In 2013, Heidi Schmidt moved to London to spend nine months opening an office for her employer. Seven years later, with several visa extensions and six office openings in Paris, Madrid, Milan, Stockholm and Berlin, she has returned to the Upper East Side, where she is now Vice President of Client Services at ad tech agency Hybrid Theory in Noho.
“I felt like I had an international MBA experience in all these different countries, [being] exposed to how each market does business,” Schmidt said.
Flexibility was key when cultural or language barriers arose. In Madrid, she focused on Spanish in high school. “My brain would hurt at the end of the day,” she said. “We would meet halfway – Spanglish.”
Wanderlust New Yorkers now have many choices beyond traditional work to cross borders. Options include relocating with a company, working remotely, taking a gap year, a sabbatical, study abroad, Peace Corps and more, with a choice of countries around the world. According InterNations Expat Insider Index 2021 Working AbroadTaiwan ranks first for job security, followed by New Zealand for work-life balance and the Czech Republic for working hours.
After graduating from the School of American Ballet in 2021, Clara Cantor, 19, of Nolita, pursued a gap year planned by the Center for Interim Programs, a gap year consulting firm that helps people of all ages . His itinerary included three-month structured external programs in Peru, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, as well as Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, among others.
“The goal was to throw myself into nature. I was so goal-oriented with the notes and the ballet. . . a self-imposed pressure cooker,” said Cantor, who is heading to Brown University this fall. “I learned so much more about myself and the world we live in by not having chores to do.”
International adventures like these can be metamorphic, but they require good planning.
Chad Ellsworth, Partner of a Global Immigration Services Firm Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, with offices in Midtown, says work authorization is imperative. “This is an emergency plan – a right to travel document that is increasingly essential,” he said. “If you’re not compliant, it opens up scrutiny for the business and everyone else in the business. Anything over 90 days would generally require a formal work permit.
And if you’re looking to work remotely, take a breather before you jump on the next flight to Costa Rica.
“Talk to your manager, talk to HR. Do so in a compliant manner to protect your employer, but more importantly yourself, from any tax, employment, or labor issues that may arise,” Ellsworth said.
Work permits, including for internships, are generally issued on a temporary basis for six months to three years; it can take three to four months to get them from the host country.
For independent contractors, the work authorization scoring is also country-specific. The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Croatia, Cyprus, Malta, Greece and Estonia top the popularity list using methods like Portugal D7 Residence Visa and the Dutch-American Treaty of Friendship. Each allows entrepreneurs to live and work in the country, although investment funds are required, with costs ranging from $3,000 to $5,000.
“They’re supposed to be something you can ask for quickly – it didn’t turn out that way. It can take two to three months,” Ellsworth said.
“For anyone doing a nomad visa, the best practice recommendation is to have both immigration consultation and tax consultation,” Ellsworth said.
It’s because wherever you go, Uncle Sam wants a haircut. David Livitt, Principal Tax and Global Mobility Services US Tax Lead at a Global Audit, Accounting and Advisory Group Mazars, said, “US citizens and green card holders are taxed on worldwide income. If there are tax treaties between the United States and the host country, then usually the treaty has tax rules that prevent you from double taxation. Depending on the treaty and source of income, either will give you a tax credit.
For example, the highest tax rate in the UK is 45% while here it is 37%. Income is taxed in both places; the higher rate always applies. The individual gets credit for 37 percent. The 8% differential (grossed up for tax purposes) can be absorbed by the company to meet the additional tax burden “to ensure that the individual is neither better nor worse off, as if he remained working in the United States”. Livit said.
Where there is no agreement, such as in Singapore, by taking up residence there, you become subject to US and Singapore taxes.
There is also a gray area with full-time telecommuters.
“Some companies say, ‘You can work anywhere,'” Livitt said. “When you go into detail, they backtrack.”
Livitt recommends employers follow a checklist to determine the risk/compensation of employees working in another country: immigration, payroll, taxes, social security, policy, expenses, health, insurance and data.
Freelancers should seek tax advice here and abroad as there may be implications for themselves and the organizations they work for, and as with visas, getting caught for non-compliance is not a joke, and can lead to deportation and permanent ban from the country.
“Generally it’s a fine-based process,” Livitt said. “You clear the paperwork, pay your money.”
Net net: Usually there won’t be any jet-setting issues for a few weeks, but “if you’re planning to go three months, six months, a year, then 100%, there will be a few [tax] problems,” Livitt said. “Every government wants to know what is going on. They want their income.