Preparing for Civilian Contractor Jobs Overseas

Overseas contractor jobs bring a lot of excitement and experience to one’s career. You are working in a foreign country, with the military, on projects that could make a difference in the world. For many, becoming an overseas civilian contractor is the next logical step as a retired military. For others, it is the lure of adventure, high pay that overseas jobs provide, and a desire to help our country that convinces them to go. And still, for many others, it is the desire to help make a difference in the world through contracting for public works or foreign assistance.

There are many opportunities available for those who want to work overseas as a civilian employee or contractor. However, with those opportunities come unique risks that need to be adequately prepared for and understood before signing the dotted line on your employment contract. Still, even if you’ve already signed and are aware of the risks, you should make the necessary preparations in case anything should happen to you while working overseas.

Research Overseas Contractor Jobs

Before you sign up for the first overseas contract job you see online, you need to research each opportunity carefully. When most people think of overseas contractors, they think of the private security sector or being a private military contractor. However, the job opportunities are extensive and vary greatly in industry, not just security and possible combat roles: health care; security, particularly personal protection; education, including interpretation; transportation including truck driving; industrial such as mine removal, and civil work such as engineering and construction of buildings, roadways, bridges. Non-military type jobs include administrative work, agricultural jobs, human resources, and even IT and fitness. If you’re interested in overseas contract work, you’ll find most jobs to be in three main categories: military, security, and civilian.

Gathering as much information as possible on each job is important for determining whether the job is right for you and will be a good fit. Each contractor’s job varies greatly, with differences in pay, required experience and knowledge, job expectations, duties, location, and employer. The more you know about the job that interests you, the better prepared you will be in the application process and final decision.

Suppose you see a job in which you would seem like the perfect candidate. Applying without further research could land you in a location that doesn’t suit you or work for an employer with a bad reputation. Such information you should gather include:

  • Required experience and knowledge: Do you have enough relevant experience and/or knowledge to (1) prepare you for the job, (2) make a good candidate, and (3) allow you to succeed at the job? Many overseas security companies require two years of experience in security, anti-terrorism, investigation and interview, and/or intelligence work. A fitting background might include military or police experience. Furthermore, although many jobs require at least a high school diploma, most would prefer an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a related field or enough real-world experience to account for the formal education.
  • Security clearance: Most overseas contracts require a security clearance, although not all. Before applying, find out whether a security clearance is necessary and what level of security clearance is required. Do you have a current security clearance? Have you had one in the past and it just needs to be updated? Is there anything that would make you ineligible or cause difficulty in obtaining a clearance?
  • Physical requirements: Are you physically fit enough to complete your daily job duties? Physical requirements can also include the ability to wear required equipment such as helmets and vests. Can you withstand carrying heavy loads? Are you able to stand for extended periods of time? This is extremely important information to gather prior to applying should you have physical limitations.
  • Daily job duties: Is this a job in which the day-to-day tasks will suit you, be a challenge to enable growth, and add to your resume?
  • Job expectations: Do the expectations match the daily job duties and responsibilities? Or the expectations too high that they are unrealistic or too low that they won’t allow you to grow?
  • Possible pay range: Is the compensation fair for the responsibilities and expectations?
  • Location: Is this a dangerous location and are you willing to take that risk? Or is it in a location that doesn’t quite interest you or might be a problem?
  • Employer: What is the reputation of the employer? How long do contractors stay with the employer (as this could be an indication of problems)? What is the mission and culture of the employer?
  • Length of Contract: How long are you willing to work overseas? Are you willing to be away from family and home? Can you make the necessary preparations to ensure your family is taken care of while you are away?

All this information is wise to obtain prior to applying but especially prior to deciding on the contract should it be given to you. Many of these questions and more information can be gathered through an interview process as well. Once you’re contacted for an interview for the overseas contract job, it’s beneficial to ask any unanswered questions from above as well as clarifying answers or more details that you can better assist you in making a decision. Then, should you be selected as the candidate, you should take time to review your contract prior to signing on the dotted line.

Review Your Contract Carefully

Whether you’ve already signed on the dotted line or not, you need to review your employment contract carefully. The contract contains the terms of your employment, and it may include a section on liability for both the contract company and yourself. You need to know where your liability begins and where the liability of your contract employer ends. Knowing this information before you suffer an accident/injury could help in your case should your employer be liable for medical costs and compensation.

Along with your contract, you should also review any safety guidelines and job responsibilities. Both of these guides are intended to help keep you safe and make sure that you do not work outside your contract. Again, knowing this information will help prevent any injury. However, there is no amount of precaution you can take while working in a war zone that will protect you from war hazards like IED explosions, rocket attacks, etc.

Aside from those specific war hazards, other more common accidents do happen, regardless of how careful you are and well you follow the guidelines. This might include a trip and fall accident, etc. Should you get injured while fulfilling your contract duties, you should be eligible for compensation benefits. If, however, you become injured because you were not following safety guidelines or you were performing work outside your contract scope, your workers’ compensation insurance carrier could dispute your claim for compensation on those grounds. Knowing this information protects you and your rights should the worse happen. However, under the Defense Base Act (DBA), you should be covered so long as you are in the “zone of special danger” even if you are not working when injured.

