Bangladeshi migrant workers spend an average of 2,300 US dollars securing employment abroad -- the equivalent of more than 18 months' work in their new job, the World Bank said in a report.
Bangladesh relies on money sent back by millions of its overseas workers but many of them are forced to borrow from their families or sell assets to pay the costs of getting work in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or elsewhere.
The World Bank report, Who migrates overseas and is it worth their while?, revealed the upfront expense of agents' fees, air tickets, passports, visas and other permits.
The survey, released last week, said 28 per cent of migrant workers found the money through their own savings, 21 per cent through friends and family and 12 per cent sold off assets.
Other methods of raising the sum included taking out loans, mortgaging land or being advanced money by recruiting companies.
"It's a very big amount, around five times more than the country's per capita income. A worker can need 18 months or more abroad to recoup the recruitment cost," World Bank economist Zahid Hossain told AFP on Sunday.
"Without access to credit or past savings, most of the poor face considerable difficulty financing the costs." Between six and seven million Bangladeshis now work abroad.
The World Bank survey calculated they send home on average 1,480 dollars a year and that their families had a significantly higher-than-normal standard of living.
Remittances count for 10 per cent of GDP in Bangladesh, but the number of people heading overseas to work has fallen sharply this year due to the global economic downturn, according to government figures.