When I was in my early twenties I always envied those people who had the opportunity to gain international work experiences. I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger, living in a little place (for him it was Austria, for me it was Northern Italy) with this desire to explore the big world. Little did I know that some years later, I would have indeed had the opportunity to gain study/life/work experiences in various countries, such as Austria, the UK and India. Having moved several times in my life with my family, I made interesting relocation experiences. Sometimes people ask me for some advice with regard to finding jobs abroad and how they can prepare themselves to have a smooth transition to their new destination. This article is all about moving abroad the easy way.
Moving down the street can be hard enough, let alone moving to a completely different country. Despite being one of the most exciting times of your life, it can also be particularly stressful, especially if you find yourself unprepared for what lies ahead.
Moving Abroad the easy way –
# 1 – Your New Home – What do you know about it?
Before agreeing to move, you should do some research on your intended destination. Every country is different and unique. Moving to a new country means you will become immersed within an entirely different culture. If you have not properly prepared for this event it will come as quite a shock to you, as all of the traditions you are familiar with are replaced with new and foreign ones.
There have been recommendations suggesting a pre-move visit to view the housing markets and job prospects; however, this is not always possible nor is it particularly feasible. If the aforementioned is a possibility, visiting your possible future destination will give you the opportunity to view the cultures and customs associated with this new country. It would also make the process of finding accommodation (part 3) much easier.
In the event that a pre-move visit is not possible it is important to research and find as much information as possible about the country in which you intend to live. Start by researching information available on the internet. Here you will find a broad range of information on any topic you care to learn about. Try participating in an online forum. This will give you the chance to communicate with people who have visited or are currently living in your intended destination. Take this opportunity to voice any questions or concerns you may have.
Some information you might like to familiarize yourself with will be political, social and environmental factors of the country. These may be quite different to those you are normally accustomed to, so by learning as much as possible in advance you will ensure you are prepared and not in for any unexpected surprises once you relocate.
Learning about the social ideals of your intended destination will optimize your chances of settling in quickly and becoming comfortable with your new environment as you will be able to identify with new friends and work colleagues and socialize in a culturally appropriate manner. In the long run this will make adjusting to your new life significantly easier by creating a friendly and supportive environment within your new home.
Researching your possible new location is also important in regards to knowing the safety level and required security measures of your particular country. Some countries may be in a state of war or may have been declared dangerous, an important issue to be aware of. For information on your intended destination locate travel reports on your government website, which will be able to provide updated information on the current state of the country.
Moving abroad the easy way –
# 2 – Finding and Evaluating Employment Overseas
Many people move abroad for work related purposes. Even if you are not moving abroad for reasons such as these, a permanent change in location will probably mean that you at some stage will be working in your new country.
A wide variety of work exists in most countries. This section will provide you with information on finding jobs and evaluating how suitable they will be for your situation.
Firstly, decide what it is you require in a job. Will you be building on previous skills or starting something new? How long will you be planning to work for?
There are several different ways in which an individual may search for work overseas.
The most common method of seeking employment is to do it yourself rather than rely on an agency. Start searching for work over the internet. If you begin searching after you have moved to your intended destination, try searching in local newspapers. Once you have identified suitable jobs, apply by following the instructions set out in the job advertisement. Application requirements will vary according to the type of job you are applying for, so ensure you read the application details carefully
As you are offered positions, it is important you evaluate them carefully before you accept. Whilst attending interviews feel free to ask as many questions as they ask you. Ask about the organization as a whole and request to see some references. You should definitely also search and study their website online.
If you are being offered a contract, make sure you examine it extremely carefully and that you agree to all outlined terms before you sign. Ensure you fully understand all details of the contract and that it details all financial conditions (such as currency wage is being paid in and when you will receive your first pay check). If you are still in your original location (i.e. have not yet moved to your new destination) it may be worthwhile to let your lawyer inspect the contract. It may also be an idea to find out the repercussions of breaking the contract if the new job does not work out. During negotiations, some employers may offer plane tickets back to your country of origin upon completion of your job, however, they do not always follow through. To ensure this does not happen, request an open-ended or round trip ticket in advance.
Some jobs online may sound too good to be true, and in many cases they are. Avoid jobs offering quick easy money- this is particularly true for women as these jobs often turn out to be prostitution rings.
