Ground Water Age
Written by Dave Keiser
Working on a special pump or drilling project outside the U.S. can be an educational and profitable experience. But take precautions first.
Experienced water system specialists are now in great demand overseas by companies who are developing water sources and who are interested in signing up knowledgeable professionals to train local personnel. Such positions can be lucrative, but only when precautions are taken first.
Weigh the Offer
When a juicy job offer appears for work in a foreign country, don’t run off half-cocked. First, weight the offer carefully and consider the benefits and disadvantages of working overseas.
One big advantage of working overseas is existing tax rules which allow a tax-free income of up to $90,000 a year. Most foreign workers, especially those who have housing and transportation provided, find that if expenses and traveling are restricted, they can actually save a large portion of their earnings. It is also advisable to check with your tax adviser about the timing of your move. Many persons who have accepted jobs and transferred overseas are often upset to discover that their tax year is based on a calendar year and that, due to the timing of their move, they are responsible for taxes on their income until the end of that calendar year.
If you decide on a job overseas, remember to bring resumes and references to use when you are ready to return to the U.S. job market. It is extremely difficult to reconstruct your resume and references when thousands of miles away. These same credentials are often required for employee files overseas anyway when local governments decide to check the credentials of visa holders in order to determine their qualifications for a particular job.
Review the Contract
If a job offer does come, it is necessary to first take a close look at your potential employer. Many firms in the Middle East, for instance, are notorious for painting extremely attractive pictures of their operations and offering extravagant salary and fringe benefits – only to change their terms when the new employee arrives at the job site ready to begin work.
Before signing the normal two-year contract, make sure that everything is spelled out in writing. Contracts negotiated with Arab-owned firms are often written in Arabic, so you should not sign any contract until it is translated into English. Sign only the English version after you have read it over thoroughly and obtained your own copy. The contract should state clearly the salary, raise schedule, term of commitment and all fringe benefits. It should also state the daily work routine.
Many employees sign up for what looks like a good salary, only to discover later that they are expected to work 12 or more hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. most foreign firms work six days a week, with those offering more benefits at work only half a day on Saturday. But few offer overtime pay for such work unless it is specified in advance in the contract or the country’s labor laws.
If at all possible, it should also be specified in the contract what type of medical treatment is provided. If those benefits are fully spelled out in writing, the employee at least has a chance of retaining his rights.
Where You Stay
As a precaution, request to see recent photographs of the area in which you will work and your accommodations. This procedure will eliminate the “vision of grandeur” sometimes conveyed by foreign employers or their representatives just to get workers on the job. What are termed first class working or residence facilities in many foreign operations, may turn out to be fourth class in U.S. terminology and standards.
In many middle Eastern countries, the prevalent trend now is to import workers from India, Pakistan, Africa, the Philippines and other Third World countries who are used to poorer living and working conditions and are willing to accept lower wages.