Thinking about moving abroad? Exciting! You’re probably daydreaming about your new lifestyle, trying new foods, learning a new language… Okay, maybe you’re dreading that one. Overall, the idea of moving overseas is a big, exciting leap – particularly if you’ve never done it before.
It’s easy to let your head drift to the clouds but come back down to earth a moment. We don’t want to pop your bubble, but you’ll need to consider some practicalities to ensure a smooth move. Expatriating isn’t as simple as moving across town or even across the country. There are a few things you may not have thought of, so we’re here to help.
Make Sure You Understand the Rules
Before you move to another country, it’s important to understand the rules. No, not just what side of the street to drive on and whether or not there’s a plastic bag ban. You’ll need to understand a few practical things to ensure you and your family have your bases covered.
If you’re moving for work you’ll likely get a package of information to detail it all for you. If not, reach out to the consulate or embassy to discuss information for expats, including:
- Visas, permits, and allowances based on visa type
- Vaccination requirements for you and your family members
- Import taxes or restrictions on importing household goods
- Import taxes for high-value items
- Insurance needs
- Vaccines or quarantine requirements for pets
Paperwork can take time to process – often longer than you may originally think – so make sure you file your applications early. Check the expiry date of your important documents as you may need to process some renewals first.
Consider Your Finances and Budget
A new lifestyle sounds great, but can you afford it? Again, we’re not trying to be a buzzkill – but don’t get caught without the means to financially support yourself once you get there. Before you start setting things in motion, consider your budget.
Consider some primary expenses:
- Living Expenses – Do your research and understand the average cost of living expenses in your potential new home. That includes checking things like average rental rates, food costs, utility expenses, and mortgage rates. Consider also the cost of things like public transportation, car purchases and insurance, gas, and other lifestyle elements.
- Job Market – If you’re not moving for work, you’ll likely need to find a job in your new home country. Take the time to research job markets – after you determine your visa details, of course. If you’re very skilled and employable at home, don’t take for granted that you’ll find a role in your new country just as easily. Determine whether the job sector you’re in is welcoming to expats, whether language barriers will be a hindrance, and what the unemployment rate is like. Of course, you should also check average salaries in the field you’re in.
- Pensions and Retirement – You may not imagine yourself retiring any time soon, but life may have other plans and you may end up settling in your new home country for the long haul. It’s important to consider your finances if you plan to retire abroad, including understanding how easy it is to access your pension from afar. If you’re nearing retirement age, research the most cost-effective way to transfer your pension to wherever you land.
What About Healthcare?
Healthcare looks different in different corners of the world and chances are, the system in your new home will be remarkably different from the one you’re accustomed to. In order to keep you and your family healthy while abroad, consider:
- Medication – If you or your family members take a specific medication, you may want to get a few extra prescriptions filled before your departure. There’s a chance you’ll have a lag in medical service once you arrive, and you don’t want to get caught without.
- Health Insurance – Based on the research you did earlier, you’ll know a little about the healthcare system in your new home, and your access to it. Chances are, you’ll need to decide whether you’ll rely on the local “public” system, or you’ll take out private health insurance. If you decide to take out private health coverage, many providers require you to sign up while you’re in your home country. Make sure you decide in advance and don’t save it until the last minute.
Look For a Place to Live
Sure, you could wing it. Check into a hotel or Airbnb and see what you find from there. That sounds perfect for the more “in the flow” movers, and stressful for those who really need to figure it all out ahead of time. No matter which camp you’re in, you can do yourself a favor by gathering information about your living situation.
- Sell – if you need to sell your home in order to finance your new life, give yourself adequate time to prep and list. Have a backup plan in mind in case your home sells for less than you expect or – knock on wood – not at all. If it’s an option for you, consider turning your home into a rental. Keep in mind, though, that it’s a lot of work. Things go wrong in homes and need repairs, and someone will have to be there to take care of it. On the plus side, though, that means you’ll have a home to return to – should you choose to return.
- Buy – If you plan to buy a home or apartment in your new country, look into the rules on mortgages and loans. Can you get one in your home country? Are you able to finance your purchase at all in your expatriated home? Contact real estate agents and realtors in your destination country and learn the ins and outs. Talk to experts who can help you navigate legalities and language barriers, and help you understand tax implications.
- Rent – For many, renting is the easiest and best way to arrive in a new country. You could rent short-term while you house hunt, and you’ll be able to relax a bit and wait for the right thing to come.
If you plan to move your pet with you, don’t assume it’s going to be an easy feat. Depending on what type of pet you have and their size, you may need to make special arrangements to bring them on the flight. Most long-haul airlines have policies that allow pets under different rules (and fees) so check with the airline you plan to fly with.
You’ll also need to understand what it means for your pet in your new home country. Many countries require vaccinations and quarantine periods for animals. Some can even hold animals in quarantine for 90 days or more.
Make sure you understand all of the details well in advance. If moving with your pet ends up being an impossible option, give yourself ample time to find them a new and loving home.
You’ll Need an International Mover
When it comes to moving your stuff, you need to hire a mover with experience in overseas moves. That means moving from the US to Canada, or to some more far-off land. Every international move has a lot of details to keep in mind and you’ll do yourself a favor to hire a trusted, experienced mover to handle the job.
If you’re putting your things on a container, be prepared to be without them for a fair amount of time – weeks or even months – until they arrive, clear customs, and are delivered to you. Your mover will be able to answer any questions you have about customs regulations, import fees, and time for transit.