are hoping to get a work visa supplied by the company.

  2. Since there is always a "flood" of such requests, often in (on site) job ads you will see something like "We will not provide a visa" or "Please don't bother applying if you need a visa" or "You must be able to work in the US" all of which mean ... "Don't apply if you're in India or Europe!"

If it's for a remote position:

  1. Many companies simply only want USA workers, even if remote. In this case they'll state "USA only".

  2. Right now on the jobs site I see 20? 30? US companies, with a remote position, where it's fine if you're living overseas, and a few for a remote position where you have to be in the USA.

  3. I have never seen a case of a remote job ad where they say you must have papers to "work in the USA". That makes little sense.

  4. Caveat: since the US is mainly a military power, you do see a cohort of job ads which involve security and or military/government contracting: those usually require US passports, various security clearances, etc. This would seem to obviously be outside the scope of this question.

So!

You ask, "But Fattie, why will some companies who use remote developers, only hire USA developers?"

There are two reasons:

  • "Language time-zone convenience" The fact is many clients prefer, quiet naturally, teams that work in aligned-time rather than asychronously, and indeed who are native Korean, Hindi, Marathi, Spanish or English speakers like programmers who live in the US. Note for example that one of the largest freelance agencies has exactly this policy - they tell their clients "we're the freelance agency that only has on-shore talent!"

  • Exactly as ReadyPlayerOne explains, due to "paperwork issues". (For some US companies there can be more paperwork in hiring freelancers in certain US states or certain overseas countries.)

You now ask, "But Fattie, like in high school, can you follow up with an example of what you mean?" Why, yes!

HERE'S AN EXAMPLE OF THAT:

https://stackoverflow.com/jobs/251495/mobile-engineer-energy-worldnet-inc?so=i&pg=1&offset=24&q=ios&r=true

Look down the bottom:

"Must NOT reside in California, New Jersey, Hawaii, Alaska or Massachusetts"

So yes there are some cases where - for paperwork reasons - companies won't hire remotes who live outside the USA, or indeed, in certain US states.

(But I'd say the more usual reason companies won't hire remotes who live outside the USA is very simply "time zone / language".)

So OP ...

I am not sure if the first kind of job ads have that in since it is a standard phrase of the company and they forgot to leave it out for remote jobs or if the second kind doesn't have it in since it is assumed to be common knowledge.

So, I have never seen a case of a remote job ad where they say you must have papers to "work in the USA". That makes little sense.

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    Wait what? The way you phrase it, as long as you live in the US (legally or not), they will hire you. Surely that cannot be the case. Apr 26, 2019 at 6:36
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    @dan-klasson If you live in the US illegally, typically you cannot complete the hiring paperwork, as you will have to submit enough information for the employer to withhold US taxes. Generally illegals in the US know this, so they don't assist in their own capture. Instead they work in the underground economy where cash is paid under the table (without employment tax accounting) or they work independently, by buying and selling items independently as owner-operators (where they control the reporting). It's not illegal to work for yourself, even if you are illegally residing.
    – Edwin Buck
    Sep 20, 2021 at 14:18
  • @Edwin - Except it is illegal not to pay taxes on the income you generate by working for yourself.
    – Donald
    Sep 20, 2021 at 21:45
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    @Donald Believe it or not, most illegals that intend to become residents actually do pay taxes on the income they generate in the USA. The IRS doesn't pursue illegals that pay taxes for being illegal, due to a landmark court case that, in layman's terms, basically says "you can't prosecute a person for residency reasons when they pay tax, otherwise, you couldn't prosecute them for tax evasion because you effectively bar them from following the tax law." In fact, one way to obtain citizenship is to pay enough taxes as an illegal. I kid you not on this one.
    – Edwin Buck
    Sep 21, 2021 at 0:40
  • @EdwinBuck source on this? Not seeing it on the USCIS website but I imagine its very obscure. Oct 8, 2021 at 2:07
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It's more complicated.

You can work as an independent contractor from outside the country without a visa.

However some companies will not want to employ overseas contractors for reasons including (but not limited to):

  • Timezone differences

  • Employment law differences

  • Payroll difficulties

If you see a requirement for a visa you can assume you need to be in the country. If you don't see it listed then they may think it's assumed that you'll be in the same country, or they could be well aware (and even hoping) that they will get applications from people outside the country.

This is not just limited to remote jobs in the US - it will be similar for companies in most countries advertising for remote workers.

