How Can I Work Remotely for an American Company While Living Abroad?

How Can I Work Remotely for an American Company While Living Abroad? was originally published on Ivy Exec.

How Can I Work Remotely for an American Company While Living Abroad?

The number of Americans living abroad varies considerably depending on where you look. The U.S. State Department says around 10 million Americans reside outside the country, while the United Nations says it’s about 3.2 million.

Though the number varies, this is still a considerable number of Americans who live abroad. Some leave the United States for love, others want to live elsewhere after retirement, and some are seeking a better work-life balance. 

But some American expats don’t necessarily want to limit their job prospects to positions available in the country where they moved. But what if you’re hoping to work at an American company while living abroad?

The number of self-described “anywhere” workers has grown significantly since the pandemic signaled a shift in the legitimacy of an opportunity for remote work. Specifically, Lonely Planet recently compiled a survey of 1,400 respondents from six countries, and 54 percent described themselves as “anywhere workers” who equally prioritize working and traveling.

Here, we’ll answer the most pressing questions about how you can live or travel abroad while working remotely in the United States. 


❔ Can’t I just apply for any remote job in the United States?

According to FlexJobs, the vast majority of remote jobs require employees to be based in a specific location. Specifically, around 95 percent of remote positions have a location requirement, like a state, country, or region. This may be surprising to some aspiring digital nomads because remote jobs are often perceived as “work from anywhere.” 


❔ Why do remote jobs so often have location requirements?

For one, companies often like their staff to come to occasional in-person meetings or at least be in similar time zones, so you’re not working in the middle of the night when everybody else works during the day. 

Sales and project jobs, for instance, may expect workers to be available to occasionally meet with clients in person. 

There are also legal and tax regulations. 

“State and federal regulations may dictate where companies can do business, which determines the locations where employees can work from. Similarly, tax law may determine which states companies can conduct business and hire employees in,” FlexJob’s Emily Courtney explains. 


❔ Will my potential or current employer let me work abroad?

That depends. Some companies don’t simply like their workers to work abroad, while others don’t allow it for legal reasons.

First, talk to your interviewer or boss about your goal to work at an American company while living abroad. If you are an employee, the company may be less likely to allow this, while independent contractors are often more likely to receive these allowances. Moving to an independent contractor status also frees the company from certain tax laws and benefits that employees receive. 

Asking the company to change your status from employee to independent contractor could make them more willing to let you work from anywhere; however, you may lose some of your employee perks. 

“If a U.S. company already employs you, the employer could consider reclassifying you as an independent contractor. But be aware that the working relationship must also change to reflect this. Suppose the company continues to treat you like an employee, such as controlling your work methods. In that case, the company will be subject to misclassification and could face penalties,” said Jemima Owen-Jones.


❔ What other factors do I need to be aware of when working abroad?

If you want to set yourself as a remote worker at an American company, you also need to keep a few other considerations in mind. These include: 

  • Completing tax form W-8BEN;
  • Paying taxes in America as an employee or independent, even when you’re living abroad; 
  • Apply for the type of visa you need for the length of your intended stay; 
  • Avoiding interacting with the local market as a remote worker.

What does that last stipulation mean? 

“[S]uppose the company asks you to attend a networking event with local people, or you decide to outsource your work to a local freelancer. In that case, you have interacted with the local market and have participated in economic activities within that country,” Jemima explained.


❔ I want to become a digital nomad. How can I do it?

If you don’t want to be tied down to a certain time zone or location, you’ll have to dig for that five percent of companies that really will let you work from anywhere.

CNBC recently compiled a list of companies that don’t have any in-office or location requirements. Do the fields that offer “anywhere” work the most often? Customer service, marketing, and project management roles topped the list. Software and tech jobs also ranked highly. 

What’s more, you don’t only have to look for jobs in the United States. For instance, Munich ed-tech company StudySmarter was willing to hire remote workers from around the world. 

Here is CNBC’s list of the companies with the “highest volume of work-from-anywhere job postings”:

  1. Protocol Labs
  2. Wikimedia Foundation
  3. StudySmarter 
  4. Toptal
  5. Achieve Test Prep
  6. ModSquad
  7. Polygon Technology
  8. Superside
  9. ConsenSys
  10. Airbnb


Work at an American Company while Living Abroad 


The prospect of living or traveling abroad while working can be appealing. But doing so isn’t as simple as grabbing your laptop and hopping on a plane. Ideally, you’ll find the rather rare employer that lets you work from anywhere. Alternatively, you could ask your employer if you could work internationally or find one of the rather rare remote jobs without any location requirements. Working as an independent contractor rather than an employee can make a digital nomad’s life more possible, but you will likely also lose out on employee benefits. 

The bottom line is this: if you want to work at an American company while living abroad, you can make it happen. However, this shift takes more planning and care than it may appear at first glance. 


By Ivy Exec
Ivy Exec is your dedicated career development resource.