So you want to become an expat?
These are your first steps to become an expat
So, you’ve concluded your home country just isn’t for you and you’re going to throw the towel in and move abroad. Don’t worry, I do this every few years or so. You’ve decided where you want to go and what job you’d like to do. You’ve researched your visa requirements and started applying. Now you just have to tick off the following checklist of things you’re going to need to do before you set sail to your new exciting destination to become an expat. It’s a good idea to give yourself about 4 months to sort out all the finer details – especially if you’re working full-time up until you leave.
Not all bank accounts are created equal. Some will be more expat friendly while others definitely won’t be. Before you go, spend a little time researching international bank accounts as these generally let you bank in different currencies. These are really useful if you plan to go to several different countries. Make sure you talk to your bank before you leave – some banks will freeze your account if they see overseas activity that they know nothing about.
You might like to keep your current account for bills, etc. or if you plan to return. Make sure your general savings account isn’t paying any account keeping fees – you don’t want to pay for the account when you’re not really using it. If it does, talk to your bank about either closing it for another account or just not paying the fees – some banks are happy to oblige as long as they can keep your service.
READ: The Broke Backpacker’s Travel Banking 101
International Money Transfers
There may be restrictions as to how much you can bring into your new OS country so make sure you check before you start the transaction between the two. Using websites that compare banks for international money transfers can be really helpful because this can get really expensive if you aren’t on top of it.
Try to pay off all your debts before you go. Otherwise you may incur extra costs with international bank transfers, etc. Becoming a resident in one country while still having financial commitments in another can also cause complications to your tax status.
You can request to complete your tax return early when leaving or do it from overseas online. It is surprisingly common for people to end up paying tax twice for a period of time. To avoid this problem, the UK, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain and the United States has “double tax agreements”. They show which jurisdiction has the taxing rights on a particular profit or source of income. If migrating to/from any of these countries these agreements will stop you from paying double tax.
Do you want to give up your number or keep it? Most phone numbers will stay yours for around a year of inactivity. After that the company may view it as abandoned and sell it to someone else (this happened to my friend). It’s not a good idea to stay paying off a phone plan while overseas since you won’t be able to use the credit, or it will be very expensive to do so. But you can try keeping a pre-paid number and putting a very small amount of money on it every 6 months to make sure it stays yours.
You can do one or two of three things when you become an expat. Get long-term travellers insurance, expat insurance or insurance from your new country. Travellers insurance is expensive and may not cover you as much as you need it. If you plan to stay in the new country for an extended period of time I would recommend expat insurance. I used Clements (because they covered my Mac Laptop when no one else would) as well as long-term travellers insurance because I was moving around then staying in places for a couple of months.
Becoming a tenant
Make sure you have a (preferably) digital copy of all of you rental history and a reference from your landlord so that you can easily prove you are a suitable tenant in your new country.
Have a valid licence from home and an international drivers license if you’re going to a country where English isn’t the official language. This is only to set you up though. Many countries will require you to get a local drivers licence after a few months of being there so make sure you check up on that before you become an expat.
It’s going to make your life so much more stress-free if you take care of all these things before you go and it’ll ensure you don’t end up spending loads of money unnecessarily. Now go forth and enjoy your new expat life! Ciao.
BBC: Financial action plan for expats when moving abroad
Australians: Relocating Overseas: How to be prepared to live or move overseas
Which country would you be happy to live in for the rest of your life?
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