“The difficulty of living abroad is smaller than imagined, but the determination needed to go abroad is greater than imagined” –@FreiheitYu

The author wrote this article in early 2021, and there may be discrepancies due to the relaxation and tightening of immigration policies, for reference only.

Preface

This is a very struggling and bumpy experience. Under the situation of the pandemic, I still chose to come out from my country and start my experience as a programmer who physically crosses the wall. Because this experience is too bumpy, I want to write down this experience for future reference.

The reason is that the workload of my previous company was relatively large, and the content of the work was not particularly important to me. Most importantly, in such an environment, I couldn’t do what I like, such as engaging in open source communities, unable to think about some problems, to learn some different new knowledge, which made me distressed. So for 996, I would rather have a complete weekend, have time to settle down to think and plan for my future, so I chose to physically cross the wall, because I know I can use more personal time to do something more meaningful for my future and life.

How to get the opportunity

In fact, many people will ask me this question, how did I get this opportunity to work abroad? I brushed up on the spring recruitment for jobs on v2ex, and now this company is recruiting cloud native engineers, unexpectedly I got this offer. Then because the epidemic in my country was too serious at that time, I chose to join a certain jump.

Although I was quite happy working at a certain jump, I gradually felt some physical and mental problems, so I tried to talk about this opportunity again, and I didn’t expect to be able to retake it, so I wrote this article.

I recalled my previous interview experience, first of all, HR will be responsible for contacting you, starting a pre-interview by HR, that is, doing a small screening, to see how your willingness for this position is. Then there will be 3 rounds of technical interviews, in fact, the interview difficulty is relatively simple, it will not be like the domestic one, hammering you to the bottom until you remember it deeply.

Mainly some easy algorithm questions and system design questions, if the CS foundation is good, it is actually easy to answer.

Overall, the interview of foreign companies is indeed more comfortable than domestic ones, perhaps the engineers of large Internet companies in China are very busy, so the attitude during the interview is not very good, in foreign companies the atmosphere may be relatively relaxed, so they can talk to you more things, rather than throwing an algorithm question and then doing their own work.

Preparation

Getting an offer doesn’t necessarily mean you can leave China, as the pandemic may affect immigration policies at the time.

Things to do in China

For this section, I provide a checklist:

  • Apply for a passport
  • Apply for a visa
  • Apply for IPA
  • Apply for Safe Travel pass holder
  • Apply for sg arrival card (3 days before departure)
  • Book a hotel for waiting for the nucleic acid test result
  • (Optional) Rent a house in China
  • (Optional) Nucleic acid test in China

In China, you need to apply for a passport and visa first.

Let’s talk about the passport first. Since I had never been abroad before, this was my first time applying for a passport. It was also my first time working abroad, so I experienced all the challenges of going abroad hhhh.

Passport Application

Currently, there is no reason why you can’t apply for a passport. Tourism is not allowed.

You need to provide the offer from the school, the offer from the company, preferably translated.

I tried to apply for a passport in mid-January this year, but I didn’t get the passport of the People’s Republic of China until the end of February.

During this period, I went to the police station three times. The first time I made an appointment online, the mini-program said that I could apply directly with my ID card. But when I got to the police station, the police said that I couldn’t apply now, I had to show various materials, and I had to go back to my hometown for review. At that time, I was devastated, and many people on Zhihu also said that they couldn’t apply for a passport.

But I didn’t give up. I printed out the offer document, found a notary translation office to translate it, and continued to ask the police. The police said that I could apply, but I needed to go back to my hometown for review. When he said this, I was quite upset, because the review in my hometown might also fail. At this time, I only had one feeling in my heart, that is, only when the passport is in hand, don’t ever think that you are stable.

After waiting at home for almost 15 days, the police suddenly called to say that the review in my hometown had passed and I could apply for a passport.

After arriving at the police station, I took a photo, paid a fee of 100 or 200 yuan, and got a receipt. At this time, I was a little bit stable, but I was still not at ease, because the police said that I needed to pass the superior process before I could make a book. However, I could check the progress through the online WeChat mini-program.

So every day I was looking at the progress of the WeChat mini-program, and finally the approval was passed and the certificate was started. I thought I was finally stable, but one day at noon, I went out to do something and lost my wallet. I had only had my passport for a few days, so I immediately went to the police station to reissue it. Because it was in a different place, I needed to go back to my hometown for review. Fortunately, my hometown was efficient and sent my ID card back in three days.

Finally, at the end of February, I finally got my international ID card (passport)!

Visa Application

Singapore’s work visas include EP, SP, and WP types. I will mainly introduce two types of visas, EP and SP visas.

