Leaving the current customs conundrum aside, moving abroad can be and normally is a thrilling prospect, for great many people, at least. The idea of trying out a new lifestyle is exciting, but the harsh reality is that it comes at the end of a very long planning process.
For many people, there is always something they forget. Because there are numerous “important” things to consider, small matters often remain forgotten until the people have already moved. After all, there are mobile phone plans, insurance policies and much more to keep in mind. To avoid this, let’s take a look at some common things to consider.
Taxes Never Go Away
There are two main things about expat taxes to consider:
1. Federal and state taxes
2. Taxes in the country of residence
Make a schedule detailing important dates (notably deadlines) for tax payments. Some people rely on expats to help them in the beginning, while others opt for professional services.
The choice depends on the country of residence and the complexity of the process. Some countries have pretty straightforward rules requiring an online payment on a set monthly date and that’s all. Others have complex requirements that may be time-consuming and confusing. Decide for yourself whether you’ll be able to handle the requirement without professional assistance and go from there. If in doubt, it is safe to rely on the expat community. As a rule, these people are friendly and willing to help.
Bookkeeping is the second most problematic issue for expats. Namely, some people run their own companies, some are digital nomads, and some work for local companies or international branches of their home company.
With the exception of the latter, all other activities usually require bookkeeping services. As is the matter with taxes, the choice of the professional should be based on your realistic needs. There’s no need to choose the most expensive service just to be on the safe side. Again, the complexity of the process should be the starting point.
Many countries offer special benefits to entrepreneurs and freelancers, meaning that the bookkeeping and tax payment processes are greatly simplified. Check the requirements in advance and, again, consult the expat community before making the final decision.
If you are a freelancer, you may have more options at your disposal than other expats, even if the benefits may not necessarily be considerably better. In fact, unless you have a long-term contract, you may find yourself in a difficult position when you’re struggling with finding new well-paid projects.
Therefore, you may want to have a couple of freelancing alternatives before relocating.
If you’re depending on your website for payments, you should consider investing a bit before relocating. E.g., if you’re paying for ads, you will want to make certain that once a potential customer has discovered your website, they will take action.
A Word on Accommodation
Many people – especially freelancers – rely on platforms like Airbnb for initial accommodation. While there have been many success stories, this practice remains uncertain and is especially difficult for people moving with their pets.
Firstly, renting an apartment from halfway across the world away is risky because you’re relying only on photographs. Unless you have actually seen the apartment, you cannot be sure whether it will suit you or not.
For many people, a hotel is the first choice upon arriving. They spend a couple of days looking for appropriate and affordable accommodation and often consult the local expat community for advice.
You can connect with the expat community before you set out, too. Look up the Facebook group’s page and ask for advice before leaving the U.S. In some cases, there are people subletting their apartments, so you may get lucky.
Check Visa Requirements
Visa requirements are unique to each country, so there are no general guidelines for everyone. What you should do before leaving is informing yourself properly about any future requirements, including visa extension.
Some countries allow travelers to stay for some time without a visa and they may or may not be allowed to work. Other countries require specific visas and, usually, an appropriate medical insurance before allowing anyone into the country.
Note that during the pandemic nothing is certain. Rules can and do change almost daily depending on the situation, so make certain to check and re-check the requirements regularly. You should also check quarantine requirements, especially if you’re planning to hop in and out of the country.
Make Sufficient Copies of Important Documents
There are numerous examples of people missing a document once abroad. It’s only to be expected that people will be coming up with different plans depending on the situation and potential opportunities. However, once you have relocated, obtaining a document from the U.S. may be difficult if not downright impossible.
That’s why it is important to obtain all documents you think you may need and store copies back at home, either with your family or a trusted friend (so that they can send anything you might be missing). Examples of document copies you are likely to need while abroad include: passport, hotel and flight information, work permit, visa, birth certificate, marriage certificate, international health insurance card, medical documents, social security documents and academic records.
Banks Are Always One Step Ahead
Be particularly careful when dealing with bank issues. Banks can be problematic even when you’re in the U.S., let alone when you’re far away and unable to address potential issues promptly.
The first thing to look into is a credit/debit card with no foreign transaction fees. The latter are a huge source of income for banks, seeing as the fees can reach up to 5% per transaction, so make sure to shop around. Nowadays, there are virtual options, too, so take your time comparing offers.
Secondly, make an appointment with a bank representative and triple-check everything, especially fees and outstanding debts. For some people, closing their account is the best option to avoid paying for services they won’t be using.
Lastly, even if you choose to rely on your U.S. bank account for support, never ever attempt to relocate without having a stash of money on you. There is no saying what you may need the money for, and you should have sufficient amounts available until you have settled, anyway.
As you can see, there are many things to consider prior to moving abroad, let alone once you’re there. However, good organization is all that’s needed, so make sure you have enough time for everything and take advantage of messaging services or project-management apps used by your employer, or as a freelancer.
Finally, inform yourself. Ask the expat community to help you with uncertainties and write down anything that comes to mind.
Don’t stress once you have your checklist. In the end, the only stressful part is getting started. Once you have arrived, you will feel relieved almost instantly. Enjoy the change! That’s what living abroad is all about!