Top tips for people emigrating abroad
It’s tempting to think that in the modern world, Brexit woes aside, being able to move from country to country, whether for reasons of career, lifestyle, retirement or study, ought to be a hassle-free experience.
Sadly, this rarely proves to be the case, however. It all goes back to that old adage, “fail to prepare, and prepare to fail.”
With the help of our partners OFX and their range of blog posts, we’ve examined some of the pitfalls that can occur when moving abroad, especially for first timers, and how to guard against them.
Don’t Just Turn Up!
This is the first and most valuable piece of advice we can give you! We may now live in the digital age, where advertisers and service providers try to convince us that we can do anything, or go anywhere, with just a few taps and swipes of our smartphone, but financial institutions, healthcare providers, and most of all governments are all notoriously behind the digital curve when it comes to uprooting and relocating abroad.
Most people will be well aware that a VISA is generally required if you want to spend a significant amount of time overseas – but a VISA is far from all you need, and of course you will need to decide whether you want to apply for a short stay or tourist VISA, a long stay Visa, or a residence Visa – if you plan to move permanently or at least for the foreseeable future, you will need the latter.
Besides a Visa, you will also need a work permit if you are planning on working overseas. If you are moving with a job to go to, your company should be able to assist with this, but naturally you want to make sure you are on top of the situation – don’t rely entirely on your new company or department’s HR team – it may not portray you in a good light in advance of taking up your post.
Besides a Visa and a work permit, you will need documents to verify your identity, such as a birth certificate or driving licence, marriage licenses, medical and dental records, tax information, and your will, if you have made one.
If you are bringing children, then it is obviously your responsibility to make sure you have all pertinent information relating to them – and be warned – you will even need to bring school reports if you are planning on having them join a local or international school.
Pets, too, require veterinary records and medical documentation.
There’s much more information here in OFX’s guide – including how to manage your finances when overseas- remember, exchange rates can fluctuate wildly, and banks take a 5% margin as standard, so you really are better off taking the time to use a comparison engine like The Money Cloud, where you will doubtless see more competitive rates from OFX!
Avoid Banking Woes
One mistake that many people make is to think that because they are leaving the country, they should close down their domestic bank accounts – this is a bad idea!
There is little point in closing an account in your home country – after all, aren’t you nearly certain to use it again, if you are travelling back to see family, or for business or personal reasons? Besides, re-establishing a credit line if you do return to the country is not always easy or straightforward, so the best option is simply to switch your on-file banking address – and keeping at least one domestic credit card active is also a good idea – more info here – maintaining a healthy credit score both at home and abroad is vital.
Stay Healthy With The Right Insurance Cover
This can be a delicate balancing act, because like goldilocks, you do not want too much, or too little healthcare, you want just the right amount.
If you go for a bare bones policy, should misfortune befall you, you will end up paying over the odds for outside of the policy care, but it is also worth checking what government funded healthcare you may be eligible for in your new country as an expat – why pay for something that is provided for free?
Avoid Tax Woes
Its unavoidable that your tax affairs will become more complex if you choose to move overseas. Firstly, you must meet the requirements of both your home country and your adopted country - failure to disclose a bank account at home, for example, could incur a financial penalty or worse, and therefore you will need to discover which forms you must file and make sure you do!
At a more basic level, you should prepare yourself for the added difficulty of filing in an entirely kind of tax return potentially in a different language, whilst also keeping an eye out for any tax breaks or advantages you may be entitled to. It may be worth your while hiring an accountant to help you, especially for your first go.
Don’t Get Caught Financially Short
There are two factors at play here – unfamiliarity with the local currency, whatever it may be, and a demob-happy feeling that might accompany you on your travels and cause you to miscalculate your spending and budget constraints in your first few months of living abroad.
At an even more basic level, it can be surprisingly easy to miscalculate exchange rates by missing off a zero or forgetting to “carry the one”. With so many things on your mind already, the obvious thing to do here is seek help from a professional –who will save you time and money, and give you peace of mind.
These are the kind of services we at The Money Cloud, and the OFX team, can provide, so don’t hesitate to pick our brains.
It Will Be Emotional
How will it feel leaving the country you have lived in most of your life, and adapting to new customs and ways of doing things – will you thrive from the off, or will it take time to adapt?
There’s really no way of knowing until you try – but one thing is for certain – you will run the full gamut of emotions associated with such a major cultural and lifestyle switch.
OFX list many of the pros and cons associated with being an expat in this article. On the pro side, you may learn a new language, make new friends and develop an international network, embrace a new culture, gain a new and enhanced understanding of the culture you left behind (which will still be waiting for you if you decide to return!) and discover new things about yourself and your family.
On the more negative side, it can be expensive to travel back home to see friends and family, it can be lonely at first, difficult to adapt to strange new customs that are very different to the ones you are used to – and there are financial and health risks associated with relocating abroad.
Overall however, if you have your heart set on trying the expat lifestyle, you should not let the negatives put you off. As with most things in life, being an expat all comes down to another old adage that has stood the test of time because it is true. You will get out what you put in.
Go in with your eyes open, be enthusiastic, try to prepare yourself as well as you possibly can to avoid difficult situations, especially during the first few months, and put your faith in your new surroundings.
And one final point – make sure you get the right advice, particularly when it comes to your finances.