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    Posted November 15, 2013

Working Abroad: A Brief Primer

I've been asked to work in the United Kingdom or Australia. What should I do?

Call Actors' Equity Association directly. While we will need to speak to the Producer as well, don't assume that the Producer will contact us voluntarily. Also, don't assume that everything is fine just because the Producer tells you it is.

What union covers this work?

The union in the United Kingdom is Equity. In Australia, the appropriate union is the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance, or MEAA. Occasionally, Actors' Equity may cover overseas work if it originates in this country. For questions about the specifics of work under these contracts, you should contact the appropriate union.

Who will take care of me while I'm overseas?

Your first resource should always be the union covering the work.

My agent is negotiating on my behalf, the producer is offering a good salary and housing, and I will be on a union contract - so why should I involve Actors' Equity?

Actors' Equity will make sure that the compensation meets appropriate minimums - more like what you're used to here. Additionally, under some agreements, you may be able to receive Health, Pension or 401(k) contributions, as well as workers' compensation and unemployment insurance, all at which are not typically features of British or Australian contracts. Finally, if there are outstanding issues when you get home, Equity can facilitate the resolution of those issues with the hosting union.

I can get Equity/League pension and health benefits on an Equity contract overseas, right?

Unless there is an agreement in place between the Producer and Actors' Equity Association that covers the engagement, benefits cannot be paid on your behalf.

I'll be working in Canada. Which union should cover the work - Canadian Actors' Equity, or Actors' Equity Association?

It depends on the circumstances - call Actors' Equity to find out. If you are traveling with a show that is already on AEA contract, the Producer will handle the arrangements. If you are going as an individual to appear in a show on a CAEA contract, you should contact Canadian Actors' Equity, but always feel free to contact us if you still have questions.

Will I have to join another union? Will I have to pay dues to both unions?

For questions about joining, you should contact the union that will be covering the work and your dues will be paid to that union. If you will be out of the country for a significant period of time, you can call Actors’ Equity’s Membership Department to find out if you are eligible to temporarily freeze your dues obligations. However, if you are working under another union’s contract, it is logical (and even appropriate) that you would join and pay dues to them, as they are administering your contract. You should also be aware that in some other countries, non-members may not be entitled to the same services as members. In the end, it will be up to you. But it’s the right thing to do in every case.

Where, if at all, will I pay taxes on my overseas income?

In general, you will be liable for taxes in both countries, but you should consult a tax professional before committing to the engagement.

For more information, contact Flora Stamatiades, Equity's National Director, Organizing & Special Projects, (212) 869-8530, ext. 419.

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