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Ask HN: Senior dev, no degree – which countries may accept me?
45 points by devb0x on Dec 7, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments
I have a decade plus experience in dev, traditional windows desktop, SQL server, .net, c#, asp, as well as open source mysql, php, python, bash on linux and aix. I am skilled in systems design, requirements gathering and have led a small team. I am a good communicator and able to interact with stakeholders at all levels.

I have a family and want to immigrate for their sake.

I do not have a degree and most likely will not get one at this point in time. Are there any countries where I can apply for jobs without a degree that will provide me and mine permanent residence?




I believe Hong Kong has a point system that counts work experience and degrees equally:

http://www.immd.gov.hk/en/services/hk-visas/quality-migrant-...

If you're under 40 and have 10 years of experience, there's your 80 points. (You also get 10 points for English. What a deal.)


In Switzerland, we have the dual education system [1]. This means highschool students usually choose a profession while they're still in school and go for an apprenticeship after graduation. An apprenticeship in ICT-professions takes 4 years and when finished successfully they receive the "Federal Certificate of Competence".

There is a program called "Informa" [2] which validates the knowledge of experienced craftsmen and gives them a chance to receive the same kind of degree like apprentice graduates. Which also makes them eligible to further education paths, like higher professional schools (to get a diploma if you like).

If you want to move to Switzerland, you don't have to worry about the language. Many IT-companies here are multi cultural and speak both German and English. We have a high quality of life here, the goverment is friendly and our laws favours employees.

I work for a small but successful company in Zurich. We'll move to a bigger office in January 2014 and need skilled developers to fill it :) We mainly create web applications and other cloud solutions, but also windows apps and banking software. We primarily use C#. Oh... and we don't care about certificates and degrees. We need skill, not paper.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me - dashdot at dashdot dot ch.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual_education_system [2] http://www.informa.modellf.ch/index.html


Is the job market for entry-level web developers with no CS/BS degree pretty poor like in th US and Canada? I'm Canadian and hold a BA. I've just started doing web development and I'm interested in taking advantage of my visa options.


At the moment the demand here for developers is clearly higher than the supply. However, mainly CS/BS are demanded. And if you're not experienced or you don't want to make an apprenticeship, the market gets very thin.


It would be helpful to know where you currently have citizenship. That may limit your options more than the lack of degree.


It is not the degree, it is the specialization. If I were you I would take 2-3 months and learn everything there is to know about a very specialized subset of tech.

When I was at Microsoft I hired a guy out of Russia who was self taught, but knew pretty much everything there was to know about Forward Error Correction in Mpeg Transport Streams. So we go him a work visa.

From the work Visa after a time you can convert to a Green Card.

Talk with a recruiter, find something they will need lots of that they can't find in the US. Learn everything there is to know, and get sponsored.


It really depends on where you are, I'm Canadian and in the same boat.

If I had a degree I could get a TN1 VISA, in 6 months I'll have enough work exp to qualify anyway (12 years). I could get an H1B but it seems like too much hassle.

The UK will apparently accept me, I have to say there's a world of difference between UK and US immigration, anytime I've dealt with US immigration I felt like wanting to do anything another than vacation in the US was criminal. In the UK however they seemed A OK as long as I had a return flight, they were even friendly.

Although it didn't pan out as I was extremely jet lagged, sleep deprived and bombed the interview I'd highly recommend talking to Facebook, their people were super accommodating and really went the extra mile to get talent on board. They basically figured out all my VISA options worldwide for me.


When I went to the U.S. last, immigration made me feel like a criminal even though it was just for a holiday. I think it's just part of the U.S. immigration experience. Greatest country on earth, don'tcha know.


The hiring company will take care of most of the H1-B bullshit & cost for you, so from that perspective that shouldn't be a problem. The US also pays far better than Canada or the UK.

Some weird grumpy people at the border that you might deal with for 5 hours a year tops seems a bit out of proportion. Plus SFO is pretty friendly as far as us border people go. They wont treat you as a criminal if you have the H1-B visa already anyway.