Organizations aimed at helping people find work overseas exist, and are particularly beneficial as they eliminate the need to thoroughly investigate and research job opportunities and in many cases may organize visas, work permits and accommodation for the successful applicant.
If you hold a professional qualification it may be worth applying for work via the submission of your resume to a recruitment agency. As above, these eliminate the need for intense research into the job or company and may also provide the required documentation for working overseas.
Another method utilized in finding work abroad is obtaining a transfer through the current place of work. Some work places are able to offer posting overseas through international links. For more information it may be worthwhile contacting the HR department in your place of employment.
Before arriving at your intended destination, plan ahead and take extra copies of your resumes and other relevant documentation in order to pursue other types of employment abroad. This will increase your chances of obtaining a job suitable to your needs.
Moving abroad the easy way –
# 3 – Renting or Buying Abroad
An individual may choose to move abroad for many reasons. One may be required to work or study even move over for family or personal reasons. Having a friend or family member in your country of destination is always beneficial, as they may be able to help in the difficult task of finding and consequently renting or buying property. If you do not have a friend or relative currently in your intended destination do not stress, just be extra cautious whilst searching for your home.
For those moving for work or study related purposes, you may have already been offered accommodation. If accommodation is not offered, be prepared- it may be difficult to find suitable accommodation, so allow yourself plenty of time.
Before starting your search for a home, ensure you set yourself a budget to stick to. Ensure you include costs such as bond or renovations, legal fees during the process and the estate agent. It is recommended that you allow yourself an extra ten percent on which to fall back on, if costs prove to be more than initially expected.
Checking out the property market in your intended destination is imperative, to ensure you have a good idea of what you are getting yourself into. Start your research early by searching the internet for suitable accommodations. Look at a few different sites to compare prices. When looking for a residence to rent or buy opt to perform business through larger reputable companies. Request references if necessary. If it is possible you may request to speak to people who have previously done business with the company.
For each residence you make a serious enquiry about ensure you request a detailed description and/or photos. A floor plan may also be requested. Ensure you enquire about the surrounding neighbourhood and any facilities you may require such as access to shops and public transport. Ask as many people as possible for advice, particularly any contacts in your future destination. Remember, this will be your new home so it is important that you find a location you can be happy and comfortable with.
The representative embassy in the intended destination may also be able to provide information on buying or renting homes in the country.
Whilst there is no typical process when buying or renting abroad, there are some basic steps that may give you an idea of how to proceed.
- Find an estate agent: Look for someone who makes an effort to determine your areas of interest, your budget and your needs. Obtaining an estate agent will allow you to view a variety of locations in which to buy or rent. The estate agent should also be able to provide you with further contacts to aid you in the later stages of purchasing or renting your home.
- View the property: During this stage it is important to remain objective and keep an open mind. Do not fall in love at first sight. Gather as much information about the property as possible.
- Agree on a price: Depending on the country (in some countries negotiating is looked upon as offensive or illegal) you may be able to negotiate a price.
- Sign the preliminary contract and make a deposit: Once a price has been agreed on a preliminary contract is required. Before signing anything it is recommended that you obtain the services of a lawyer in your intended destination, to offer another opinion and ensure all proceedings are legal. Your estate agent may try to persuade you that a lawyer is not necessary and that they will be able to take care of all aspects of the deal. Obtaining the services of a lawyer would be more beneficial as the estate agent does not have the correct qualifications to aid you in the legal and financial side of buying or renting your home. The representative embassy in your new location will be able to provide you with a list of lawyers from which to choose. If you elect to not employ the services of a lawyer, ensure the following:
- The land on which your home is being built is fully paid for. Some developers may borrow against the land and in the event that they become bankrupt the local authorities will reclaim this land and consequently your house.
- If you are purchasing a property that requires renovations, ensure you thoroughly check planning laws to ensure that renovations are allowed on your property.
- Ensure the previous owner had no debts, as these may become your responsibility.
- If you intend to rent your home, be sure that this is legal.
- At this stage you will be required to make a deposit or pay bond. If you are building or buying off a plan, you should not be required to pay the full amount up front. Many factors may affect the length between the signing of the preliminary contract to completion. Before signing the contract ensure you enquire as to the exact processes that will occur in regards to your home.