EP is the highest level work permit issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in Singapore.

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After working in Singapore for 6 months, you can apply for PR (semi-permanent residence). If you are a programmer and have certain work experience, it is relatively easy to apply.

SP (S Pass) is a work permit for foreign employees with intermediate technical levels.

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You need to meet the salary starting at 2300 Singapore dollars, and the education level is at least a college degree.

And each company has a quota for SP visas, and the company will pay extra taxes for employees with SP visas.

Like SP, you can apply for PR, but the pass rate is definitely not as good as EP.

Preparation of materials

For EP and SP visas, you need to provide:

Bachelor’s degree certificate (including translation) + Bachelor’s degree certificate (including translation) + Passport + Work Pass Application form

The Work Pass Application form needs you to modify it on the PDF, and then send the file to HR, and HR will submit it to MOM (Ministry of Manpower in Singapore) for review.

Here I provide a visa testing tool from the MOM official website: Visa Testing Tool

You can test whether you meet the requirements for visa application.

Get IPA

Singapore’s visa is actually something similar to an ID card, as shown in “Visa Processing Section One”. You can’t get this thing in your home country, so if you come to Singapore for the first time, the Singapore government will issue you something called IPA (In-principle approval), and it has a time limit. If you do not enter Singapore before the DDL, this IPA will become invalid.

After receiving the IPA from HR, you can print it out and present it to customs as a document for entry and exit. At the same time, don’t forget to sign on the IPA and send it back to HR.

Apply for Safe Travel pass holder

After getting the IPA, you need to determine a time of entry. For example, if you determine that the entry time is June 10, the Singapore government will allow you to enter on June 9, June 10, and June 11, that is, if you determine this time, you can only enter the day before, the day, and the day after. This should be the Singapore government considering the issue of possible flight delays. Before you apply for Safe Travel pass holder, it is best to determine whether there are direct flights to Singapore around your entry time.

Hotel Reservation

When I left China, China’s epidemic prevention policy was very good, so it was recognized by the international community (give a thumbs up to the motherland👍🏻), and Singapore’s policy also changed. For those who fly directly from the mainland, they only need to be active in Singapore after the nucleic acid test after getting off the plane is negative.

So you need to stay in a hotel for about a day and wait for the result to be negative. What you need to pay attention to is that you can’t just choose a hotel at will, you need to choose a hotel that supports quarantine.

Here is a website with a list of hotels: https://sha.org.sg/stay-home-notice You can call the corresponding hotel to ask about the price and whether it supports quarantine.

I also stepped on a pit here, that is, the selected hotel suddenly does not support quarantine, but the hotel staff is still very responsible, recommended me a nearby supporting hotel, and helped me call a taxi and returned the money to me in the same way.

Renting a House

I personally recommend renting a house about 1 month before departure on various platforms. The pit I stepped on is that it is best to find a friend in Singapore to help you look at the house, and then clarify the lease term, whether there is a partition, etc. before renting.

At the same time, the Singapore government has also imposed restrictions on renting houses:

If you rent a HDB flat, please make sure that the unit owner has registered your tenant with the Housing and Development Board, and the rental is strict for short-term rentals and needs to rent for more than 6 months.

If it is a private/condominium property (Airbnb apartment address is also possible), please ensure that the total number of occupants does not exceed 6 people, and the condo (apartment) is relatively loose for short-term rentals, and you can live for at least 3 months.

!!!Be sure to pay attention here, because the Singapore government will come to check the water meter, so if you want to be stable, you need to ensure that you meet the conditions, and you need to ask the agent clearly about the number of people and other information.

Buying Air Tickets

I personally recommend buying direct flights to Singapore (which may be more expensive), and the earlier you buy, the better. Flights to Singapore are basically Singapore Airlines, which is the world’s number one airline in service. If you buy on Fliggy or other Alipay platforms, you actually buy Singapore Airlines tickets.

When I bought the ticket, I actually stepped on two pits. I bought the ticket when I came down as a Safe Travel pass holder. The ticket at this time was nearly 1k RMB more expensive than when I applied for the Safe Travel pass holder. So I personally suggest that you should buy Singapore Airlines tickets first, and then apply for the Safe Travel pass holder, because Singapore Airlines tickets are free to change.

The second pit is that I may have paid but the ticket did not come down when I used Alipay to purchase on the Singapore Airlines app, so I recommend buying on the Singapore Airlines website page or the Fliggy platform. The result is that I made several calls to the airport and finally successfully exited the thousands of dollars of ticket money that was stuck, and then I bought a new ticket on Fliggy with peace of mind.

