This is the first in the series Work Abroad Adventures, a comprehensive look at global work opportunities for ambitious international students.
International students studying in the US bring talented, cutting edge skills to the American workforce. The trouble is that most American employers don’t hire international students. Finding companies that sponsor international students is a long, frustrating process for students. Employers are nervous to hire H-1B visa workers. Rejection is common.
Luckily there are plenty of other opportunities outside the US for talented international students interested in tech jobs abroad. Some countries, like Chile, are investing in their startup hubs and attracting foreign talent. Others, like Canada, are developing new visa paths to make work authorization easier to obtain for foreign workers.
If you’re feeling rejected by employers in the US job search then it might be time to expand your search. After all you’re at the start of an international career that has already taken you across one border. So if you have tech skills, an interest in global start up ecosystems, and the energy to work in a startup environment, here are six cities to consider.
Toronto’s tech sector has matured radically, especially in fintech, which has skyrocketed in the region, largely because we’re home to Canada’s financial center and have a strong talent pool. – Global Startup Ecosystem Report, 2017
Toronto is frequently referred to as the Silicon Valley of the North. With over 50+ startup incubators and accelerators, Toronto has made a name for itself as a global startup powerhouse. Recently, Toronto’s AI ecosystems was noted as being on par with that of Silicon Valley. Notable fintech startups like Wave and WealthSimple also call Toronto home. Also, Canada is interested in attracting skilled foreign workers to Canada. They’re making it easier for Canadian employers to hire international talent with their new Global Talent Stream program. The tech visa program prioritizes highly skilled tech workers and cuts visa processing time to 10 days. Their visa scheme is an attractive alternative to the problematic and risky H-1B process.
City living can be expensive in Toronto, though it’s cheaper than other international cities like Vancouver, BC or San Francisco. Here’s what you can expect to spend in expenses per month.
The urban capital of Santiago accounts for one-third of the country’s population and approximately 90% of the country’s startup activity. As of today, Santiago is home to around 500-700 active tech startups.
Did you know that Chile ranks first in innovation in Latin America? Santiago, the hub of startup activity in Chile, is the driver of that innovation. The government-backed accelerator, Startup Chile, has contributed over $40 million in startup grant funding. It’s also built a vibrant global startup ecosystem with founders who come from across the globe. You’ll find opportunities to work in industries like biotech, cleantech, and fintech. Santiago’s startup scene is known for it’s passionate community of entrepreneurs and creators. Here’s what the experience was like for one Startup Chile participant:
The value of Startup Chile.. is to get the chance to be part of a community of more than 3,000 entrepreneurs from more than 70 countries, oh, and at the same time, to be working on the same space with more than 100 startups. Yeah, it’s awesome. The community and the collaborative environment are the best things of the program in my opinion. While in Santiago, I had the chance to join some of the community’s events, and meet a handful of passionate entrepreneurs from all around the world.
And with a new streamlined visa process for foreign tech workers, you’ll be able to get work authorization for the job you want.
Santiago also makes it easy for new graduates with it low-cost of living. Curious? Read this: How to find a job in Latin American tech hubs. Then explore the Santiago startup lifestyle from this YouTuber:
“Berlin has one of the most inclusive and diverse startup ecosystems in the world. You don’t need a German passport or an Ivy League diploma to succeed here; the Berlin startup scene is open for business and welcomes founders and talents from everywhere.“ – Global Startup Ecosystem Report, 2017
Berlin is well known as the startup capital of Europe. With 49% of the Berlin startup workforce, there are plenty of opportunities for global graduates to find. There’s even an English job board for startup jobs in Berlin. Berlin is cooler than London and work visas are slightly easier to obtain compared to Brexit-plagued London. The city’s deep startup infrastructure means you’ll find plenty of startup events and co-working spaces to make moving to a new city less lonely. And you’ll want to make friends fast because you’ll want to explore Berlin’s art, design, and music scenes.
The cost of living in Berlin is far less than Silicon Valley. The site local.de did a comparison of how the costs of living stack up against Silicon Valley:
But while Berlin’s taxes might be higher, its cost of living is certainly much lower. Berlin’s far superior public transport – which this San Franciscan turned Berliner can attest to – is also much more affordable, at roughly €63 per month compared to €79. Going out and enjoying life outside of work is also much less expensive in Berlin – just €3.20 for a beer at a bar beats San Francisco’s €5.40, while the money you’ll save on a €2.50 cappuccino compared to a €3.90 in California could almost buy you a second one. And we haven’t even gotten to rent yet. You could rent four separate one-bedroom apartments in Berlin’s city centre for €749 each per month before you’d reach the €2,936 necessary to afford just one in central San Francisco.