- Completion: This stage requires the signing of further documentation and contracts and the payment of the final balance (if buying a home). May financial institutes recommend that people borrow and pay in the currency of the country they are buying in, in order to minimize risk and confusion. It is important to use official channels to transfer money during all transactions as this will provide you with records in order to claim insurance or refunds if necessary.
Moving abroad the easy way –
# 4 – Required Documentation for moving Overseas.
In order to move and work effectively within your chosen destination it is important that you have organized and obtained the relevant documentation. Failure to do so may result in your inability to legally work or even remain in the country.
When relocating abroad the following documentation is recommended:
1.) Visas and Work Permits: If you are planning to work in your new country of residence you require documentation permitting you to do so. This is available in the form of a visa and working permit. A visa is a legal document issued by a country allowing the individual holding it to enter the country for a predetermined amount of time. Working without a visa or work permit is illegal.
Before arriving in your country you must obtain this documentation from the intended destination’s Embassy that is accredited to your current country. In some cases, those moving for work related purposes may have the employer organize the Visa. Further information and entry requirements can be provided by the intended country.
Ensure you are organized and have applied for your visa well in advance before your intended departure, as it may take several months for a visa or work permit to be approved.
2. ) Passport: All members of the family must have their own individual passport in order to reside abroad. Applications for passports are available online. Obtaining your passport may take anywhere from two to twelve weeks so be sure to apply well in advance to avoid any delays or to effectively address unexpected issues.
Once a passport is issued it is valid for five years. Whilst living overseas it is important to renew your passport in order to keep it valid. Should your passport be stolen be sure to immediately report the situation to local authorities.
3.) Birth Certificate: In the event that your passport is lost or stolen, alternate forms of identification may be required in order to replace it. Having a birth certificate on hand will ensure you are prepared should this event occur.
4.) Residency Permits: Some countries may require you to hold a residency permit in order to live there. To determine whether your intended destination requires you to hold a residency permit contact your representative embassy in your intended destination.
5.) Medical and Dental Records: This form of documentation is not always compulsory. As part of entry requirements some countries request the provision of medical certificates for long-term residents or students. To find out whether you are required to provide medical records for your intended destination contact your representative embassy in that country.
6.) International Driver’s Licence: This will aid in transportation during the initial stages of your move. This document will legally allow you to drive in most countries. Depending on your intended destination, you may be required to apply for a local driver’s license after a certain period of time.
Moving abroad the easy way –
# 5 – Financial Issues to consider.
When relocating to another country there are many financial aspects to be considered. Be prepared and ensure you address these issues before you relocate.
To begin with, there are considerable costs involved with relocating yourself and your possessions from one country to another. Some countries also require you to pay duties or taxes on goods you are importing into their country. For further information, contact your representative embassy (in your intended destination) to see if any taxes or duties will apply to the items you will be transporting into the country.
Combine this with the added stress of ensuring sufficient money with which to pay bond and rent, food and any other living expenses. The cost of living in another country may be quite different to what you are currently used to. For these reasons it is important to be prepared. Decide how much money you have to work with, then set a budget and stick with it. At this stage you may want to increase your savings or emergency reserves of cash.
Once you have moved overseas you will need a convenient way in which to access your savings in order to pay for the day to day costs of living. It may be an idea to contact the bank to explain the situation and discuss possible options that might benefit you.
Three possible options are:
1) Maintain your bank accounts in your current country: The bank may be able to make your account a ‘not ordinarily resident’ account, in which your interest will be paid without the deduction of tax. Most banks are now able to provide customers with online banking, for easy access to accounts twenty-four hours a day every day of the week. This will enable you to keep your current bank accounts and continue banking with ease. If you are not familiar with the process of internet banking, ask a friend or employee at your bank to show you how to establish and use an account.
Keep in mind that your ATM cards might not be accepted in your destination. Check with your bank about the ATM services in other countries. It might be worthwhile applying for and taking a credit card with you to your new destination (providing credit cards are accepted) to ensure peace of mind.
2) Open a bank account in your new country: This provides you with easy access to your money.
3) Open an off-shore account: An off shore bank account is an international bank account that can be used for day to day purposes. It is extremely flexible and may be accessed from any location.