Apply for sgarrival card

3 days before your flight, you need to apply for an sgarrival card on the Singapore government website and fill in some information about your arrival in Singapore and a health declaration. The website is here Fill in sg arrival card address.

Domestic nucleic acid test

Actually, this might not be necessary, but for the sake of stability, I did it 5 days before my flight at a hospital near my home. I called the airport where I was flying, and the staff said it was not necessary, but unexpectedly, when I went through customs, they still asked me for this report. I showed them the electronic record and they let me go to the next procedure. So I think to avoid sudden policy changes, I personally recommend doing a domestic nucleic acid test 3 days before departure.

Purchase overseas insurance

When you leave the country, the airport will ask you about overseas insurance, so you need to purchase insurance with the word “coronavirus” in advance, and the insurance amount needs to be above 30,000 RMB. I recommend buying it on Taobao for convenience.

Before departure

Things to bring

When packing my luggage, I also have a checklist:

  • Passport
  • Copy of Offer
  • Visa
  • Copy of IPA
  • Domestic ID card (may be needed when returning to the country)
  • Copy of Safe Travel pass holder
  • Copy of sg arrival card
  • Insurance policy with an amount of more than 30,000 RMB
  • A dozen masks
  • (Optional) Sun protection clothing
  • (Optional) Domestic nucleic acid proof

Useful apps to install

  • WuXingXing: Can receive domestic mobile text messages, and even answer calls for free.
  • TraceTogether: Singapore’s health treasure.
  • Moovit: A convenient and useful map for taking the subway and bus in Singapore. Because it is a Singapore-specific app, it has been adapted.
    • Here’s a reminder that Singapore buses don’t call out stops, so you need the app to remind you.
  • Register an Apple ID for the Singapore region in advance.

Departure

  • It’s best to leave 3 hours in advance. After arriving at the departure airport, you can check in first and check your luggage.

  • Then wait for the customs inspection. Generally, they will ask you to fill in some health declaration forms,

  • Then take your temperature. I was asked if I had a domestic nucleic acid proof. I showed the record of negative nucleic acid.

  • Then there will be customs asking you what the purpose of your departure is (foreigners don’t ask), I said I was going to work and have an offer, and then showed the materials.

  • Then I went to the next checkpoint and left my phone number. The customs stamped my passport and checked my luggage again.

  • Start waiting for the flight.

Taking Off

The food on Singapore Airlines is decent, the service is good, and the flight attendants are quite attractive.

You can connect to wifi during the flight (for a fee)

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Immigration

After a 4-hour flight, I arrived in Singapore. Here are a few steps for immigration.

  1. Follow the crowd after getting off the plane. Halfway there will be a place to queue for health declaration/buying a local phone card. We had done the health declaration before departure, and whether to buy a phone card is up to you (not mandatory). I personally recommend buying overseas data in advance in your home country, then just turn on roaming when you arrive in Singapore, and buy a cost-effective card after free activities.
  2. Then there will be a checkpoint specifically to check if your TraceTogether is registered. If your phone can no longer receive messages, you will have to buy a Singapore card.
  3. Airport staff will first take the people who have come down to a corner to check the materials. I only need a passport + arrival card + health declaration form + IPA.
  4. Queue for the real clearance. I went to the ALL PASSPORT window, just show the above materials.
  5. Collect luggage, get the luggage according to the number on the ticket.
  6. Use the QRCode + passport on the first page of the PCR Payment sent by HR for nucleic acid testing.
  7. Continue to advance towards the exit, after passing through the Green Way (no declaration) door, look up and see if there is a sign with the word Coach.
  8. Follow the Coach sign to the Coach Bay, then HR will send you a car booking email in advance telling you to wait for the car at a certain platform, go to the corresponding platform and then call the car call in the email.
  9. The assigned driver will appear within 5 minutes and take you to the hotel.
  10. Most drivers are Chinese, you can try to chat with him and ask about the local customs in Singapore.

Arriving at the Hotel

After arriving at the hotel, you need to stay in the hotel until your nucleic acid test passes. You can disinfect the room with the alcohol given on the plane.

The next day you will receive the results of the nucleic acid test, then notify the hotel of your results. If it is negative, you can move around in Singapore.

Conclusion

Looking back now, it really wasn’t easy, especially when applying for a domestic passport and buying a ticket, it was really difficult. In fact, it’s just that:

“The difficulty of living abroad is less than imagined, but the determination needed to go abroad is greater than imagined.”

Others

Finally, our department is responsible for the construction of Shopee’s infrastructure and components, and we are currently recruiting senior cloud-native development engineers. You can send me your resume first to arrange an interview:

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[新加坡] 资深云原生平台开发工程师 - Kubernetes

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