Expat Life: The Complete Guide to Moving Overseas for your New Job
You did it! You got the job abroad in some fabulous foreign city, and you’re finally living the House Hunters International dream.
There’s only one problem – how do you get from home, to that foreign city? What do you need to know? Are there customs or visa things you need to be worrying about? How long does all of that take? Why are there so many different answers on Google?!
Inhale. Exhale. Trust that the hardest part is over, now you just have to make it happen. You did all of the legwork involved in making this job materialize, so the rest of it will be … well, not easy, but you can handle it.
To help you with that, Suddath® has pooled its collective knowledge from the 6,000+ international moves it performs each year into this guide.
Let the embassy be your guide
The first thing you’re going to want to know is all of the requirements for living abroad, meaning one thing: paperwork. There will be lots of paperwork and red tape in this process, so you should resign yourself to it now.
Find where the embassy or Consulate General (kind of a like Embassy outposts or branch offices) for the country you’re going to is located. You may want to pay them a visit, or at the very least, visit the website. Many country’s embassies will give you all the details you need to know about requirements to work and live in that country, up to what vaccinations you may want to consider.
For example, review some of the information the Spanish consulate website provides to people looking to move to Spain.
That is the safest way to ensure you have accurate information, so you can move forward instead of running around trying to make things happen working off old or useless information you might find on a less credible blog or forum.
Especially if you’re a US citizen, that embassy should give you detailed instructions. Be aware that if you don’t have a company sponsoring you, those regulations may be heightened, because you don’t have the clout of a well-known conglomerate behind you.
You can’t take it with you
If you are managing it on your own, you have to start thinking of everything from when your US apartment lease ends to what kind of shots you might need. Some information like that may need to be communicated to a company like Suddath, if you’re taking advantage of our small shipment program.
Since you likely aren’t taking your bed, car or appliances with you (if you are, seriously reconsider it. The hassle far outweighs the benefits.), make a list of items like that which need to be sold, or can be included in a sublet or lease of your apartment.
Remember that the weight of your shipment is directly tied into the cost. You will have to juggle the necessity of bringing something with you with the cost of bringing it – in many cases, it is cheaper to replace things once you arrive.
Also keep in mind that anything you ship, even if it’s a small shipment, will take a while to get to you. Weeks, maybe even months depending on the time of year it has to pass through customs. Anything you absolutely need – a child’s toy, family pictures, important documents – keep them with you.
Plan a visit with your doctor not only to get vaccine information and plan out those immunizations, but to get their input on any other necessary medical care. Since it may be a while before you’re settled in and are able to find a physician in your new country, your current doctor may want you to go through a full physical before leaving.
If you have any prescriptions, you will likely also need to arrange with your doctor to get those in a greater quantity than usual – again, it may take you a while to find a doctor, and any prescriptions may need to come from a physician in that country.
Before you leave, make sure you get your doctor’s information on sending your medical files – when you do find a new doctor, they will want your medical records.
Let your bank know you’re moving and get their advice on how to proceed. For example, you will likely need to set up a new bank account in your host country.
Some countries require for you to be locally registered, which is the equivalent of having a U.S. social security number. It enables you do things like rent an apartment, buy a car … and almost any other large purchases, because in many cases your US visa is not enough to do all these things.
Look into or ask around about the requirements for your country. If you’re working with a relocation specialist, they should have this information and be able to start the process for you to get registered so that when you land, you’re ready to go. In Germany, for example, registration is right after you make your final trip there. If you try to show up with just your visa, you won’t be able to do anything once you get there.
If you’re only going to be abroad for a shorter amount of time, say a year or so, and you want to keep your U.S. bank account, notify them as to the details of when and where you’re going. Once you’re abroad, make sure you find credible places to exchange money. In some cities, big department stores will have expat-friendly exchanges, where you can show your passport and exchange your cash for local currency at a decent rate.
When you first arrive, inquire with your hotel – they may exchange small amounts of money for you as a courtesy.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is research the long-term housing options in your new country. If you want to wait until you’re there in person, set up some interim housing.
Here it is easy, but overseas you may not have the same network to reach out to. That’s the advantage of working with a relocation company, is you have someone who can tell you what is typical in the area. If you’re waiting before you sign on the dotted line, a familiar short-term option may be an Airbnb to help you get your bearings.
A couple things to remember when it comes to housing:
- You may need your local registration in order to rent or buy a home
- Without the backing of a company sponsoring your housing, you may need to build credit, the same way you would in the U.S.
- There are certain countries that require that your lease start date be at the beginning of the month. Make sure you time your move and temporary housing correctly, because if you don’t, you might be waiting a lot longer than you anticipated before moving into your new place. Research what is typical in your new country – enlisting a local real estate company ahead of time may help as well.
- Some countries require that you pay an entire year’s rent upfront. This is not something you want to be caught unawares by – do diligent research and ask local real estate experts what will be expected of you.
- Do not lease an apartment without going to look at it first – it is critical to see a space in person. This isn’t just for fraud purposes, but because some things get lost in translation. The terms “spacious” and “well-lit,” for example, may not mean the same thing in Turkey as it does in America, and your expectations might be way off from what you end up getting.
- In that same vein, there are some countries where you might find a “charming” and “authentic” building, which means that it is older. Which is fine, but you may show up and realize that means there is a communal bathroom shared by tenants – something relatively common in the country, but so unheard of in the United States that you didn’t even think to ask.
The biggest issue in all of this will be that you likely don’t speak the language. If that is the case, you will need a local (again, probably a real estate agent) to not only communicate with landlords on your behalf, but to help you understand your lease agreement.
Especially in a foreign country, you need to understand what you are signing. You are approaching this without an understanding of what is normal, and what isn’t – so not only do you need a translator, but you need someone familiar with the local market to tell you if what you’re signing is standard.
Similarly, they can help you understand what is normal for utilities, what you need, and what is negotiable. Think about U.S. cable providers – there are some standard pricing options, but you also know that you can negotiate for certain deals.
Also, although it isn’t pleasant to think we’re being taking advantage of, the reality is, that in some countries if people find out that you are coming from the U.S. and using U.S. currency, the rental rate might just creep up – having someone who can communicate on your behalf, and knows the true value of an apartment can save you from a bad deal.
I made it abroad – now what?
You have successfully moved abroad, found long-term housing, and are settling in. What else do you need to know?
For starters, you will likely need to pay taxes to the country you’re in while abroad, and just like any tax law, it will be confusing and sometimes nonsensical to you – the biggest difference is that now it’s unfamiliar to you. There may even be some truly weird ones.
Many companies will offer tax equalization to keep the transferring employee in a tax-neutral position. This means that as an employee of a company offering this, you won’t have either an advantage or disadvantage when you take an assignment abroad.
However, if you are not offered this by your company, you should reach out to an international tax expert before going to understand what will be expected of you.
As you can see, there is a lot to moving abroad, and understanding the ins-and-outs of the country you’re moving to takes a lot of time and effort. Some international moving and global relocation companies, like Suddath, will help you navigate these issues so that you can focus on a smooth transition.
There are so many things to consider with different shipping policies – for example, you can’t route your goods to China or take your final trip to work (formally) until your immigration is finalized. It is a process which favors a lot of patience, flexibility, and having the expertise to properly navigate it on your side.
With small shipment options available to you, you can get necessities not even mentioned above, like insurance for your goods, and the dates and requirements related to customs clearance laws, taken care of without stress or unnecessary delays.
Contact Suddath to begin your international move.