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Ask HN: What Stops You from Switching Remote US Only to Remote Same Time Zone?
16 points by andreshb 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 36 comments
If your company is Remote US Only, what would it take for your company to start employing people at the same skill level, with the same culture, language, same time zone, same experience, just not residents of the U.S.

Is it distance to fly into your HQ?

Guadalajara is closer to Bay Area than New York. Medellin is just as far as Bay Area from New York.

Is it payroll and compliance? Deel, Pilot, etc., are like Zenefits/Trinet for Global Payroll.

Is it experience? There are engineers residing outside of the U.S. in Canada and Latin America that work or have worked for Automattic, Auth0, Gitlab, AI Fund, NodeSource, Ooyala, WolframAlpha, Auth0, etc., They are all on linkedin.

I want to understand the variables that if changed would make it so your remote U.S. only company has employees that reside outside of the U.S.

It usually means they have payroll and processes around taxes implemented in the US only. They might be unwilling to take "contractors" who are actually full time employees from other countries since in those scenarios they still have tax obligations. For some countries in the EU, such as Germany, you're unable to "contract" someone full time since the "employee" isn't actually self-employed and it would enable them to deduct a bunch of tax items that actual full time employees wouldn't be able to. In those countries, as a real contractor you can't have all your income coming from one company. If you apply this thought process to countries that are in the same TZ as the US, you can see that HR would have to look into a lot of legalities in those countries, keep up with the legalities, and calculate the risk of those laws changing. I'm extensively using quotations because contractor/employee is fuzzy in these scenarios.

This is coming from a Canadian that dislikes the "Remote US Only" clauses when I see an awesome company hiring.

Seems like you could turn this HR issue into a company. I am sure there are even ones that exist for the bigger countries outside the US.

Deel and Pilot are two of many doing this

For some, "US only" means they are working on government contracts, especially defense. Nothing's going to overcome that one.

Others may be because, even if the flight time is shorter, international travel is still messier than domestic travel.

Government contracts makes a lot of sense. International travel being messier during a pandemic, especially flying into the US might be something people are unwilling to do, but pre pandemic it’s just slightly longer line with CBP, not really a material obstacle.

I've hired and worked with many dozens of devs around the world. Some I worked with for 10 days, others for years.

The only downside that I haven't found a solution for is communication. Even with brilliant people who had been speaking English for decades, a lot gets lost because of language.

It's hard enough to talk to other Americans about technical issues. It's harder when the other person is losing small, important distinctions in each sentence.

It's obviously not a dealbreaker. The benefits of hiring internationally outweigh the drawbacks. In fact, no company I've ever helped build could have succeeded hiring only Americans.

Weird. Half Europe (IT industry) speaks broken English and everyone understands each other just fine mainly because the English used is simple, without fancy words and direct to the point.

> everyone understands each other just fine mainly because the English used is simple, without fancy words and direct to the point

Fine. So what? Just because it works doesn't mean it's perfect or frictionless.

Lots of software and business concepts are not simple. They take a long time to explain, and they're hard to express with a language (English) that was not designed to express them.

Like I said, it's a problem between two native English speakers, too. It's just more of a problem when one of those people is missing chunks of vocabulary or doesn't understand some of the small, impactful differences in wording in English.

My business partner is Israeli and speaks excellent English, and we still run into these problems sometimes.


Damn near caused an outage because the offshore team didn't know that idiom, and I didn't think about how they might not understand that. Told the not to get into the nitty-gritty of the upgrade until we knew more about how the customer was going to build -- but they didn't know what that meant and kept trying to finalize router configs.

Even with fluency little stuff like this can kill. There is a reason NATO makes everyone learn the same phonetic alphabet and radio transmission patters.

I would say that it's actually one of Europe's disadvantages. While people in management positions usually do very well with English, technical people often have problem expressing their intention and speak awkwardly and/or simplify their message by necessity. The difference can be felt especially when the same team is allowed to speak in its native language (assuming everyone is a native in a given country).

Would you have the same problem working with non native English speaker immigrant programmers in the US? They’ve spoken English for decades but not native speakers.

Where they live is irrelevant, except that there's a correlation between speaking English natively and living in the US. The only real variable is their fluency, so an American living in Tibet would be easier to work with than an immigrant in Ohio who has only been speaking English for a year.

My anecdotal experience with this is minimal because immigrants often work with larger companies than mine, but I have had a few.

One coworker was from Ukraine, and communication was very hard. He'd been in the US for more than 10 years, but he sounded like his only experience speaking English was from formal classrooms. As someone who is awful at learning and pronouncing foreign languages, I can definitely sympathize with him. I'm sure it was not an issue of effort at all.

