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Working in Chicago

If you are looking for big city flair with a small town feel and excellent job opportunities, you may want to consider Chicago. For a better overview of employment opportunities, read our Expat Guide on working in Chicago with information on the job market, social security, and taxes.
Many skyscrapers crown the skyline of Chicago’s Central Business District.
  • Chicago has one of the most diversified economies in the country; no single industry employs more than 14% of Chicago’s workforce. Therefore, there is a place for everyone.
  • The business climate is as diverse as Chicago’s population. More than 1,800 foreign-owned companies are based in the city.
  • Before looking for work in Chicago, expats need to apply for one of the different permanent worker visas.
  • Usually, everyone working in the US is taxed as an American citizen. The IRS is the first source of contact regarding tax matters.


Historically speaking, working in Chicago has always meant being part of an economic force. While in the second half of the 1800s, the Chicago stockyards were known to all Americans, the meatpacking industry in Chicago and its agricultural cohorts have since made way for newer and more innovative industries.

An Economic Powerhouse

Chicago ranked eleventh in the Global Financial Centres Index for 2016, which demonstrates that the city continues to be of national and international importance. The approximately 4.6 million people working in Chicago’s metropolitan area produce an annual regional gross product of about 561 billion USD. With 31 Fortune 500 companies located in its metropolitan area, Chicago has grown to become a major financial contributor to the United States and the world.

Chicago’s key industries are business and financial services, manufacturing, biotech, health services, and transportation and distribution, so there should be a niche for everyone in one of the city’s countless businesses.

The Diversity of Chicago’s Job Market

Foreign residents in Chicago should not have too much difficulty finding employment. Like most metropolises around the world, there are jobs in many different business sectors; however, contrary to some major cities, Chicago’s industries are incredibly diverse, with no industry employing more than 14% of the workforce.

The business and financial sector is one of the major employers. Chicago is also a leader in manufacturing with more than 400,000 workers in this sector. The InfoTech branch is thriving, with people employed in communications, computer systems design, technical consulting services, and other such information industries. The health industry in metro Chicago is powered by half a dozen medical schools and more than 20 teaching hospitals. Therefore, expats considering working in Chicago’s health sector could be joining the 535,000 employees already there.

The North American transportation and distribution scene has been dominated by Chicago since the 1850s. Due to its location within the US, Chicago is one of the major crossroads of the nation’s global trade. Therefore, those working in Chicago are at the heart of one of the most competitive and lucrative transportation systems in the Americas.

Chicago is one of the cornerstones of one of the largest economies on the globe. Read up on the economy of the US in our Expat Guide.

The Business Climate in Chicago: What to Expect

Thanks to the city’s profound infrastructure and general layout, many people tend to have a relatively laid-back attitude towards work. Lunch breaks can be spent sitting in one of the many parks, enjoying a deli sandwich while discussing the morning’s company affairs.

The city’s reputation as a transportation hub is well-founded, too: with its two major airports, an extensive train system, and an easily accessible road system, expats can get in and out of Chicago as they please.

Furthermore, Chicago is one of the busiest trading points worldwide. Many call it the east-west juncture between the Asian and European markets as well as the north-south link of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This directly affects the extremely diverse business climate: there is an abundance of different ethnic groups living and working in Chicago, and more than 1,800 foreign-owned firms are based in the Chicago area alone.

Wondering what to expect of your new work environment in Chicago? Our guide on the US business culture helps you settle into your new workplace with ease.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Friedrich Schloßberg

"At first, I tried to google all information on Chicago. Then I found InterNations and some of its local scouts gave me a personal tour."

Kristina Serou

"It is great to live in the Windy City and to enjoy the American way of life. However, I am also glad to attend InterNations events to meet other expats."

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