Living abroad is a big decision; after all it’s not just leaving home or changing jobs – it’s moving your whole world to another country. Every year millions of people around the globe, opt to move to another country, whether because of work, retirement, family or a desire to improve their quality of life. Experts in relocations say it can be one of the most emotional and practically challenging steps anyone can take, with many relocators taking everything they hold dear with them. Get it right, however, and it can also be a hugely positive and fulfilling experience.
Crown Relocations has been helping people settle in to living abroad for more than 50 years and has put together a list of top tips for a smooth relocation:
Start planning early
Living abroad is complicated and you should plan at least three months before a move. Decide what needs to be done before you move – such as visa applications – and what needs to be done after you arrive, like finding a doctor.
Visit the country
Check out accommodation and potential schools if you have a family. Choosing the right country for a relocation is vital. Consider how different the culture and weather is to that of your home country, what quality of life the destination offers, whether there is work available and whether it is family friendly. Health, money and lifestyle are also important.
Set up your work abroad
Working abroad used to be largely associated with employees of multinational companies – but not any longer. We can now search online for jobs in other countries, be interviewed by video conference and sign employment contracts digitally. When offered a job consider whether your partner, if you have one, will be able to join you in the new destination.
Consider for instance what currency you will be paid in and what happens if you leave your job. Expat forums and social media streams can be a good place to find advice, but also check out indices that measure the average cost of living in a country. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Cost of Living Index is a useful tool.
Apply for entry
Visas and immigration are important issues to consider and even if you are sponsored by your company, approval can be a lengthy process. So, build this into your timetable for a move. Research the visa requirements for your chosen country, as well as medical examinations or even pet restrictions as early as possible. Be sure your passport is up to date before you begin the process.
Choosing the right visa may need advice. Many countries have different visas for work, work to residence, working holidays and students. Eligibility requirements vary vastly from country to country – criteria may include skill set, age and financial status. It can be a complex process so take expert guidance.
Secure your finances
Financial matters raise some of the biggest concerns for people moving abroad – whether that’s opening a new bank account, paying tax or managing pensions. In many cases managing financial matters is less complicated than it appears but it is still vital to do plenty of research. Search online and ideally talk to an expert too, especially if you are relocating yourself and not through work.
How much income tax you will pay (and in some countries whether you pay it at all) depends on your destination and circumstances. Other state and local taxes could be levied too. Be aware that moving from one tax regime to another can create short-term problems in the form of double payments (in both home country and new country). Remember to pay off all credit cards before you move if it is possible.
Many people retain property interests in their ‘home’ country but be aware this could have tax implications. You will need to have money in your current account and often some savings too, to demonstrate liquidity. For those who are retired it is vital to understand what moving could mean to their pension income. The impact of currency exchange rates can be significant.
Make your move easier
Research ways to make the move go smoothly. Some cool “moving hacks” include keeping a photocopy of your passport and important travel documents as well as a copy of any prescriptions, which can be handed to your new doctor on arrival. Families should pack a few toys in their suitcases so children have something to play with as soon as they arrive in their new home. Back up and import files or pictures onto a USB stick so that photographs which are important to you cannot get lost.
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