Interested? Take a look at these 2018 Berlin startups to watch to get a feel for Berlin’s startup scene. Here’s how to find a tech job in Berlin. Then get a little tech travel inspiration from this quick video:
The Sydney ecosystem ranks in the global top 5 in Global Connectedness, indicating a deep understanding of global business models and international markets. – Global Startup Ecosystem Report, 2017
With a startup hub scene set against beach and surf vibes, it’s no wonder Sydney earned the name Silicon Beach. But it isn’t just sun and surf on offer in Sydney’s tech scene. Sydney is home to companies like Canva – Australia’s first company valued over $1 billion – Atlassian, and Freelancer.com. Startups focused on facial recognition technology, fintech, and even musictech, make up Sydney’s startup ecosystem. Microsoft is opening an accelerator there and IBM just partnered with a University of Sydney startup focused on quantum computing. It’s location also provides good access to both Asia and US West Coast markets, making working across timezones slightly easier.
Australia sponsors skilled international workers on temporary work permits, with a process based on merit. The Australian government is also introducing a new work visa pilot, the Global Talent Scheme, that begins in July 2018. The program is specifically intended to bring in highly skilled and experienced labor, so the visas are targeted to high-level/high salary jobs only (read: at least 5 years work experience).
The downside to working in Sydney is that it isn’t cheap. While you’ll pay less to live there compared to San Francisco or New York Sydney, it’s not a cheap place to live:
If you’re feeling the Sydney vibes take a look at these top 50 Sydney startups to watch. Then look at how Sydney approaches innovation:
“Shanghai’s startup environment is exceptional in the sense that you have huge government support, a very large pool of talent, and the best customer base to start off your service and experiment with innovative solutions.” – Global Startup Ecosystem Report, 2017
In a country that’s home to tech giants like Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent, it’s no surprise that China also offers an attractive global startup hub. Shanghai is a furry of startup activity with plenty to explore for the curious international student. With its fast paced startup scene, abundance of co-working spaces, and a lively expat scene, it’s an ideal place for foreigners who want to work in a cutting edge tech startup. The Shanghai tech scene also has big ambitions: it’s positioning itself as the AI hub of Asia.
Shanghai’s citizens are quite tech savvy, integrating technology digital payments and chat apps into their daily lives, outpacing the US population in tech adoption rates. Shanghai has no shortage of interesting startups, featuring everything from e-commerce to lifestyle apps like wine and beer delivery to self-driving trucks to take on Tesla. These startups aren’t just targeted to Chinese consumers either. The average Shanghai startup has over 30% of their customers located outside of China.
China is making it easier for high skilled tech workers to get visas with improvements to their visa system. Shanghai is also ranked the most English-friendly city in Asia, though you’ll want to improve your Chinese skills to thrive long-term.
Living in Shanghai isn’t cheap but it’s affordable. Here is one expat’s guide to the costs of living in Shanghai.
Curious? Read more on Tech Asia’s Ultimate Startup Guide to Shanghai. Then watch what makes China’s startup culture different:
Estonian startups immediately Go Global at a higher rate than any other ecosystem outside of the U.S. or U.K. 70% of Estonian startups enter the U.S. or U.K. market from the get go. – Global Startup Ecosystem Report, 2017
Don’t be followed by this old town picture of Tallinn. Estonia is a small but mighty country excelling at digital innovation. Estonia is at the forefront of digital citizenship by building a digital nation that offers e-residency to global citizens. It’s capital city, Talinn, has a small but mighty startup ecosystem, ranking third in Europe for most startups per-capita. Skype and Transferwise are both successful Estonian startup stories. The innovative and incredibly useful international job search engine, Jobbatical, is also headquartered there.
The government has one of the most user-friendly sites to make it really easy to understand how to work in Estonia, including offering a job board. They’re also making it easier for startups to hire foreign talent as well. According to Jobbatical’s overview of the cost of living in Talinn, it’s 41% less expensive to live there than San Francisco.
Here’s a look at living in Estonia:
Then check out what international recruiters think about recruiting foreign talent.
Curious? Here are 12 startups to watch in 2018.
So now what?
Now it’s time to get an international job search strategy and start exploring your options. Find your classmates from these countries. Ask them what it’s like to get hired in their country. Ask them if they know anyone you can talk to in these cities about working in a startup. Make a list of startups and tech jobs abroad that interest you. Then study the products and services they offer. Try working on a remote startup project so you get work experience before you apply to startups. Take a trip to show your commitment to future employers and learn what it’s like to live there.
Above all stay curious about what is happening in global startup ecosystems around the world. Innovation is happening in pockets all over the world. You can be part of it.
Want to learn how you can build a global career and work abroad? We’re launching an online course that will teach you how. Get the details about the Choose Your Own Global Career Adventure course and sign up to get notified at launch!