Every year thousands of people make the decision to move permanently abroad and to make a new life for themselves and their families in a foreign land. For many this proves to be one of the best decisions they have ever made, but for others the dream quickly turns into a nightmare. Here are just a few of the many things that you will need to consider.
Tip 1. Make certain that you really do want to live permanently abroad.
The grass is always greener on the other side and it is very easy to paint an idyllic picture of life in your chosen country. However, once you get there, you may well find that the grass is now a lot greener back home. It’s also normally the case that your view of a country as a holidaymaker is very different from your view as a resident.
Not only should you visit the country several times before deciding to move there, but you should also do so at different times of the year and for increasingly lengthy periods of time. You should also try ‘living’ in the country by renting a house or apartment and living as far as possible as you would as a resident rather than a holidaymaker. If you still feel that moving is the right choice after you’ve spent six months or so ‘living’ in the country, then there’s a good chance that you won’t regret your decision.
Tip 2. Make sure that you understand the immigration policy of your chosen country.
Check out the current immigration requirements of your chosen country and also look at its past history on immigration and any known or rumored plans for change.
In many cases you will be required to meet strict visa requirements and these may be inconvenient, costly and leave you with little security. The last thing you want to do is to cut your ties with home, buy a house and settle the kids into school only to find that you cannot extend your visa and are given forty-eight hours to leave the country.
Tip 3. Examine your finances carefully.
Think carefully about how you will support yourself in your chosen country. Do you, for example, intend to seek employment in your new country to provide you with an income, or will you fund yourself from sources at home, such as savings, investments or a pension.
If you’re going to look for employment abroad then how easy will it be to find a job? If you can get a job, what sort of salary can you expect? Will you be allowed to work at all? Many countries will require you to apply for a work permit and these are often issued only in exceptional circumstances or for employment requiring specific skills or qualifications. In many cases your visa will expressly state that you may not seek employment.
If you’re going to fund your stay from sources at home, do you have sufficient resources not simply for today but for the next ten or twenty years or more? If you’re taking a pension abroad will it keep pace with the rising cost of living? In many countries you may draw a pension abroad but, if you do so, you will lose any cost of living increases and your pension will be fixed at the level at which you start to draw it overseas.
Tip 4. Think about what you will do with your assets back home.
If you own your home will you sell it, rent it out or simply leave it empty? What will you do with your car, furniture and other possessions?
Your home of course is much more than simply an asset, it also gives you a tie to home and affords you an address back home which may be extremely useful if you don’t have family or friends who are happy to let you use their address. Just wait until your credit card runs out and your bank tells you that they can only send the new card to the address to which the account is registered in your home country.
As far as your other possessions are concerned you can of course dispose of many of them if you wish, keeping only those or particular real or sentimental value, or you can take them with you. But how easy is it to ship things out and what will it cost? Look carefully too at the rules in your chosen country. Some countries will let you bring more or less whatever you want into the country, while others will have strict limits or impose high import taxes. In many cases for example it’s a lot cheaper to buy a new car than to ship your own car out, pay high import duty and than have to have the car adapted to meet local requirements for registration.
Tip 5. Examine the provision of healthcare.
You may be fit and healthy now but, if you’re thinking about moving abroad permanently, then a time is going to come when you will need to avail yourself of the local healthcare facilities. Just how good are those facilities, how do they compare to the facilities that you are used to and will the doctors speak English?
Another very important consideration is the availability of public healthcare. If you come from a country with a publicly funded healthcare system, such as the UK, then you might be more than a little shocked by the cost of medical treatment when you find yourself in a country with only private healthcare. On the other hand, if you’re used to paying for your own healthcare, you might be pleasantly surprised to find that you can get the same of better medical treatment at a fraction of the cost.
Whatever the case, however, this is something that you need to check out very carefully and you will certainly need some form of expat health insurance policy.
This short list of just five tips is far from exhaustive but hopefully it will give you a starting point and set you in the right direction. Becoming an expatriate is a very big step and one that needs a great deal of careful thought.