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  • David Hicks

    A colleague, also an expat, recommended InterNations to me and I can only agree with his recommendation and pass it on.

Employment in Houston

  • Houston is home to 24 Fortune 500 Companies and is turning into an international city, since more and more foreign missions and international companies are moving to the area.
  • Even though the energy sector is one of the leading industries in Houston, there are many different working opportunities for expats in the city.
  • Texas is one of only seven states that have no state income tax. Nonetheless, don’t forget that you are still taxed on a federal level.
  • The workforce in Houston is highly motivated and working hard is deeply valued. In fact, Houstonians have one of the longest workweeks in the US.

Houston: the Corporate Capital

Only surpassed by New York and Chicago, Houston is home to the headquarters of an impressive 24 Fortune 500 companies. As the energy sector is the local economy’s claim to fame, it is no surprise that most of these companies are indeed involved in oil, gas, and other such resources. Among them are world leaders such as ConocoPhillips, Halliburton, and Marathon Oil. Houston is also transforming into a very international city. With a large number of foreign missions, banks, and subsidiaries of foreign companies, the city has secured a rank on the A.T. Kearney Global Cities Index, surpassing expat hubs such as Taipei and Bangkok.

Houston: The Nation’s Energy Hub

In many expat magnets around the globe, the local economy is based firmly on the services sector. People working in Houston will see that this is true by only a slight margin in this Texas metropolis, as the energy industry, i.e. the exploration and production of oil and gas, is a very, very close second.  Nearly one-third of the nation’s oil and gas extraction jobs are based in Houston. Other industries related to the energy sector naturally profit from Houston’s leading position in this field as well, such as companies developing heavy machinery and those processing the byproducts of oil and gas mining. Most notably, Houston’s 15 billion USD petrochemicals industry is the biggest in the nation. Needless to say, Houston is dominant in most, if not all, facets of the energy sector, be it technology, research, or marketing.

For those intent on working in Houston’s maritime industries, the city’s port could be a potential employer, as it is the busiest port in the US in terms of international trade. Naturally, this is one the most important factors for Houston’s growth both as a hub for all things energy and the city’s leading position as one of the nation’s largest import centers.

A Booming Manufacturing Industry

The manufacturing sector accounts for nearly 100 billion USD, which is 18.3% of the region’s economy. More than 230,000 people work in Houston’s manufacturing industry, which makes it the city with the most manufacturing jobs in the whole country.

Several thousand companies in the manufacturing sector are working in Houston, producing a wide array of goods ranging from food and beverages to plastics and electronics. World-renowned corporations have important operations in the city, such as Hewlett Packard, whose largest production facility is in the Houston area. The steel industry is another mainstay that people who plan on working in Houston’s manufacturing sector could look to.

Up in the Sky: The Aerospace Sector

Houston is home to the Johnson Space Center, NASA’s largest research and development facility. With over 14,000 employees in the Houston region, the space center is the second-largest employer and contractor in the area, and it also attracts a lot of human capital in the form of highly-skilled specialists and professionals — not to mention the 1.5 billion USD in output.

Such a pivotal operation in the metro area is naturally an appealing incentive for other companies specializing in the aerospace sector, and many are indeed working in Houston. This is another main driving force in the local economy, which also makes working in Houston attractive for non-Houstonians and foreigners, as about 150 such companies call Houston their home.

IT, Healthcare, or Biotechnology: Houston’s Endless Working Possibilities

While the energy, manufacturing, and aerospace industries certainly are its spearheads, a metropolitan economy the size of Houston’s obviously has many more options for expats and locals working in Houston. The city’s IT sector is an important hub for nanotechnology and biotechnology. Of course, the largest city in the Lone Star State is also one of the leading regional centers of finance, construction, and — thanks to the Texas Medical Center — healthcare. With such a diverse city economy, expats interested in working in Houston will most certainly find suitable job openings, no matter their field of expertise.

Expat Business Info Houston

Work, Work, Work: Where to Look for It and Other Advice

With the sheer number of foreign companies with established offices and subsidiaries in the city, your chances of coming to Houston by way of an intra-company transfer should be fairly high. For a look at some nonimmigrant visa types accommodating such transferees, please refer to our article on moving to Houston.

If, however, you do not happen to be working for a company with a presence in Houston, things could be a bit trickier. For starters, it is illegal for foreigners to come to Houston, or anywhere else in the USA, on a visitor’s visa in order to look for employment. This means you instead will have to send out applications from your current home country. If you get so far as to be invited for an interview, the Temporary Business Visitor visa might be for you.

There are many job search engines on the web that you can use to look for work in Houston, but you can also browse the online editions of local newspapers for job openings. Alas, Houston’s newspaper landscape is not all that diverse. The Houston Chronicle might be your best option.

In our article on working in the USA, we have also gone into detail about the infamous hidden job market that is commonplace in many, if not most, of the USA’s largest expat magnets. Many desirable jobs are not openly advertised, but rather offered to employees within the company, close business contacts, or acquaintances. For outsiders, it is obviously frustratingly hard to gain access to these jobs. Putting in the effort to build a tight-knit network of contacts in Houston will therefore definitely pay off.

No State Tax, but Don’t Forget the Federal One

Texas is one of just seven US states that has no personal state income tax. Rather, Texas manages its budget by imposing taxes on just about everything else. On the website of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, you can see a complete list of taxes in Texas. Even though you won’t have to pay income tax on a state level, don’t forget that you are taxed on a federal level. Most foreigners are equally taxed as US citizens, regardless of their residency status. To find out whether you qualify as a resident or non-resident alien for US tax purposes, you should take the Substantial Presence Test on the website of the IRS.

Business Values: Work Hard or Go Home

Thanks to countless movies and television shows set in offices, you have most likely been exposed to many aspects of working in the USA — and many of those hold true! It is a well-known fact that small talk is not exactly vital to doing business in Houston or the rest of the country. The most valued trait you can possess as an employee or manager is the willingness to work hard.

Houston has one of the longest workweeks in the US. According to a report, Houston ranks fourth among the 30 largest cities in the country. The city’s employees work an average of 43 hours and 44 minutes each week. As you can see, Houston’s workforce is clearly highly motivated, and as an expat, you will be expected to keep up. At times, it may also be expected of you to work overtime.

Most frequently, coworkers and, in some cases, direct superiors are addressed simply by their first name. You might even be introduced to most of your colleagues in this way. Being on a first-name basis, however, does not necessarily hold the same significance here as in your home country in terms of familiarity and/or friendship.

As for business meetings, expect lots of them. Rather than conference rooms or the office, a restaurant is often a very popular setting for meetings. Business lunches are generally an important aspect of working in Houston and the US, so you might want to leave some breathing room in your monthly budget!

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  • David Hicks

    A colleague, also an expat, recommended InterNations to me and I can only agree with his recommendation and pass it on.

  • Jana Franke

    I met so many quality people on InterNations, which made it easy to start my new life in Houston.

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