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  • So, if I am employed by the company, I always need a visa? I can only circumvent that by being a contractor? Apr 25, 2019 at 10:56
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    @a.j.tawleed no, if you're employed by the company you won't need a visa. I've worked for companies in Australia and Canada from overseas with no visa. They likely won't be able to employ you without you being a contractor though. If they had a local office that could employ you as a regular employee then you wouldn't be a remote worker.
    – Player One
    Apr 25, 2019 at 10:58
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    Maybe I don't understand it right because English is not my native language, but how can there be any "payroll difficulties" if you're working as a contractor ? Wouldn't you just be like any other supplier billing their services to the company ?
    – Laurent S.
    Apr 25, 2019 at 11:09
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    @LaurentS. I'm not an accountant so I don't understand it either, but I've had an application process for a remote role stopped by the company I was applying to when they learned I intended to move out of the country. They gave payroll difficulties as the reason.
    – Player One
    Apr 25, 2019 at 11:15
  • @Fattie it's not, but it's more complicated than either of the options the OP was considering. Which was his question :)
    – Player One
    Apr 25, 2019 at 11:26
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Many US companies are indeed advertising remote-only positions that require you to be a US citizen, permanent resident or in possession of a valid work visa like H1-B or F1/OPT. In the age of COVID the vast majority of positions that could be done remotely are effectively remote-only until further notice, so this applies to a huge chunk of job postings out there. Why they do this rather than making full use of international talent varies:

  1. Lack of know-how. Many companies have been hiring US workers for US positions for many years and don't have the organizational capacity or incentive to switch to being open to employees worldwide. The vast majority of HR employees have zero experience with international hires, even though these days you can outsource all the complexity to companies like Remote.com. But even if you can outsource things, there's still a lot of unknowns for international hires: what salaries to offer, what benefits to offer, how to deal with vacation time, how to provide hardware locally, etc. All of these problems can be solved by external companies but this costs money and introduces risk, which most companies loathe to take up even if they can save on salary expenses.

    This kind of mentality is present even with multi-billion corporations which have hundreds of employees around the world - for example Coinbase went as far as to announce they're shutting down most offices but their Careers page is still segmented by country and asks about your US work visa status.

  2. Legal commitments. SpaceX won't hire foreigners because they're working on military contracts. Other companies might be worried about you violating your NDA and them having a hard time going after you in court. These concerns are not necessarily rational but its easy for management to use it as a handwave explanation for why they won't hire people abroad.

  3. Timezone differences. There's a very strong cultural expectation that people should only work 9-to-5 in their local timezone, unless its a job that cannot be done otherwise like a night security guard or NORAD missile watch. This is obviously silly in the modern day and age - i.e. you could easily ask someone living in London to work 2pm to 10pm so that they perfectly match with their colleagues on the US East Coast. But this goes against the modern trend of advertising how much you care about work-life balance as "normal" lifestyles revolve around being free after 6pm. Of course, a lot of people would actively prefer to work during the night - for example so that they could help out with childcare more effectively, but the general assumption is that working after 6pm is taboo.

    As a somewhat related fact, China solved the timezone problem by mandating that the entire country only has one timezone even though they would normally be divided into 3 distinct timezones. Russia is far too big for such a solution so someone living in Vladivostok has a bigger time difference with Moscow than someone working in London for a company in NYC. Articles talking about remote work in Russia often mention this as a problem.

  4. Language differences. There's a certain unspoken assumption that hiring foreigners means you'll have to deal with communication issues. This is of course complete nonsense when it comes to hiring from English-speaking nations and a very small problem for other countries. There are people speaking fluent English all over the world and companies could simply mandate language fluency as an employment condition, which they effectively do already - i.e. a company in Vancouver would never hire a person from Quebec who only speaks French.

  5. "Fairness" concerns. A friend of mine works for a remote-only company in Europe and there's quite a lot of bickering between employees and management in regards to how one's location should affect salary. On the one hand its not "supposed" to matter, on the other hand you'll lose employees in Germany if you start paying them salaries adjusted for Bulgaria. You can see this problem in Facebook's debate on going remote as there are large living expense differences even within the US. Adding international hires into the mix means you could be paying $10k/month to a guy in SF and $3k/month to a guy in Vietnam for doing the exact same job, so you'll have to deal with constant complaints from the Vietnam employee about being treated "unfairly". People struggle to understand that the primary motivation for hiring internationally is around cutting costs so there's nothing unfair about offering different amounts to different geographic regions.

  6. They hope to come back to the office eventually. Right now the vast majority of IT jobs is full remote as employers find it hard to accept the new reality of COVID being an endemic disease. But they might think things will change eventually and don't want to end up in a situation where half their staff is gone when this happens.

So what should you do if you see a remote position you like but which talks about US work authorization? I'd try to apply anyway unless they explicitly say something like "yes, we know this is 100% remote, but we still need you to have a US visa". In your application, make it absolutely clear where you're located and that you do not in have have the right papers from the US. Worst case they reject you, best case they invite you for an interview. I know multiple people in American remote-only jobs who live in Europe, so its definitely possible. Keep pushing until you get hired.

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