Along with organizing your finances, it is also important to organize your financial situation. Before you leave to go abroad ensure you contact any relevant companies to notify them that you will be leaving the country. Request that any outstanding bills will be sent to you in order for you to finalize the accounts.
Before leaving the country ensure you have finalized any existing financial obligations.
If you are currently receiving a pension you may still be eligible to receive this, despite living in another country. Contact your pension provider to determine whether you will still be eligible to receive your payments.
Moving abroad the easy way –
# 6 – Pets – What to do?
One of the difficulties with moving to another country is deciding what to do with the family pet. For some there may not be a choice as different countries have different regulations in regards to animals.
Contact your representative embassy in your intended destination in order to obtain any regulations that might exist. Any country allowing the importation of a pet will require a detailed health certificate and an import permit.
Before making a decision on what to do with your pet, consider its needs and what would be best for it. Will the animal be able to withstand travel? How old and healthy is your animal? How will the animal cope with an extensive stay in quarantine in your intended destination? Remember moving can be just as stressful for the animal as it is for you.
In the event that you do decide to take your pet with you ensure you have a thorough vet check-up in which you confirm that all relevant vaccinations and immunisations are completed and up to date. During this time ask your vet to provide you with the required health certificate.
Before leaving the country ensure you provide your pet with appropriate identification including your name and contact details. To avoid problems upon arrival at your intended destination, contact the customs vet to inform them of the date and time of arrival and any other information relevant to your pet. Your chosen airline should be able to provide you with contact details for the vet.
During transportation your pet will be contained within its own carrier. Upon arrival to your destination a period of quarantine is generally required and often ranges from one month to one year.
Moving abroad the easy way –
# 7 – Finding a Removal Company.
In preparing to ship your goods overseas ensure you contact a few removal companies to compare quotes and ensure a reasonable price. Price should not be the only factor on which to base your choice.
When investigating removal companies, remember to ask about the following:
* Ask about the insurance (if any) the company offers. Ask what items they will cover and if an excess is required. Most companies should offer some form of insurance. Ideally this should be the replacement value of the goods in the currency of the country you are intending to move to.
* Ask to see references to ensure the company will be able to provide you with a quality service with which you are satisfied. This will also help in finding a reputable company. Acquiring the services of a reputable company is imperative, as a quality company will be more experienced in the processes of an international move and should be able to help with any customs related issues. If possible, select a company that has a permanent presence in your intended destination, as this company will be familiar with the country in general and any laws and regulations regarding the importation of goods. They will also be much easier to contact once you have moved.
* Ask about the moving schedule. How long it may take, approximate times etc.
* If your goods are not being shipped immediately, enquire as to where they will be stored and whether this facility has security.
* Customs forms are an important part of transporting your furniture overseas. Some moving companies will handle customs forms for you. When selecting a moving company enquire as to whether this will be taken care of, or whether you will have to complete the forms independently.
* Ask for an approximate quote. When this is given ensure this is the total amount due and that all charges have been included. In most cases your cost will be estimated based on the volume and weight of the shipment and are provided via the company by looking at a complete inventory (small jobs) or onsite evaluations (large jobs). In general, companies request that costs be paid in advance. Once goods have been transported you may be up for further costs (if the job is larger than originally expected) or in some cases may be provided with a refund (if the job is smaller than expected). This is not true of all companies, so ensure you question this once they have provided you with a quote.
There are two methods by which your goods will be transported overseas. The first is via ship and may take a period of a few weeks to reach the intended destination. The second is via plane and will take a period of about one week. Whilst a much faster means of relocating your possessions, this method also costs more. Decide which is more appropriate to your needs and question the removal company as to their preferred method.
Moving abroad the easy way –
# 8 – Preparing for the Big Move
The key component to ensuring a smooth and stress free move is organization. Moving abroad is very different to moving domestically and for this reason it is imperative that you be as organized as possible.
Make sure you have done sufficient research on your intended destination (for more details see part 1).
