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What Information to Gather When Preparing to Move Abroad

Preparing to move abroad is not about packing things in boxes, instead I’m going talk about the gathering information phase that’s crucial to planning an epic move. If you are reading this article that means you have already made up your mind to move abroad and you are already searching for answers on how to manage an overseas move without losing your mind.

Going abroad has three planning phases; gathering information, exploring options, and decision making.  For now we are just going to focus on the gathering information phase the very basic part of moving overseas that most people speed past and overlook.  Gathering information helps you make informed decisions for your new life in another country. I will walk you through the types of questions that will help you put the investigation hat on your going to need. Lets start by tuning up our minds and writing down all the details and curious questions you can possible imagine or dig up. What the heck, I’ll even help with a few new questions you probably never even thought about, which is normal if you never moved abroad before.

Questions to consider:

  • Procedural Information–  What are the procedures in the country you are going to? For example: How do I open a bank account? Get a drivers licenses? Find a doctor? Enroll yourself or children in school?  Get the facts on what procedures you need to prepare for and how to complete them. At lot of procedural information can be gathered from Government and Embassy websites.
  • Geographical Information– What is the climate like? How do I get familiar with the culture, road conditions, local surroundings? Are there forest, swamps, deserts or heavier rain conditions or impossible traffic conditions? (Even if the swamp is 10 miles away you might need to know about this) I highly advise, taking an exploratory trip before you actually move. Stay away from the tourist areas and talk with locals to get a real perspective. Read an online version of the local or country news paper if there is one available. Use Google translate to help you translate the pages. Are there any kinds of regular weather problems reoccurring?
  • Legal Procedures– Are you buying property or keeping your property? Will you need to pay taxes in two countries? Thinking of retiring or have investments you are receiving dividends from? Do you plan to build a home or business? In many countries documents are not legal if they are not written in the native language. Its strongly suggested to consult a local lawyer before making property purchases, legal transactions or filing for building or business permits. You may have to book a few appointments with tax adviser or an expat tax adviser so you are well informed about taxes, foreign tax, and retirement accounts or social security taxes. Check with the social security website on what options you have for contributing toward your social security or receiving your social security abroad.
  • Immigration and customs regulations- How do you get a visa? How do you get a passport? Are work permits part of a visa? Don’t forget to gather information on customs and tax duties. How often do you have to renew your visa? What are the fees involved? What happens when your passport expires? What is your immigration status in your host country? Will that affect your spouse’s ability to work? What happens if you have a child abroad? Do documents need to be translated? This is only a drop of vital information to begin with. Again your governments consulate or foreign relations website can give you the details of exactly what  you will need.
  • Medical- Do you or any family members require specific medications? Are the medications available in your new country? Never assume they are, it is not always the case. How do you pay for medical care or services? How easy is it to get to the nearest emergency facility? What vaccinations might you need? Will your medical insurance cover you abroad? Some countries will not allow you to apply for a residence permit if you do not have current medical insurance. Some medical insurances claim you are covered overseas but have claim restrictions and longer claim processing times, do you know what they are?
  • Employment- Are work permits separate or integrated in your visa? Some visas do not allow you to work you will need a separate work permit. Will you need to retake any training or re-certify or sit exams for diplomas you already have? Many countries do not accept professional certifications particularly in healthcare and require you to pass local certification exams. Are there educational costs involved with preparing for a new exam? Are you a spouse of a partner that has taken a job overseas? Some countries have restrictions for spouses to work. Will language make it difficult to find employment?

Word of advice, weigh the information you researched and discovered against your own expectations.  Was any of the information you discovered about the country you are moving to the way you thought it would be?  Write down a list of all the difficulties and changes you might encounter or heard about in your destination country. Take time to find out as much as you can about your new home.  Will it be similar to your home and lifestyle? Can you get satellite tv to enjoy programs from home? Will your entertainment resources be in a different language or can you get them in English? Are there sports clubs or gyms you can join?  Can you get a good internet connection?  Are electronic devices compatible with the sockets or voltage?  I think by now you have a good set of basic questions that crucial to think about so you can go tackle the answers.

When you put your investigative hat on, two things will happen.  The first is that by fully being aware of what’s ahead, it will eliminate a lot of the culture shock.  Second, your own research in the country you are going to do will give you a solid understanding what to pack or leave behind.  Getting all the answers you need is going to keep your moving cost low, help you understand what to pack, help you keep your sanity and most of all give you a confident feeling you made the right choices for your move abroad.

About Jamie Shaw

Jamie is our Sr. editor for 2moveabroad.com Jamie’s knowledge of living and traveling comes from her first hand experience of traveling and living abroad for over fifteen years. Between photographing monkeys in Thailand or drinking some of France's finest wines, Jamie taught English from time to time to make ends meet and has listened to the many stories from the students and families that had relocated abroad and realized that they had often spoken about the difficulties of relocating and adjusting to a new life. Her inspiration and passion has help launch this site as a resource for those seeking to go abroad.

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