Let's call it the Michelle Obama factor: When a person steps away from his or her own career to raise a family or follow a spouse's job, there's plenty of talent and expertise that can still be put to good use. Web entrepreneurs can benefit from this diverse and experienced talent base.
This could be done on a volunteer basis, but ideally, there would be way for people to be paid or to get equity. For this to happen, work permits and visas would have to be easier to get. For instance, trailing spouses of resident permit holders in the UK can work, but those in Sweden and Germany generally cannot.
Why not the introduction of a short-term working visa in the EEA that specifically allows trailing spouses to work for web startups?
A website could be set up where expat spouses, stay-at-home parents and others can register to contribute their time and knowledge in different areas of web startups, from ideation to testing to market research to financial analysis, etc.
Contributors can log in and work on their own time, but there can also be online meetings for brainstorms and check-ins. A toolkit could be provided to e ncourage the set-up of satellite, in-person meet-ups in expat communities.
I'm thinking in particular of cities like Zurich, Munich and London where many multi-national companies and consultancies are based, and there's a sizable expat population. In Munich, for instance, there were so many expat spouses, we had a social group for "accidental hausfrauen" -- accidental housewives! However, this set-up would also benefit people in more isolated locations, like those who have been deployed with military or diplomatic personnel.
... Updated 6 May to include scenarios ...
/// SCENARIOS - TYPES OF INDIVIDUALS WHO COULD BENEFIT
Types of individuals who could benefit from a temporary work permit and/or visa for working with startups:
- Trailing spouses who have taken a break or left their own careers to follow their partner's job to another country
- Partners who have taken a break from their careers to raise or care for families
- Partners of military or diplomatic personnel who may get assigned to remote locations
- Partners of academics who have moved for a fellowship, teaching assignment or other temporary situation (thank you, Paul Reader, for mentioning this group)
- Additional non-partner category for consideration: Individuals with special skills who would like to work with EEA startups
//// SCENARIOS - TYPES OF COMPANIES / ENTITIES WHO COULD BENEFIT
- Startups who need temporary or at least not full-time people with training, experience, and skills
- Tech companies, including startups, who need skilled workers for maternity or paternity cover (thank you, Christine, for this point)
- Multi-nationals and academic institutions trying to convince workers to move overseas, who would have an attractive option to offer their trailing partners
- "Native" job seekers, If the work permit/visa holder is permitted to be an entrepreneur themselves (thanks, Christine, again)
- suggestions for others?
/// SCENARIOS - VISA AND WORK PERMIT SITUATIONS
Highlighting differences between residency permits/visas and work permits
Categories of individuals' visa and work permit statuses:
Already in the country, with a residence permit/visa tied to the partner's residence permit/visa
- Those who are by default allowed to work (in which case the website/network/community provides a way to connect them with companies looking for skilled workers)
- Those who can only work if they get their own work permits sponsored by a company
- Those who are not permitted to work currently
Currently out of the country, in the process of applying as a dependent for a residency permit tied to the spouse's residency/work permit
- same three scenarios as above
Expanding the concept from trailing spouses to other individuals:
- People who are entitled to come to the UK or an EU country on working holidays, like Australians (in which case the website/network/community provides a way to connect them with companies looking for skilled workers)
- People who are entitled to come to the UK or an EU country on tourist visas, like Americans, but who have in-demand skills that web startups could use
- People who have ideas or skills to contribute to web startups. This scenario has to be fleshed out, but similar to the UK's investor or entrepreneur categories but with lower thresholds and shorter time limits.