July 19, 2010

The Visa Series Part II: Temporary Work Visas

On Friday we became a little more familiar with tourist visas – the basic visas that most travelers can either get at the border or apply for in advance if they don’t plan on earning any income. But since this is called the JobMonkey Blog, many of us need to know about the other kind of visa – the work visa.

II. The Temporary Work Visa

What is a temporary work visa?

A temporary work visa is a special kind of visa that allows foreign nationals to work at a short-term job abroad. Temporary work visas generally assign you with an identification number that your employer can use to put you “on the books.” In most cases, a temporary work visa (also know as a temporary resident visa) will also give you an ID card, and allow you to do things like open a bank account, or get cell phone with a plan (rather than using your home phone or using pre-pay – which can be much more expensive).

Unlike tourist visas, temporary work visas are rarely automatically issues and more require quite a bit of paperwork and waiting. In Chile, it took me 30 days, 3 sets of passport photos, a few hours waiting in line, visits to three separate offices and about $25 to obtain a temporary residency visa – but it was well worth it to have a bit more freedom (I was excited to get a discount card for the grocery store), and to get paid officially for my job.

But that was getting the visa in Chile itself.

It is also possible to apply in advance for a temporary visa while still in the United States or your home country. Two things that you should know about applying in advance are 1) you will still have to apply in person, and it could take a while for everything to be processed and 2) it could be more expensive. Keep in mind that particularly in developing countries, pretty much everything is cheaper than it is in the U.S. – this is true for temporary visas as well.

Of course, Chile isn’t indicative of every country. But what is true is that any official employer is going to need some kind of official identification number in order to hire you for a job abroad. The best source for information about how to obtain a temporary residency visa in a specific country is the the U.S. Embassy in that country.

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