Making the move to becoming an expat
Moving abroad permanently or on a long-term basis is a decision not to be taken lightly. Unless you’ve traveled extensively or spent an extended period of time living in a foreign country, it’s nearly impossible to recognize all of your cultural assumptions and expectations that will be challenged by such an undertaking.
Experts suggest that individuals considering this move first talk to people who already live in the country they’re considering moving to. Countries—much like people, neighborhoods or regions—have personalities. While movies and books might give you an idea of a country’s “personality,” a few weeks or more abroad can give you some deeper insights as to whether or not you and the anticipated country might be compatible. Be able to answer these questions with certainty before making the big move.
How will I support myself?
If you require regular employment to pay for your living expenses, investigate the immigration and visa requirements of your destination country. Many countries have specific requirements for individuals who plan to work and live in the area, and applications and an interview may be necessary, which required at least basic knowledge of the language. If you’re wealthy or retired, it may be necessary to provide evidence of your regular income and financial standing.
How will I care for my health?
Investigate what type of health insurance is required, if any. For instance, some countries with socialized medicine don’t require noncitizens who work and contribute tax money to the economy to purchase insurance, while others do. Countries without socialized medicine should always be a red flag for you to start comparing policy rates. Purchase a citizen secure health insurance policy to ensure adequate health care in the event of illness or injury.
How do I handle my money?
Experts advise retaining the services of a financial advisor experienced in international living arrangements. In most cases, you’ll need a minimum of two bank accounts: one U.S.-based and one in the country of your new residency. Sign up for two credit cards. Again, one U.S.-based and the other from your new country, are recommended. Discuss any necessary tax payments to either country with your financial advisor and where this money should be kept.
Where will I live?
There are often very complicated laws regarding noncitizens and real estate property ownership in some countries. Some nations allow a “century long lease” in lieu of outright ownership. Others allow foreigners to purchases homes, but not the land. Hire a real estate agent experienced in these matters before making any sales contract to purchase property overseas.
How long will I stay?
While the answer to this question might not be answerable, do consider it. For instance, if you don’t foresee yourself returning to the U.S. in the near future—aside from visits for required visa renewals—it might be unnecessary for you to keep half a home’s worth of furniture and belongings in storage in the U.S. On the other hand, you might want the security of knowing you can easily return home and set up housekeeping.
The expat state of mind
For some individuals, living abroad becomes natural. It fits their personalities and becomes their favorite lifestyle. Living in a staid suburb outside of a middle-sized city in the U.S. is as alien to them as their lifestyle might appear to you. However, if the idea keeps nagging, consider the adventure rather than later regret not having taken the chance.