The others were Indian, and there was no noticeable communication barrier. They knew (and used) American idioms, and they never seemed to have trouble keeping up with the mumbly way that tech people often talk. These were CTO-level, went to top colleges, and probably had a lot of English immersion in India before they moved.

Payroll and legal complexities is the big one.

I've also run into challenges around mismatches in cultural expectations of how employer/employee or manager/report relationships should operate.

We did at an old gig. Completely ditched the Indian offshore team for Mexico City. Generally, was a good experience, or was at least better than Tata/CTS/HCL.

The big changes were

- timezone overlap; they were Central Time and working for East and West costs weren't a struggle

- vaguely similar holidays / no surprises because no one in the US knows when Holy is

- level of English was usually better with the Mexicans, though they often had thicker accents; we could always find a Spanish speaker in the office if there were any communication struggles

- level of technical qualifications was usually better, in that Tata would be obligated to find someone who can do [X], and experience has shown that they'll find anyone, while the Mexican support teams usually had solid technical chops.

We had some limited success with a team in Argentina too, but there were a lot of tax and other logistical hoops. We had high hopes for the folks we reached out to in Brazil but they were never really organized, and I gather getting any sort of hardware into the BZ is expensive and complicated, plus they only have like 2 real Telcos and connectivity was problematic (this was like ~8 years ago, so things my have changed).

Why is it so bad for American companies to hire American workers?

Big Tech companies are only nominally “American”. They all have more revenue outside of America than in America. We want other countries to buy our stuff to so our pensions/401Ks can keep rising. So we shouldn’t be upset if they also hire overseas.

Yes so realize that most people don’t get pensions. But if there is a public pension shortfall, taxpayers are on the hook.

Only a couple companies listed by OP are Big Tech though. There are many American companies that do not operate outside the country, but do outsource work.

So you think there should be protectionism? Because the profits from outsourcing are either going to executives or shareholders. Unless you fix that problem, you are not going to get American jobs back. I actually agree that outsourced jobs should be going to rural America rather than to India but CEOs don't have any incentive to do so.

I think it's just more cost effective to hire anyone in any other country, thanks to living costs and lack of opportunity in some countries.

But why should I have to compete with developers of the same skill level who can afford to take a much, much lower salary than I can? Especially when I took out American debt to attend an American university so I can live in America and work an American software job.

Why should daily wage workers make Nike shoes in Bangladesh for peanuts when they can be manufactured in America for 10x more?

They should make $0 and they should be manufactured in America by robots for 10x less at scale. Not to mention polluting the environment less by not sending a boat halfway around the world for some shoes.

You gave the worse example to prove that capitalism is failing the world. Export the bad jobs, keep the good ones. And sell the fruits of both work to the poor people with the bad jobs you exported, getting your payroll money back tenfold.

As someone who lives in a manufacturing and assembly developing country, these jobs are actually very good for the local economy. Making Nike shoes 45 hours a week sucks, but it beats making ends meet by cutting grass or making lower quality shoes for less money. After a few decades of this, we can now afford Western luxuries like KFC and buy Factorio instead of pirating it.

It's disadvantageous to the richer countries, though.

'Afford western luxuries' is a great euphemism for over-consuming ads and garbage.

Then stop buying all imported stuff & pay full blown prices for made in US stuff.

Some of us would if there were still US stuff to buy, or if finding it weren't near-impossible.

Why should foreigners keep supporting American companies that keep our RSUs and 401Ks afloat? Why should they keep buying our debt that allows us to borrow trillions?

Because Treasuries are the safest asset in the world. Foreigners have no choice but to hold it, nor can they invest anywhere else in the world at the intersection of stability and risk adjusted returns that is the US capital markets.

By all means, find a better investment environment if one thinks they can; it doesn’t exist.

How much US debt does Ukraine hold? With the exception of China we don't even really heavily outsource to the 10 biggest buyers of our debt because they're mostly wealthy countries that can't be exploited. Japan owns nearly 10x as much of our debt as India does.

And you wrote that comment using an American laptop assembled in China. You get it now?

Welcome to capitalism in 2020 mon ami. Enjoy the ride.

Everyone is an avid supporter of capitalism, until the free market no longer favors them.


Would that mean that your company would hire if it found people with the skills residing in Canada and Latin America just like Automattic, Auth0, Gitlab, AI Fund, NodeSource, Ooyala, WolframAlpha, Auth0, etc. found them ?


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