A frequently asked question is with regard to cars. In some countries it may be possible to transport your current vehicle over and continue to drive it. In other cases, this may not be possible. Find out whether your car is suitable to drive in your intended destination by contacting the representative embassy in your intended destination. If yes, ask if any modifications to the vehicle may be required. If you are able to transport your vehicle over, decide whether his is feasible, remember, it is expensive to transport items and to send them through customs. To transport your car to your intended destination you may be required to produce three copies of the vehicles title, the year, make, model, colour and VIN number. Be sure to investigate insurance requirements in your country of destination. If you decide you will not be transporting your vehicle, you will have to decide what needs to be done. Many people make the decision to sell the vehicle in question.
Ensure you have organized all relevant documentation and had all relevant health checks and vaccinations (if any are required). Whilst at the doctor’s request a letter and a copy of prescriptions for any medications you might be on, to pass these on to your new doctor. To be prepared for the move itself, ensure you have sufficient stores of any medication you may require, as it might be a matter of weeks after leaving your home that you are able to replenish your stores.
Before you begin packing ensure you put aside or discard any items that may be restricted in the country you intend to move to. Different countries have different laws and restrictions, so it is best to contact the customs department of your intended destination for a detailed list. In general, most countries have restricted the following.
- Narcotics and drugs
- Hazardous items such as fireworks, poisons
- Plants, dried flowers, bulbs seeds, pinecones
- Fruit and vegetables
- Cane furniture
- Meats and meat products
- Dried Flowers, bulbs and seeds including pine cones
- Firearms, ammunition, explosives, other weapons
- Pornographic material
In the weeks leading up to the move begin packing. Ensure you leave yourself sufficient time in order to be able to pack everything properly and carefully without feeling rushed off your feet. Start by packing the items you least need, such as items from an attic, certain pieces of furniture and certain clothing items. Ensure you have set aside all documentation specified in part 2 to avoid these being packed.In attempting to de-clutter ask yourself the following questions:
As you are packing, discard any items you don’t use often or that you think you might not need any longer. This will help you to de clutter your possessions, this is the perfect time to do it. De-cluttering will help to remove any items you no longer use or need, thus making the moving process easier by limiting the number of items you will be required to move which will ultimately aid in decreasing shipping costs.
This is also a good time to start letting the food in the house ‘run down’. Use up any foods in the freezer and empty the cupboards as much as possible.
- What does this item mean to me?
- Why am I keeping it?
- Is it just for sentimental reasons?
For any items you no longer require, it is possible to dispose of these via garage sales, charity shops or selling them online. Before packing your electrical goods, find out whether they will be compatible in your new destination. For example, DVDs will only work in the area they are prepared for, and televisions and phones work differently in different countries. For smaller items it is possible to obtain an adapter to convert the outlets available in your new home to that which suits your current electrical items. Information on electrics is available on the government websites of your intended destination.Aim to have your packing completed a few days prior to the move to ensure you have time to relax before travelling to your intended destination. Ensure you have sufficient rest the day before travelling to minimize any potential stress or anxiety.In some cases, you may still have responsibilities that will remain in your original country, even after you have moved. A common example is that of voting. If you are still required to vote once you have relocated overseas you should have contacted the electoral registration covering your address and request to be registered as an overseas voter in order to have the appropriate forms sent out.
Just prior to travelling ensure you purchase travellers checks or have some money converted to the correct currency.
The moving company will arrive on a designated day and should start off by introducing themselves. Show them through the house, specifying what items are to be packed and if any items need particular care during the moving process. Once all items have been packed, take a final walk around to ensure everything has been included. Remember to check behind doors and inside cupboards. Some companies may require you to sign an inventory list of all the items they have loaded. Check through this to ensure you are satisfied.
Once the goods have been packed, it may take a period of a few weeks for them to arrive in the intended destination. If there is anything you will require during this period, ensure you separate it from the other goods. You will be able to take some belongings on the plane, however ensure you check with your airline as to what items are suitable, as different airlines have different regulations and weight restrictions. Ensure you leave sufficient clothes to live in, as it will take some time for you to receive your possessions in your new destination.
Many moving companies are able to pack your belongings for you; which is generally the optimal choice. Not only does it decrease stress experienced during such a move, but it may help to save time and money as belongings are less likely to require thorough investigation by the customs department of your intended destination.