> Some weird grumpy people at the border that you might deal with for 5 hours a year tops seems a bit out of proportion.

For the TN-1 visa, these "weird grumpy people" may, during any one of those visits, choose to deny you re-entry, completely at their whim. And there's nothing you can do about it if they do.


As a guy who re-enters the USA about 5 to 10 times a year with such a TN visa, with SFO, SEA, local processing at YVR, and BC/WA land/sea border crossings that is a very overblown worry. The more you cross the border, the more of a 'known' person you become and the less of a probability that becomes. You can also appeal such denials, try applying again and so on.

The scariest part is when your applying for the TN visa at the border. Make sure your hiring company lawyers draft the letter properly and possibly bring proof it's a real company if it's a new startup and so on. Don't do it yourself. Don't act like your trying to commit fraud with them because your nervous, and stick to whatever your paperwork says. If it says 'computer systems analyst', your job is a computer systems analyst. Not lead CSA, just CSA. Same with 'graphic designer', 'accountant' and so on.


If you are denied the entry, Do you know how long you have to wait to reattempt it? (for the TN-1 visa)


I checked the H1B database for iOS engineers and it doesn't look that much better, not sure if those are fresh grad salaries or experienced person salaries.

Apple looked like they were paying about ~$10K more than here which is easily eaten by rent.

What's going rate for an Lead iOS Engineer with 12 years exp? (4 on iOS)


I have no idea where your coming from, what you do and so on so I can't compare that well. For me, vancouver rent is only couple hundred dollars less, if at all cheaper than the SFBA. Houses are close to the same price as the SFBA. When I was looking around in vancouver vs. seattle as a new grad, I was getting about a $40k annual difference. I've added about another $40k after several years and moving down to the SFBA.

You get stock/bonus compensation on top of that. If it's a startup then your getting non-liquid stock for the chance of a big payout later. For a publicly traded company, you pretty much treat it as an extra amount of cash that can amount to another $20-40k+.

That H1B salary searcher is diluted by guys that aren't paid that well at Wipro for example and doesn't include other forms of compensation. I also don't know if it includes raises over time. You also get such things as all 3 meals, gyms, etc which can amount to another $300-700/month. Everything is more expensive in Canada & the UK. If you live in a non income tax state, your income tax is reduced by another %10. California total income tax is about the same as BC, but WA is definitely lower than anywhere in Canada. Your employed so you have health care too.


Canada has a points system. You'll miss out on a lot of points for not having any higher education, but you can recoup some of that if your spouse matches the template:

http://www.workpermit.com/canada/points_calculator.htm


Also note about Canada: The startup visa lets you have only one year of University and still qualify.


I'm confused about why this is still a common question. I haven't seen a job posting in ages that doesn't say "CS degree or equivelent experience".

Of course if you want to do research at Google you'll need a PHD. However 99% of dev positions don't require even a BS.


It's not just about job requirements. A lot of countries require, at a minimum, a Bachelor's degree in order to get a work permit.


Including, indeed, the USA, if you want to come in as a programmer.


I was not aware of this. I assume this is only for folks without citizenship for the country they seek to work in?


Yes, I've never heard of any country that makes you get a work permit if you are a citizen.


If you want an easy entry into Germany as skilled worker, for example, you need to hold a 4 year degree in an appropriate field.


This isn't about companies accepting you without a degree. Most countries have regulations which don't let you get a work permit without a degree. In fact, this is the one only regret I have from dropping out of college.



Speaking as someone on a work visa in the US, I can tell you that their requirement is generally 12 years of experience in the field, with each year of higher education (in that field) counting for 3 years. So a 4-year degree works, as does 2 years towards a degree and 6 years professional experience.

With a decade or more of experience, you might just qualify for something like an H1-B and apply for permanent residency while there.

Of course, perhaps you are already in the US and wanting to leave for elsewhere...


Japan accepted me with 10 years of working experience and no degree (studies 98% done, no intention to finish). The company that was hiring me applied for my engineer's working visa. I got immediately the three year working visa. I didn't have JLPT (Japanese-Language Proficiency Test) certificate either.

