What things would make you move abroad? Would it be warmer weather, a lower cost of living or maybe a better quality of life? Perhaps you have been offered an exciting job in another country or maybe educating your children in a first-class university is your top priority? Whatever the reasons for wanting to move abroad and however much you might want to jump on the next plane to your new home there are plenty of factors to consider first.
Immigration and visas
Depending on which country you want to move to you might need a visa to be able to live and work there. You will need to check with the embassy of the relevant country far in advance of your move to see what their requirements are. If you’re working for a company, they might arrange a working visa for you but do check in advance.
Currently, if you are moving to an EU country you don’t require a visa, though this might change as Brexit unfolds.
Cost of living
The cost of living can vary hugely from country to country but budgeting can make a real different to whether your relocation ultimately works or fails.
Make sure you have enough money to support you and your family for the first few months, especially if you don’t have a job to go to. You may need to consider the cost of school, medical insurance, housing, hotel bills for when you first arrive, any furniture or white goods you might need to buy and even the cost of year round air conditioning if you’re moving to a hot country.
Healthcare is a hugely important factor to consider. If you are moving abroad permanently you will no longer be entitled to free healthcare under the NHS as this is based on residency. Before you move, check the healthcare services of the country you are moving to – you might not get the same services free that you do under the NHS and you may have to pay for health insurance.
Once you are resident in a country, have registered for tax and started paying national insurance contributions you will be normally be entitled to healthcare access under the same rules as nationals of that country.
Choosing the right school for your child is one of the toughest parts of being a parent both in the UK and abroad. There are many English-speaking international schools but equally, you may prefer your child to enter the education system of that country. You might need to consider school fees, the age of your child or children and how long you will be in a particular country before you move again. If you choose a local school, language might be an issue to start with but it could help your child integrate fully with the community.
If you’re moving to a country where they speak a different language, you’ll need to take this into account. Perhaps you already speak the language but if not, how and when will you learn? Will you take lessons before you go or when you’re already settled there?
Not learning the local language can be a real barrier to integration and can isolate you from the community so it pays to put the effort in and pick up a few phrases.
Moving abroad can be a real culture shock and expose you to a very different way of life than you are used to. Consider whether you will fit in with the culture of your new country and be able to adopt its customs.
It’s important though, if this is a long term or permanent move, not to isolate yourself. Check out what support networks there are for expats in your new country and see if there are any local groups you could join.
Before you go, consider the tax laws in your new country – make sure you know what your tax liabilities are otherwise you could find yourself paying a lot more than you should. It is best to seek professional advice on this as tax in different countries can be fiendishly complicated. You’ll also need to know what income tax you’ll be paying so you know your monthly net income for living costs. Some countries will offer tax breaks specifically for expats so it is worth speaking to a specialist and finding out what the situation will be for you.
Choosing the right place to live is one of the most important decisions you will have to make as an expat so do some research first.
Think about whether you want to rent or whether you intend to buy and consider what you will do with any property in the UK – are you planning on selling it or renting it out? If you rent it out, it might be wise to consider employing a property management company to deal with the day-to-day management of it.
Moving your belongings abroad
If want to move your furniture and belongings abroad, you’ll need to look at a cost-effective way to do this. This may be covered by your employer and relocation package but if not, it’s best to get a number of quotes from removal firms as the cost can vary greatly. If you’re renting or buying a furnished property you might not need to take so much with you. How much you need to take will also depend on whether you will be a short or long term expat.
Finally, you need to think about safety – freedoms you take for granted in the UK might not be available in your new country. In some countries the security situation is so serious you may have to consider personal protection – everything from home security systems and carrying firearms to round-the-clock security personnel. Start thinking about your personal security before you leave the UK and how you will manage it once you are there.