10 Step Guide to Emigration

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10 Step Guide to Emigration

Emigrating isn’t something which can be done on a whim. Whether the country you intend to move to is a thousand miles away or ten thousand, transferring your life from one nation to another requires some serious planning.

When faced with the reality of emigrating, the list of decisions you have to make and things you have to consider can seem endless, and more than a little daunting!

Knowing where to start and having a set of steps to follow can really make the process less stressful and help you make the most of your new home right from the start.

So here’s the Expat Hub’s 10 step guide to emigration!

1. Do the sums

Before you lose yourself in research (or run off to start learning French) you need to sit down and seriously assess whether moving overseas is a financially viable option for you. Consider what savings you have and compare what your current earnings are with what you could potentially earn abroad. Look into housing options and see how much different alternatives might set you back. Compare the cost of living between your current home and your dream location, and then roughly estimate all the costs such a move would involve. If the sums don’t add up, now might not be the right time for you to emigrate. If you’re retired with a generous pension and/or have property to sell to finance your move, you’re in a stronger position than many, but you should still do the sums so costs don’t sneak up on you unexpectedly.

2. Research

Once you know you can afford the move it’s time to research your destination. Even if you’ve previously spent time in the country you intend to move to, thorough research is essential. Holidaying somewhere is entirely different to living there full time, so make sure you have a clear and objective idea of the place you plan to call home.

Knowing things like what amenities are accessible, what schooling options are available and what your cost of living is likely to be are essential, so if you can’t visit the place in person then don’t just use the internet for research – read brochures, guides/travel texts and try to speak to others who have emigrated to the area in order to get the most comprehensive picture possible.

Using social networking sites to make contact with expat communities in your new area can also be invaluable, as well as offering advice and support before the move they can make the transition easier for you once you arrive.

In the research stage it’s important to consider whether learning the language of your destination is a priority. Although English is spoken extensively in countries like Spain and France, being able to communicate in your new countries native tongue (if only at a basic level) can go a long way to helping you acclimatise.

Although total emersion in a foreign language is often considered the best way of learning it, beginning language lessons a few months before you move can help you grasp the basics.

3. VISAs

Sorting out a Visa can take several months so it can’t be left to the last minute, but knowing what work permits you might need can seem incredibly confusing. Because guidelines alter so frequently your best bet is to get in touch with the embassy or consulate of the country you plan to emigrate to. They will give you the most up-to-date information and can advise you of the best time to send your application/what documentation you’ll need to support it.   

4. Employment

Your move overseas could end rather abruptly if you don’t have the means of supporting yourself once you arrive! If you don’t already have a job lined up then research the career options available in your new country. Be sure to look in to what the requirements are for foreign employment in your destination, and double check what qualifications are accepted.

If you don’t have a job in the pipeline format your CV for the foreign market and start applying for work before you move. Organise personal and professional letters of reference. Be honest with yourself (and your potential employers) about when you will be available to start employment, and if you won’t be able to travel to your new country for an interview make sure to state that on any applications.

Remember, before you move you’ll need to inform the tax office of the date you plan on leaving, as well as register for a tax number in your new country.

If you are retiring overseas be sure to check whether your pension contributions count in your destination country and start to arrange how you will receive the payments.

5. Organise your finances

Your finances will play a huge part in most aspects of your move so organising them early on is strongly recommended.

Firstly, look into the currency of your destination and start to familiarise yourself with the denominations.

Secondly, contact a reputable currency broker like TorFX and talk to them about what currency exchange services you might need, both during your move and after it. As well as making big initial transfers – such as those involved in buying an overseas home – you may need to make regular transfers throughout your time overseas (paying a mortgage/wages/school fees or making pension transfers etc). By using a top currency broker you’ll benefit from specialist knowledge and expert guidance. They can tailor their services to suit your needs and make sure that you get the best exchange rate possible, saving you time and money.

Currency brokers like TorFX offer services most banks don’t provide, like setting up a forward contract so that you can make the most of a favourable rate. This is particularly useful when buying an overseas property as it means your sale won’t be effected by fluctuations in the exchange rate and you’ll know from the beginning how much the property is costing you.

Unlike banks, currency brokers like TorFX don’t charge transfer fees or commission – so you can save money there too!

As well as taking these steps you should compile a finance/tax folder to keep any financial documentation relating to the move safe and organised.

A couple of months before you move you should arrange an appointment with your bank so you can talk through your banking options. Look into the possibilities open to you in your destination country and research what documentation you would need to provide in order to open a foreign bank account.

If your bank provides online banking then set it up for all your accounts and request to have bank and credit card statements changed to e-statements.

In the final weeks before you go make a list of the immediate costs involved with your move (transportation from the airport, food, temporary accommodation etc). Work out a rough amount and add on a bit to cover you in case of emergencies, then get the funds changed into the appropriate currency – currency brokers can help with this too!

6. Get your documentation in order

A key concern is to ensure that your whole family have valid passports – you won’t get far without them! They should be valid until you next plan to return to your country of origin.

Research what documentation you will need to reside in your new country (visa, work permits, residency etc.) For up to date information visit the country’s immigration department website or contact the country’s embassy. These things can take weeks or even months to organise so begin early to avoid panic later on!

