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Whether you’ve already started ordering packing boxes and mountains of bubble wrap, or you’re only just contemplating the prospect of a move, it’s never too early to start thinking about your priorities for moving abroad. Here we’ve laid out some vital topics to think about before, and after, you make the big move.
Your health (and that of your family, if applicable) should be your first priority. The first point of contact is your existing doctor: arrange an appointment, explain your situation and let them know when you intend to leave. Use the opportunity to discuss:
We also recommend that you locate where your nearest medical facilities, hospitals and emergency treatment centres will be. You’ll need to register with a new doctor and dentist, though this will likely have to wait until after your arrival.
It would also be wise to explore health insurance provision: obviously, your entitlement to any state health cover will lapse once you move, and you will need to find suitable health insurance cover. A specialist expatriate care plan is recommended – this will cover you through the entire process and will include emergency treatment options unavailable on standard plans. Read more about AXA PPP International’s plan.
While it’s unlikely you’re being tempted abroad simply by better weather (and greener grass), it’s still important to emphasise that life after your move will be easier if you’ve had the opportunity to authentically sample it before. Ideally, you should aim to have a short break in your intended neighbourhood before you move – this will be a good opportunity to fact-find and possibly even find friends and favourite places that you can look forward to returning to.
Having been seduced by a wonderful destination, the matter of selecting an appropriate property remains. You will naturally want to select a home with good transport links and close proximity to schools, workplaces and other amenities. How you seal the deal on a property purchase or rental agreement is also important. Always opt for independent, English-speaking legal advice, and when dealing with a real estate agent don’t ever feel pressured to go with their ‘preferred’ option.
Moving your family and belongings abroad is inevitably more complex than moving locally. Depending on where you’re moving from and too, you may need to move items via air freight or shipping container: the former is quick and expensive, while the latter can save you money (you can share a container) but will take considerably longer.
Even in the earliest stages of your move, you probably don’t need to be reminded that moving abroad isn’t cheap. However, ‘money matters’ go beyond being financially prepared for the move – beyond even having a buffer in order to weather unforeseen circumstances. Consider:
Before you leave you need to decide which UK accounts you will keep and how you’ll manage your daily money and savings – and through which accounts. When transferring money abroad look closely at the fees: some banks charge a set amount, others charge a percentage. Get this wrong and it’s likely you will lose money on transfers.
Now while you should be able to use credit and debit card services in most countries it’s always good to have a backup. It’s therefore wise to have enough local currency in cash to cover daily expenses – especially when you first arrive. There are also traveller’s cheques, which are much safer, if a little less useful.
Your move will involve challenges for every member of the family, so do everything you can to involve them from the start of the moving process. One way to do this is get them to make their own list of objectives and plans for when you all arrive.
Children can be highly sensitive to foreign moves; it’s very likely the decision to move was related to your job opportunities and may leave them a little isolated. To help them integrate well, you may consider trying to locate a local school that has experience with expat children rather than an international school.
Picking the right time to move is not easy. Ideally it won’t interrupt schooling too much, and it’s worth considering the time of year – Christmas may not be the best time for a family to relocate, for instance.
You will need to inform a number of government authorities if you intend to leave. You should provide your local council with a forwarding address and notify the health service, tax office, and other agencies. You should also contact the International Pension Centre to find out how moving may affect your pension.
Settling things with the government in your country of origin is one half of the process - you’ll need to set yourself up in your new country too, with your highest priority being gaining an appropriate Visa. Bear in mind that the Visa application process can be a lengthy one – allow anywhere between 30 to 90 days, depending on your destination. Familiarise yourself with the country’s regulations too – you may need to have a minimum level of health insurance in place to get a visa, for instance.
Plan to integrate, rather than leaving integration to chance. After the upheaval of relocating the last thing you’ll want is to feel isolated and there are expat organisations dedicated to welcoming new arrivals – make contact before the move.
One of the greatest bonuses of expat life is discovering a new culture. This is something the whole family will benefit from, and perhaps the most rewarding part for your children. A big part of this will be learning a local language – start with just the key phrases (and get the family learning too). Good starting points could be asking for directions or for help. Then once you’re settled, try to speak the language when ordering in shops and restaurants. And don’t worry if you’re struggling at first; you’ll find just making the effort will make you friends and open many doors.
Source for statistics used in imagery: a multiple-choice online survey of 463 expats conducted by market research agency Atomik on behalf of AXA PPP International in Dec 2015.
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