Remove the batteries from items you are intending to take with you, to prevent the leakage of battery fluid and consequent damage of your belongings. Once you have placed your belongings in boxes, ensure you label the boxes clearly. Large items, such as furniture, will have to be disassembled where possible. Unless you have organized differently with the moving company, you will have to disassemble these items yourself.
Moving abroad the easy way –
# 9 – Settling in to your New Life.
When you arrive at your intended destination, be sure to register with the relevant local authorities. This includes the relevant consulate or embassy, as this will provide a means of support in the event of an emergency.
Arriving at your destination may prove to be more of a shock than you expected. Many people develop what is known as culture shock. Culture shock develops as a result of being removed from the social intercourse to which one has become accustomed and entering into a strange, new and unfamiliar environment. Culture shock involves three phases.
Phase One: ‘The Honeymoon Phase’: The individual feels excited and positive about their new surroundings. This phase can last anywhere from a matter of weeks to six months.
Phase Two: The individual becomes disenchanted with the surroundings, followed by feelings of emptiness and unease resulting from dissatisfaction with the new environment. Signs of this phase include: anger, irritability, negativity, excessive eating and drinking, concerns over cleanliness, oversleeping, tiredness and inability to concentrate.
Phase Three: This phase is characterized by the gradual acceptance of the new surroundings and is often viewed as a compromise between the first and second stages.
There are several methods aimed at addressing the issue of culture shock. If you find yourself suffering from any of the aforementioned symptoms it may be worth attempting the following:
- Involve yourself in some aspect of your new surrounding culture. By immersing yourself in some aspect of the new culture you will enable yourself to increase understanding of it and thus learn to empathize and accept it.
- If you have moved to a country in which the language is different, try taking the time to learn it. This will help in making friends and will aid in making daily life and work much easier.
- Take some time to travel around the different areas of the country to appreciate the sights and culture.
- Make an effort to meet people from your new destination to develop new friendships. This will give you a more in depth understanding and thus respect for the new culture.
- Stay in regular contact with old friends and family back home. Every once in a while, do something to remind you of your home to help boost your spirits; in doing so it is important to remember not to idealize. Remember to adopt an open mind where possible.Make an effort to learn the local language (if you have relocated to a country in which English is not the standard language). You may have already started by taking lessons before leaving your previous country. Continue to practice the language once you have moved, either through lessons, practising in your own time or finding a new friend to help.Once a person has successfully relocated and begun to settle in, it has been observed in many cases that the individual becomes sick, generally displaying flu like symptoms. It is believed that this is resultant of the physical and emotional stress one must go through when moving to a new country, which consequently weakens the immune system. This is generally nothing to be concerned about, as with a normal cold this should subside within a few days. If you find symptoms persist or worsen it might be worthwhile making an appointment to see a doctor.
In conclusion, upon arrival to your intended destination, it is important to remember that in order to get the most out of your experiences you must maintain a positive frame of mind and remain open and objective. Make every effort to learn about and participate in your surrounding culture by making new friends and joining in activities. This will aid in you settling down and becoming comfortable in a much shorter period of time.
As you slowly adjust to the new surroundings and culture, it is important to keep a strong sense of perspective and remember why you originally made the choice to move. If you find your emotions are getting the better of you, take some time out for yourself and do something you enjoy such as a visit to the beach. Try to rediscover what it was about the country that initially persuaded you to move there.
In general, it is important to remember to become involved in the social scene and culture of your new home. Make friends where you can – work is a great place to start. If you are not currently working, be creative. Join a gym or a local interest group, or it may even be as simple as talking to the neighbours. Try to finds versions of activities that you enjoyed in your previous country. Participating in these will aid you in feeling more at home and will increase your chances of meeting new people and making friends.
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Author: Karin Schroeck-Singh
Karin Schroeck-Singh is a trilingual Career Optimizer at www.Careerheads.com. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 20 years of international work experience in various industries in Italy, the UK and India. Her passion lies in creating multilingual, high-quality content in career matters, giving highly engaging public speeches and helping job seekers to optimize their career by providing professional coaching. She is the author of several ebooks, among them “44 Tips for a successful Video Interview” (http://careerheads.com/product/ebook-44-tips-for-a-successful-video-interview/). She has written several career and business articles for international HR and Marketing companies. Her favourite motto is “Learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime!” Follow her on Twitter @CareerHeads.