Finding an Job as an Overseas Contractor

mosque kuwaitMosque, photo by Charles Buchanan

Economic times are tough in the US and many skilled workers find it hard to get a good paying job. There are opertunities for experienced workers in Overseas Contracting on US Government projects. Most of these jobs are on a US Government Military Support Contracts. While most of these jobs require certifications or specific job experience, some require little experience, as long as you meet some basic requirements.

US Government contract positions typically pay two to three times what the same position pays in the states. Be aware you are being paid for your knowledge, seperation from your family, the dangerous work environment and for living in normaly austere conditions. Most of these contracts also require that you work six or seven days a week, and twelve hours a day. But you get paid for all the time you work and they pay all your expenses overseas: food, board, medical, laundry and transportation. You will have no expenses except what you spend at the Post Exchange.

Now before you begin to send your resume to the companies that hire for these jobs, you must be aware of some other facts. Most positions require that you pass a criminal background check and screening for outstanding wants and warrents. You will need to be finger printed by your local police department. You must not have any pending criminal actions. The Federal Government is serious about not hiring security risks or people trying to evade prosecution or arrest.

You will also have to disclose any bankruptcies pending, or initiated in the last seven years. You must not have any garnishments to your wages, or actions against you for missed or late payments. You can not owe back child support payments. You can not have drug or alchahol problems. You must also be a US Citizen or legal resident.

Keep in mind many of these jobs are in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, other Middle Eastern countries, much fewer are in South America and Africa. The chances of getting a contracting job in Europe are pretty slim. Besides, the real contracting money is in support of military operations, primarily in Afghanistan.

This means there is some risk in overseas contracting. You will probably live in a war zone. You will be restricted in your travel. You may be subject to mortar attacks and have to wear body armor. You might get killed. You may live in a tent. But the pay is good and steady.

I have been contracting on seven contracts in six countries, most of them in places you normally wouldn't be. I find it lucrative, challenging, interesting and the best financial option for someone over 40 like me! If you are still interested in overseas contracting, keep reading.

Determining Your Seriousness:
US Army Base, blast walls at an Iraqi American Base, photo by Charles Buchanan
I list several companies that hire for overseas contracts at the end of this article. These companies are serious about hiring people at a good wage, usually two to three times what you could make in the states for the same job. These companies want a commitment when they call. If you decide to pursue overseas employment, make certain you are really ready go to work overseas, and I mean today, no maybes, no laters. When you fill out and submit your application, or submit a resume, do not be surprised if the company wants you to go on short notice. Starting your processing can take days or weeks, but you must be ready to go on their schedule.
Most contracts are for six months, a year or a year renewable. Contracts are just that a contract, for as long as there is work. Some jobs may last a short time others may last for years.
Most overseas employment (except Department of Defense employees) work tax free up to $82,000.00 per year + (it changes every year and generally increases) with certain restrictions. Basically you must spend 330 days out of the US in a continuous 365 day period to qualify for a tax break. Check with the IRS for the current rules.
Expect long hours, harsh conditions, family separations, living in countries where goods and services are not up to US standards.
Food is usually good and plenty of it, but saying that I have been on local food or ate MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) military ration packs for weeks too. If you are located where a US Military Dining Facility is supporting your company, you will eat better than at home. (reguardless no contractors ever starve overseas!)
What Does Overseas Employment Involve?

FortressPerimeter walls and guard tower, photo by Charles Buchanan
Contracts vary, some will be regular 40 hour weeks, some are 84 hour weeks. The contract should specify if it is salary or hourly? What specifically are your duties? What country will you be in? Hhousing, medical, transportaion and working conditions should be specified. Will you live in a tent, a hotel, a house? Will you have to cook or will meals be provided? What are the security concerns? All these things should be asked about before you agree to a position.
I have worked on contracts where I was salaried and worked 48 hours a week in Saudi Arabia. Had a nice trailer, my own driver and worked in an office. Still it was unaccompanied (no family members), there was nothing to do in the off times and communications with my family was bad (no internet, expensive phone calls, three week mail).
I worked in Kuwait, 84 hours weeks, 12 hours, 7 days a week, good money. Great benefits for me and my family. Nice room, bad food. The same job was offered in Iraq with a tent, better food and about 35% more money for danger pay.
I have also lived in a tent for three months (Kosovo) with the same company, same long hours, same great pay, in Europe. Hardest part is being separated from your family. Always check on vacations, when, how long and who pays the travel!

The hardest part of applying for these Expat jobs (expatriate) overseas is finding the companies that are hiring. Most have job listings on their web sites once you can find who is who in the industry. I have provided some web addresses below to make this easier for you.
Be advised, that although you might get hired if you lie about a criminal past, or having back child support payments due, these companies do check, as they are required by the government to do. I have seen employees dragged from a work site in handcuffs by the Federal Marshals in several countries. So be straight with these guys.
Submit for the jobs you feel you "might" be qualified for. These companies get paid for filling "slots", often with the best candidates they can find not only the best "qualified". Obviously don't lie, but don't count yourself out for a job you can do, but have little experience. Make certain you list all the experience you have and include copies of your certifications with your resume.
I currently work for AECOM / GSS ( and I am really satisfied with this company. AECOM is currently hiring for Afghanistan and have ongoing contracts around the world. Other companies include ITT International (, Dyncorp (, Raytheon (, CSA (, etc... There are many more, you just need to search the net and network.

  • Make sure you sign your contract in the US and fall under the Longshoremen's Act, this gives you protection under US labor laws.
  • Check on if you need a passport or the company will get you one (need an "ORIGINAL" copy of your birth certificate.
  • You will need a bank account for direct deposit.
  • Have good records of your medications and if possible get a 90 day refill before going overseas
  • If possible have a Master Card or Visa for emergencies when overseas.
  • Contractors normally fall under local laws when in a foreign country, do not take drugs without a prescription and DEFINITELY do not have illegal drugs or use them overseas!
  • Ask lots of questions! Don't go overseas and find there are unacceptable clauses in your contract.
  • Many of these positions are on military bases, you will be subject to searches of vehicles and personal items on a daily basis, be prepared for this! (you get used to it!)
  • File your taxes, overseas employment, although often tax free, requires filing yearly with the IRS.