In 1912, Chicago's Physical Director of Schools penned a publication called "Brain Culture Through Scientific Body Building". The Director, a Mrs Theodore Parsons, had picked up a few things about the many health benefits of regular exercise from her soldier husband. In her book she says "The average woman does not know how to breathe, sit, stand or walk. Now I want women to train for the special duties which may devolve upon them in war time. Death begins at thirty, that is, deterioration of the muscle cells sets in. Attention to diet and exercise would enable men and women to live a great deal longer than they do today. The best part of a woman's life begins at forty." And so one of the most popular quotes in the English language was coined.
She had a good point. By 40 most women have had, reared, and largely sent their children out into the world. Women one hundred years ago therefore typically had a lot more time on their hands after that so life for many of them probably did improve. Those who kept themselves fit and healthy could reasonably expect to enjoy another 30 to 40 years of life, pretty much doing as they pleased.
Mrs Parson's ideas though didn't gain a lot of attention until the US entered WW1 in 1917 and those 'special war time duties' became a reality for many women. The concept gained more traction when Walter Pitkin, an American psychologist, wrote a self-help book in 1932 with the bold title "Life Begins at Forty". He wrote in the book "Life begins at forty. This is the revolutionary outcome of our New Era. Today it is half a truth. Tomorrow it will be an axiom."
Today, as the average lifespan of our species extends, 40 is no longer considered old and the age typically mentioned in those 'life begins' quotes has likewise begun to extend out. That's why today you'll more commonly hear "Life begins at 50". Even "Life begins at 60" is catching on more and more! Certainly, as financial circumstances force more and more of the world's working folk to remain in the workforce for longer, 'official' retirement ages are no longer a welcoming light at the end of a long working career tunnel for many.
If you're an expat currently employed overseas, or looking to start work in a foreign country, it makes sense therefore to think you'll be able to continue working even though you are, or are rapidly approaching, 'official retirement age'. Unfortunately however, this is not the case in many parts of the world, at least not when it comes to skilled and migrant work visas. In many cases, they're bringing the upper age limit eligibility down, and making it harder to renew existing work visas when you approach, or hit, the country's official retirement age.
What this means is that throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, skilled migrants with a bit of age under their belts are finding it harder and harder to get visas to work in these countries. Even if you are successful as an older expat in getting a visa, the conditions under which those visas are issued may be different to those for younger expats. You may find for example that where someone younger can renew their work visa for 2 or 3 years, you have to do it annually once you reach a certain age. And that it may not be renewed at all once you reach the country's official retirement age for your gender.
Additionally, in most countries it is a requirement that your employer submit the application on your behalf. However, many do have provisions that allow those entering on tourist or holiday visas to subsequently obtain work visas.
The Visa Situation In Asia For Baby Booming Expats
Malaysia's Professional Work Permit Visa (DP10) and similar visas require applicants to be under 50 years of age at the time of application. The official retirement age is 60.
Mining powerhouse China's Z Visa is available for 'special experts with special qualifications' over the age of 18 years. Interestingly China is one of the few countries that is happy to grant visas to 'older' professionals with special skills who are over 60, although you won't get any Chinese Work Permit Points. The most points under this system (15) go to those in the 26 – 45 age group. Eighteen to 25 year olds, and 46 to 55 year olds get 10 points whilst those aged 56 – 60 get 5 points.
India has an employment visa and a project visa; the latter is for foreigners working on steel and power projects. There is no upper age limit mentioned for obtaining a visa, only a minimum one. However, the official retirement age in India currently is 60 so you might be hard pressed to get a visa to work there if you're approaching that age, or have already reached it.
Indonesia requires most expats in the oil, gas and mining sectors to be aged between 30 and 55 at the time of submitting the applications. Additionally, you must be deemed an 'expert' in your field due to the country's very strong 'locals first' policy. However, if you hold a high-ranking position within the company or industry (Director, Commissioner etc), or you have a "very specific expertise crucial to your company/institution" those age restrictions don't apply.
Elsewhere in Asia:
Brunei require expats to apply for, and be in the country working by age 55. You can then work there until you're 60. Other Asian countries with an age limit of 60 include:
- Mongolia – will accept older applicants if you have the right skills
- Philippines – does have an 'exceptional case' clause for older applicants
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
- Hong Kong
Myanmar (ex Burma) has an age limit of 62 but whether you are successful in obtaining a work visa really depends on what skill shortages the country is experiencing and what skills you can bring to the table.
If you're the right side of 65, you may be able to get a visa to work in:
- Cambodia – was 65 to qualify for their E(B)-class visa. Anyone with this visa who actually works additionally requires an annual work permit and employment card
Some Asian countries currently don't, or don't appear to (those marked with an *) have any maximum age limits in place for working visa eligibility:
- Israel – the official retirement age for men though is 67
- Kazakhstan – no official maximum age but you generally have to be offering needed skills and experience
- Singapore* – was 70
- Thailand – has a retirement age of 60, which makes it harder to get a work visa if you're approaching, or older than that
The Middle East Situation For Older Expat Employees
Moving a little bit further west, Saudi Arabia's Muqeem or work visa has a 60 years upper age limit. The situation is similar in the United Arab Emirates, although their upper age limit to obtain a working visa is now 65. In Qatar the official cut off age for getting a visa to work there for most professions is 60; some professions, notably teaching, is 50 years. Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman likewise all have a maximum age of 60 for obtaining a work visa. Conversely, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan don't appear to have any maximum age limits for obtaining a visa to work there.
Getting A Work Visa In Africa As A Senior Expat
Africa is emerging as a region of significance on the world's mining stage. However, if you're approaching your 50's and 60's, obtaining a visa to work in some of these countries can be difficult. There may also be associated issues around obtaining health and medical cover.
You can be over 65, or even approaching your 70's and still qualify for a work visa in Egypt but may find it difficult to get health insurance. In Kenya and Tanzania on the other hand, expats over 55 are highly unlikely to get a work visa, or have it renewed if you're already working there. Ghanaian, Moroccan and Nigerian expat work permits cut out at 60 years of age, although Nigeria will assess applications from experienced workers older than that on a case-by-case basis. Likewise, Gabon and Ethiopia have an upper age limit for work visas in the early 60's – the exact cut off is not readily available online.
African countries that currently don't or don't appear to (those marked with an *) have any maximum age limits in place for working visa eligibility include:
- Malawi – no official limit but visas are usually assessed on a case by case basis for applicants aged 60 and over
- South Africa – no upper age limits but expats over 65 may have trouble getting medical cover
- Zambia – typically need to be filling a position for which there is a shortage of qualified Zambians and have skills / knowledge of value to offer
As a general rule of thumb, checking the official retirement age for a country will provide a few clues about whether or not they're likely to accept a work visa application from an overseas person in their 50's and 60's. However, there are countries like Australia that now has an upper age limit of 45 for Skilled visa applicants even though most people there don't retire until well into their 60's or even 70's.
As always though check with the respective country's visa services and immigration department for the current rules and regulations around work visa applications.