As many countries do not accept foreign driving licences start looking into international driving licences. It may be possible for you to take your test before you leave which would save you hassle and time later on. In some cases you may need to acquire a local driving licence. This will involve taking a local driving test once living in the country.

Make several copies of your birth certificates, marriage certificates, education certificates, insurance policies and financial documentation. Keep an electronic copy and make three hard copies. Leave one set of copied documents with a trusted friend or family member; put one set aside for packing and keep the last set safe and ready to travel with. This might seem over cautious, but losing any of your essential documents will cost you time and cause you hassle you just don’t need – it’s better to be safe than sorry!

As your move approaches book your plane tickets and make any hotel reservations you may need for the periods immediately prior to and following your flight.

7. Organise Healthcare

Depending on what country you’re relocating to you may need to get vaccinations before you go. Some vaccinations need to be given weeks in advance, so check with your doctor and keep an international vaccination booklet.

As you will need to take copies of your medical records abroad with you request them from your surgery and inform them of you intention to move.

Becoming ill abroad can be scary if you’re not accustomed to how the nation’s health system is structured. Look into the health system of your destination country and familiarise yourself with emergency numbers. Then locate doctor’s surgeries, dental practices and optical specialists near to your new home and check whether they have the space to take on extra patients.

One of the most important things you have to do before moving abroad is to take out international health insurance for you and your family. In some nations, health insurance is a prerequisite and you might not be able to work unless you have it. Even if it isn’t necessary for work, having appropriate health insurance is essential, and if an accident should happen it can cost you much less in the long term.

Remember, if you or a family member takes a particular prescription medication find out whether your new country prescribes it (or an equivalent), if they don’t you will need to arrange a supply to take with you.

8. Property – Home

If you own your property you have to assess whether selling or renting it while you’re overseas is the best option. Although selling the property gives you more capital it also makes it more difficult for you to return home if living abroad doesn’t work out the way you’d hoped.

If you decide to rent out your property you will need to make any outstanding repairs and organise finding a tenant. If you have a specific type of tenant in mind (couple/family etc) gear your advertisement to suit and put it in local papers/on the internet or use a rental agency. Remember, if you won’t be able to pop back and check on your property on a regular basis you will need to arrange for a trusted friend or family member to check up on it and resolve any issues with the tenant whilst you’re away.

If you plan on selling your property you need to ensure you have a contingency plan in place should the property sell quicker than you expected or, more importantly, if the property should not sell before you’re due to leave.

If you’re shipping a considerable amount of your possessions overseas take an inventory before you pack them. Throw away any unwanted/valueless items, and sell anything you don’t intend to take. Find out which electronics will be usable in your new home and whether you will need to purchase adapters.

Only use accredited international moving companies to ship your possessions. Give them a full account of what they will be moving, where they will be moving it too and warn them in writing of any potential issues/restrictions/difficulties they might face (flights of stairs, narrow roads etc). In return make sure they give you a full cost breakdown so you know exactly what services you’ll be getting for your money.

As it gets closer to your move date remember to cancel any utilities/subscriptions in your name. If possible arrange for utilities to be cut off 24 hours after you are due to move out and arrange for utilities in your new home to be set up at least 24 hours before you’re due to arrive.

There can be lots of people to notify when you’re moving overseas, don’t forget to sort out: gas and electricity, mobile phones, landline phones, Sky TV, subscriptions and mailing lists, banking/credit cards and internet.

Make sure to contact the council/local government authority/taxation authority and inform them of your move.

9. Property – Abroad

As part of the initial research stage you should have looked into the rental/purchase price of housing in the area you plan to move to. If possible, it’s always best to arrange a visit to the place in order to choose a home to buy or rent. If visiting isn’t an option then websites, online newspapers, word of mouth recommendation and relocation services are all helpful.

You might have your heart set on buying a property overseas, but for many expats renting for several weeks/months whilst settling into their new surroundings is the best option. Renting initially allows you to take some time to decide whether living overseas on a permanent basis is for you before you take the step of buying.

You will need to find out how you set up utilities (water, gas, electricity, telephone line) in your destination country and for your own comfort arrange to have them set up before the day you’re due to move in.

Look into what method you will be using to pay rent/mortgage payments/ utility bills once abroad. If you will need to transfer money from one currency to another to make those payments you will save time and money by using a currency broker.

10. Relax

They say that moving is one of the most stressful things you can do. Well, when moving overseas those stress levels are magnified tenfold. Once you’ve come through the other side and arrived in your destination country celebrate your achievement and recapture your sanity by having a few weeks ‘off’ to enjoy your new home.

Use this as a chance to recharge, an opportunity to explore the area, get to know your neighbours, and make your house comfortable. Yes, you’ll probably have to sort out things like residency and internet access, but try to fit in chores around the fun, and not the other way around!

Finally, look back over the mammoth list of things you’ve achieved and give yourself a well deserved pat on the back!

The Expat Hub
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If you’ve already moved abroad, if you’re in the process of moving abroad or if you’re only thinking about it, the Expat Hub is here for you. For expatriates looking for advice, support and information, we’re the number one online stop.