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Finding Work as a Military Spouse When You’re Not a U.S. Citizen

As a foreign-born military spouse, it’s important to learn how to navigate through citizenship issues, increase your marketability and find employment whether you are stateside or overseas.

When you aren't a U.S. citizen, there are unique challenges to overcome when searching for work, but using the right resources and strategies can increase your success.

You may need to approach your job search differently depending on whether you’re looking for work stateside or overseas.

Finding a job in the United States

Get a work permit

You’ll need a work permit to be eligible to work in the United States. Use the resources below to get your work permit. Once you have your permit, you can legally obtain employment.

Transfer licenses or degrees you have earned outside the United States

Employers often require of non-U.S. qualifications to ensure you meet the education or training requirements for a position. Transferring Licenses or Degrees Earned Outside the United States offers information on the non-U.S. qualification evaluation process.

Understand and public sector versus private sector employment

Non-U.S. citizen spouses with the required job skills may apply for non-sensitive positions with the U.S. government, but without full U.S. citizenship, getting a position requiring a security clearance may be difficult. Military spouse preference is currently not applicable if you are not a U.S. citizen. Learn more about government positions and apply for jobs on the USAJOBS Employment Portal.

Typically, finding a job in the private sector takes less time than finding a government position, so if you need a job quickly, target the private sector as your primary focus. Consider starting your job search on the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search, where you’ll find open positions from hundreds of companies and organizations committed to hiring military spouses. If you’re seeking a position in the private sector, employers can ask about your eligibility to work in the United States, but they shouldn’t ask if you are a military spouse or inquire about your citizenship status unless it is a requirement for the job.

Stress your language skills

If you speak a language other than English, either as your primary or secondary language, make sure to highlight those skills on your resume and in your cover letter. Many employers are very interested in hiring bilingual employees. When searching for positions in either the public or private sector, use the term “bilingual,” and indicate the language you speak and your location to bring up listings of potential jobs on popular search engines. To narrow the results, you may also want to put in the type of position you are seeking.

If you aren’t comfortable with spoken or written English, you may want to investigate courses to polish your skills to make your job search easier. Consider the following resources:

Finding a job while overseas

Finding a job while overseas can be more complicated than finding a job stateside because you’re dealing with citizenship issues of two countries, as well as the Status of Forces Agreement of your host country. Take time to learn more about Overseas Career Options and visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to find contact information for your local installation before you start your job search.

Tips for finding employment in the United States or overseas

The job hunt process in the United States may be very different from what you’re used to, so use available resources to explore the labor market and focus on networking to make connections and find employment. Speak with a SECO career coach by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or use the Live Chat feature on the MySECO website to get resume assistance, interview information, education and training guidance, or assistance with any aspect of your job search.

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