Tips for Moving Abroad
I am by no means an expert on moving abroad, but thought I’d share some tips for those of you out there who might be thinking about taking the plunge.
1. Research: Start by making a list of reason to stay and reasons to move abroad. Also, check out your local bookstore for books that talk about being an expat in your chosen destination. For me, a good starting point was: Living and Working in Britain (Fifth Edition) by David Hampshire. Another good reference book for anyone considering London is: Living in London published by the Junior League of London. What’s great about this book is that it’s written by Americans who have lived in London.
2. Network: Tell people that you are thinking about moving abroad. You never know who might be able to help facilitate the move. Particularly seek out people who have lived abroad. If you don’t know anyone personally, do research via the Internet to find expats in your destination of choice. Some of the best advice I got was gleamed by reading the archives and talking to people online via the Americans in UK Forum.
3. Organize: If after researching and networking, you still want to go for it or better yet, you’ve landed a job, start planning and get your documents organized. This includes:
A. Immigration documents. It goes without saying that your passport and appropriate visas need to be up to date. If you can’t get the appropriate work visa, I’d say postpone the move until you can make it happen. Getting a professional job in a foreign country is extremely difficult and not having appropriate paperwork will make it next to impossible. If all else fails, consider getting a graduate degree abroad. You’ll still get the living abroad experience; you just won’t be able to work. Plus, if you get an graduate degree like an MBA, thinking that will make you more attractive to employers back home or another international destination.
B: Employment documents. If you are lucky enough to land a job before you move over, get the company to write a letter stating when your employment starts and your annual salary in the local currency. This will be most helpful as you try and rent an apartment and or get the ever elusive bank account set up.
C. Banking records. Getting a new account in your new country — even if you have stellar credit in your home country can prove to be difficult, so its best to get a letter of recommendation from your current bank, as well as have bank statements for the last 3 to 6 months. And whatever you do, DO NOT close your current bank account. If you are like me, you’ll need to pay your student loans in US funds, so this comes in handy.
D. Medical records. Get your annual medical and dental check up. Plus also get a copy of your records from both doctors. This is useful if you have a complicated medical history. Also, if you have long standing medication, I’d recommend getting a supply for at least 3 to 6 months. In the UK you need to register with a doctor in your neighborhood — and that all takes times.
E. Property Records. Gather information to show that you are a good tenant. If you own your own property, it would be good to get a letter from the mortgage company showing that you were a customer in good standing. If you are a renter like myself, get a letter from your landlord indicating how long you have lived at property, that you kept property up and more importantly that you always paid on time. Ideally, you should have letters covering the last 5 years.
4. Storage/Shipping: Have a good clean out. If you are a hoarder like myself, that won’t be easy. But its necessary — even if your company is going to pay for your items to be shipped abroad. I say this because if you are moving to a city like London which has lovely but ever so tiny flats, finding a place to fit all your “American size” furniture won’t be easy. So its best to leave it at home. Particularly if you know for a fact that the move abroad will be temporary.
If you are stubborn like me and want to be surrounded by your things, get ruthless and pair things down. More importantly, seek out a reputable mover. This proved to be the most daunting challenge as everywhere I went on the Internet; I kept reading horror stories about international movers. As such, would recommend researching shipping companies via the Better Business Bureau and also sites like MovingScam.com. Then narrow down the list to only those who will come to your house to look over items before finalizing quote. Also, pick a local company that can handle packing and getting the items ready for international shipment. Finally, do get replacement insurance. Purchasing or repairing items abroad can be really expensive.
In the end, I went with Pickens-Kane Allied International (303 Munroe Drive, Bloomingdale, IL 60108, 630-924-4400). They were not the cheapest, but the staff was the most professional and made me feel like my stuff wasn’t going to get lost somewhere in the Bermuda triangle. In fact, as agreed, my items arrived safetly in London a month after I did. Long before the box with my receipts and other assorted documents arrived that was shipped via the USPS. In fact, that took almost two months.
5. Pets: If you can, bring them. It’s not cheap and the process can be somewhat complicated, but its totally worth it in then end. Truth be told, Choo-Choo has provided a great deal of comfort this last year and so I’m really glad he made the journey with me.
6. Saying Good-bye/Staying Connected: Once you decide to leave, visit all your favorite places in your current city of residence. More importantly, spend time with the people that are important to you. It’s easy to get caught up in the move, but if you move as far as I did, it’s important to let people know that just because you are moving on, you don’t want to be forgotten. Plus you really value your relationship with them. If you don’t already have a blog, this would also be a perfect time to set one up. Particularly since it will provide a good way for you to stay connected with family and friends back home.
So how long will all of this take? Well if you are single, you can definitely do it in 3 to 6 months. If you’ve got a family, it will definitely take more time — maybe even up to a year. But don’t be discouraged because if planned properly, it will all be worth it in the end.