For a promising IT career, go east, young techie

The U.S. and Europe are slowing down, but hot tech jobs beckon in China, India, and Eastern Europe

As IT job opportunities in the United States and Europe start to contract -- a trend that predates the current financial meltdown but may accelerate because of it -- perhaps it's time to look abroad, where there may, in fact, be more growth and better opportunities to advance your career.

For example, the International Monetary Fund now predicts that the U.S. economy will barely grow -- at a 0.1 percent rate -- in 2009, while European economic growth will range from a slight contraction (-0.2 percent) in Italy to slight growth (0.2 percent) in France. Canada will be the superstar of the major developed economies, predicted to grow 1.2 percent.

By comparison, the IMF expects China to grow at about 8 percent, with India at about 7 percent, and Russia about 6 percent -- despite the financial crisis. The world at large should grow about 3 percent.

[ Use InfoWorld's interactive map to learn about 12 hot cities and 6 regions you should consider for career-boosting tech jobs abroad. ]

Tech jobs overseas are no longer just the scut work of heads-down programming. As foreign, U.S., and global firms have set up shop throughout the world, they've increased the demand for a wide range of tech talent in those locations. Foreign companies are particularly looking for IT professionals with business fluency, and such experience is more common in the United States than in most places. The combination of industry-specific skills and knowledge of American markets is an invaluable asset that outsource providers from countries like China, India, and Russia lack and will pay a premium for.

And the experience you'll gain from working overseas will make you even more valuable. According to Rob McGovern, CEO of JobFox, an international employment agency for IT, in today's global economy, people who truly understand how to do business globally are a minority. "IT is going global. The IT profession is going global. Developing product for markets all over the world is something you have to learn how to do. Overseas work is a huge enhancer for IT professionals," he says.

So where should you move to accelerate your tech career? InfoWorld interviewed outsource suppliers and industry analysts from around the world and found 12 hot cities and six promising regions, as well as what it takes to make the move. Many are in the Far East of Asia and in Eastern Europe, but Latin America, the Middle East, and -- closer to home -- Canada are all strong possibilities as well, for at least some tech skills.

The most popular types of tech jobs outside the United States vary considerably, and emerging IT centers are themselves trying to diversify their own areas of expertise. But as a gross generalization, product support and business process development positions are more likely to be in India than in Indianapolis; embedded software development positions are more likely to be in China than Cincinnati.

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The paths to working overseas
So how realistic is it really to move overseas for work? The answer varies based on the country and, of course, your personal circumstances. Family considerations -- such as finding a job for your spouse and a school for your children -- can make an overseas move much harder for a family than for a single person. In terms of the basic process, however, there are three routes to getting a job overseas.

The first is to get a work visa in the destination country, the equivalent of the H-1B program in the United States. This typically requires that the employer sponsor you and go through a process proving you are not taking a position a local could fill.

The second is to get a work-rotation visa in the destination country, the equivalent of the L-1 program in the States. This type of visa lets companies rotate employees among their offices in various countries. It's often used for executives to help them gain experience across different corporate units but can be applied to other positions as well. Global consultancies, federal agencies, and multinationals are the typical venues for such positions.

The third is to use any dual nationality you may hold, such as from being the spouse or child of a foreign national, to seek work in that other country. After all, as a citizen of that country, you have the same employment rights as any other national. (The fact that you are also a U.S. citizen doesn't matter, at least in countries that allow dual citizenship.)

The fourth is to set up your own company in the United States and be a consultant overseas.

Some locales, like Costa Rica, actually make it easier for foreigners to come in and start a company rather than come in as an employee who might be taking a job away from a local.

The top regions and cities to explore for overseas tech jobs
Based on dozens of interviews, InfoWorld has come up with the following regions and cities worth exploring if you want to offshore yourself:

Regions:
* Asia
* Canada
* China
* Europe
* India
* Latin America

Cities:
* Amsterdam, the Netherlands
* Bangalore, India
* Dubai, United Arab Emirates
* Dublin, Ireland
* Hong Kong, China
* Kiev, Ukraine
* New Delhi, India
* Paris, France
* San José, Costa Rica
* São Paulo, Brazil
* Shanghai, China
* Tel Aviv, Israel

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