Apartment, moving (suitcase + backbag), traveling & the rest was handled by me. When pulling from the right strings and being very determined gets you far.


Do you speak conversational japanese? Are you coping with the language?


When I joined I had completed a few courses in open university. It was a start, but would have been much easier, if my level was higher.


It's worth inveatigating australia. You may not get as many points without a degree, but you may make the cut. I believe to get rated as a software dev you need either a degree amd four years experience, or no degree plus 7.

It is not a simple or quick process to get PR in aus though, took me 18 months.


I've been in Australia for over 2 years, coming in under the 457 program. No degree either, and it didn't seem to be a problem. Getting PR through a 457 is pretty straightforward, though it will take 2 years and is more expensive now than it used to be. The upside is there's no skills test going this route.


Does require a job though, and you need to keep employed as if you're out of work for a month you have to leave.

I went the 157 route, took longer but you're much safer.


I have the luxury of having both of things. At the time, I had neither the money nor the time to deal with getting a 157 visa. Guess I've been lucky so far.


I've never considered that having a degree might be an issue for immigration. As far as I know, to work in Netherland to need you need either an income above a certain threshold, or the hiring company needs to prove they can't find someone with your skills locally.


NZ will accept you if you find a job and/or can prove your experience:

http://www.newzealandnow.govt.nz/new-zealand-visa/work-visa/...


In the US 3 years of work experience is good for 1 year of "uni". So 12 years industry experience is a 4 year bachelors degree for immigration purposes.


With no doubt, Brazil.


i am unsure of details (a long time since i came here), but i think also chile. i am unsure because i do have a degree (a phd) and did provide it at some point. but i entered on a tourist visa, got a job offer and then applied for change of status using that. as far as i remember they were happy to take me provided i would work and pay taxes. if you speak spanish most of chile's laws seem to be online, so you can probably dig up more info yourself.

since you are with a family, things may be more complex. public education here is not very good (i understand; i don't have children, but it is one of the issues in the current elections). there are private schools, but that implies you have to earn more. but if you can earn a decent wage then life here is pretty good - friendly people, relatively little crime, a more relaxed pace of life, great weather, good, low priced, fresh food (but imported goods are more expensive), very stable politics (for s america).

downsides are large variations in wealth, and relatively little in the way of public services, compared to w europe (i am english) and a certain lack of experience with foreigners (which if you are dark skinned can be quite obvious, and often rather naive, racism). also, hours are long in many chilean companies (how long you are at your desk can seem more important than what you do).

i don't regret coming here, at all, but i am (relatively) well off (and, i realise i haven't said anywhere above, live with - but am not married to - a chilean, which makes life significantly easier when first finding your way around).


Germany in particular caused this question and I am seriously needing to make the move. My English is perfect. Thanks for all the answers


work remotely anywhere you want. live in a country with low cost of living and use online portfolio to get work


You missed this.

> I have a family and want to immigrate for their sake.

I believe OP meant emigrate


I believe OP could mean emigrate alone or immigrate with an implied "to a better place than where he is." You emigrate from, and he didn't mention where he was from.

Or the difference doesn't matter, because any large group of English speaking people will only use the word "immigrate" exclusively.


apologies on the word immigrate. I would like to emigrate to another country.


You immigrate to another country and emigrate from your country. You were actually right the first time, but those two words are often used interchangeably, so it's no big deal.

Anyway, I am a college dropout, and I am facing the exact same issue as you. Unfortunately, I just have four years of experience, which is too less for a non-graduate to get a work permit in most countries. I was applying for remote jobs for the past few weeks without too much luck. It is really hard for an Indian with 4 years of experience, and without any solid experience in Ruby/Python/Javascript-MVC (those seem to be the most popular skills in the market). I just got another job in another city in India, which pays a little more, but it is more than what I have, so I have decided to move for now, and will probably re-look my remote work/immigration plans after some years.


You are maybe from Bulgaria or Romania, right?


Bulgarians and Romanians have the freedom to work and reside in many EU countries already, and all of them from January 1st.




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