Your contract will also tell you how to resolve disputes, whether it’s between you and another contractor, the employer, or even the client. As a civilian contractor, you will not be governed by military law, even if you’re contracting for the military. Sometimes, a contractor can be prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but this will depend greatly on your job and contract and is mostly relegated to contracts specific to war or contingency operations. Most contract jobs do not fall under this specificity. For the most part, you will be bound by the laws of the country you are working and living in. If, however, your dispute is specific to your contract, employment, and job, it will be governed and handled by the U.S. courts as any other U.S. job.

Home Preparations before heading Overseas

Should you decide to accept the job offer and work overseas as a contractor, there are many preparations to make prior to leaving. Preparing to work overseas isn’t just about job preparation, but also preparing your family, loved ones, and home for your absence. The following preparations should be made, which include both job-specific preparations and home preparations:

  • Talk to your family about the possible risks of your job so that they’re aware of any dangers.
  • Provide all the information you can to your family about work-injury risk, death risk, contact information, location, insurance and benefits, etc. Specific to your Defense Base Act insurance, walk through your benefits with your family so they understand your rights and their rights should anything happen to you, whether a superficial injury, serious injury or death. Other preparations for your family include a will, power of attorney, and talking to a lawyer about anything else regarding your absence and possible injury and death risk.
  • Make sure your finances are in order. Do you have direct deposit set up (which is the best option and sometimes the only option for overseas pay)? For many overseas contractors, they’re making well into six figures. Furthermore, you’re first $100,000 is tax-free. If it’s a larger income than you’re used to, do you have preparations for spending and saving? Should you contact a financial adviser to assist you and your family in dealing with a higher income while you’re away?
  • Research the culture of the country you’re going to be working and living in. It’s also beneficial to learn the language as much as possible prior to leaving.
  • Brief yourself on the risks, work requirements, or mission and goals of your job; attend any safety training and/or any other training relevant to your job and contract.
  • Obtain your passport and Visa and any other travel documents.
  • Gather information on clothing and supplies (personal items, equipment) you are responsible for and required to have prior to leaving for your overseas job.

Understand the Risks of Civilian Contractor Jobs Overseas

Civilian contractor jobs overseas are not the same as civilian jobs in the United States. Even if you are a civilian working on military bases, your job presents risks that are unique and need to be understood fully. Risks to personal safety are especially high in hot spots such as a war zone or ground zero for a natural disaster. If you’re a security contractor, you’ll be at the same risk as a soldier stationed in such areas as Afghanistan or Iraq. Although performing different duties, both military and civilian contractors often have the same types of risks if they work in the same area.

Before you sign your contract or before you leave for your post, you need to review these risks and dangers carefully and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. This is especially important if you have loved ones that you are leaving: review life insurance policies, wills, death benefits, and injury benefits. Make sure that both you and your spouse or children, and qualified dependents, know what to do should the worst happen to you.

You should also ask yourself if you’re prepared to manage those risks of danger, and also how to prepare. Does your contract employer have guidelines? Can you speak with other contractors and find out how they prepared? If something should happen to you, have you prepared your loved ones?

Know Your Rights and Benefits of the Defense Base Act

Because overseas civilian contractor jobs are unique, specific laws and acts have been passed that apply only to eligible contractors. One act in particular, the Defense Base Act (DBA), was passed to protect overseas contractors that work for companies under contract with the Department of Defense, the United States military, or under a public work or Foreign Assistance Act contract. The DBA protects the workers’ compensation rights of yourself should you become injured while working overseas.

The Defense Base Act contains a lot of information that might be confusing or you might not understand. Moreover, even if you do understand the details of this Act and your benefits, you might still run the risk of either losing your benefits or accepting a low settlement as insurance companies attempt to save money. This is why should you become injured while working overseas, you’ll want to understand how to protect yourself and your benefits. You’ll want to know your rights and how to file a DBA claim before you even get injured.

  • Keep all your pay stubs, employment paperwork, contract, and any communication between you and your supervisor, manager, or employer.
  • File an injury report as soon as humanely possible; and keep a copy for yourself. Email is often best when you are overseas.
  • Know who you’re working with at all times as they could provide a key witness testimony if necessary.
  • Keep all medical documentation even if you think it’s unnecessary. It’s better to keep it and not need it than the reverse.
  • Contact a DBA attorney as soon as possible so that you have an expert on your side of the table.

Overseas Preparation and DBA Claims

The hopes are for anyone that they will never need to file a DBA claim. However, accidents can befall even the most experienced and cautious contractor or operator. In the event that you do get injured, or worse, you or your loved ones should know who to reach out to for support in the DBA claim process. You need to know who can help protect and fight for your rights and the compensation you deserve.

The attorneys at Moschetta Law focus on Defense Base Act cases. We know the ins and outs of the process and what needs to be done to win. If you need to file a claim, understand your benefits better, or need representation, contact our offices today.