An expatriate (often shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing, as an immigrant, in a country other than that of their citizenship. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (“out of”) and patria (“country, fatherland”).
With all the recent talk about leaving the country depending on who is elected president, the question is – how do you go about moving abroad?
Whether your favorite politician didn’t win, someone is after you, or you decide FTW and just want to sit on a beach drinking Mai Tais for the rest of your life, moving abroad might be a viable and/or necessary option.
I have personally visited 23 different countries, staying anywhere from 3 days to 6 months. I was fairly serious about moving to Grand Cayman Island and visited for two months. With all of those miles, I have picked up a few things you want to consider when moving abroad.
1. Where are you going? There are many web pages on the google machine to learn about your choice of exile (CIA World Factbook ).You can read all about the sandy beaches and how you can live comfortable for $500 a month (Thailand), but you will never really know if you are going to like it unless you have been there. Before selling the family farm, I highly recommend a test run. Visit your new country for a few weeks to 6 months. You can go through all of the integration pains with no strings attached. If you don’t like it, then you can slip out the window while its sleeping never to return. Sleep around, explore the neighborhoods, local food, talk to other expats… This is it! I have found the place for me. What is next?
2.Prepare yourself and expect change. Everything will be difficult and different from what you are accustomed to. Logistics, administration, culture shock, customs, traditions, language and you may face discrimination. Do your homework, read a lot and talk to others who have done it.
3.Sell everything and travel light. UHAUL and PODS works well in the states, but they do not exist in most countries. Moving a whole house full of goods will cost an arm and a leg and there may not be a guarantee that everything will make it through customs or arrive undamaged. Regulations and customer service are not always the way they should be. Poor nation’s customs tend to have sticky fingers. Expect this and try to avoid at all cost.
4.Hoblar the local mak chow???? Learn the local language! Very important for the long haul. Invest in Rosetta Stone or something of the like. It will make life possible — to buy groceries, if you have to go to the hospital, to set up a bank account, get a taxi or even order your favorite drink at the tiki bar. Don’t expect the cashier at the road side coconut stand to know multiple languages. You may think you ordered a hamburger but you get a cooked duck leg with burnt feathers still on it chopped up by a rusty cleaver…trust me. You can also look for highly populated expat locations where your language has been common for a while. This will help if you have to move in a hurry.
5.Get your documents in order.
– Passport – Everyone needs one to travel internationally. Plan on it taking a few weeks to acquire. You can get it expedited to a few days for a few extra bucks.
– Visa – Some countries require a visa to be approved before allowing you into their country. Something about not liking illegal immigration or whatever. Just a guess. Minimum of 24 hours to process.
– Student Visa – Spending the last few semesters abroad? You will need a Student Visa and knowledge of local campuses. Once you find out what school you want to attend, they should be able to help you with the visa application. Also, if your younger kids are not citizens, they may need one too if you are not home schooling.
– Work permit – Some countries (ie. Grand Cayman) won’t let you stay past a few months or move there without a work permit. If you plan on staying awhile and are not filthy rich, you might want a way to make money, which makes this a must.
– International Drivers license – You can walk or ride a bike, but after a while you may want to venture further. An international drivers license/permit will work in a lot of countries but you may need to get a local one eventually. They should not be difficult if you are a good driver but some countries have different rules of the road and even drive on the opposite side. Yikes.
– Resident status, dual citizenship or full citizenship – “Going out for a pack of smokes, I will be back never”. There will be many hoops to jump through to obtain these. If taxes are something you are trying to avoid this might not be your route. You forgo your previous country’s taxes, but now have to pay the local tax man. Also, you lose your emergency exfil via the U.S. Embassy. When your new country goes up in smoke due to a coupe or revolution, Uncle Sam will no longer be able to get you out of town. You are a local now. Good luck.
6.Pets. Meow that you have your paperwork in order, what about Fido and Mr. Whiskers? For our move to Hawaii we took our dog Baxter. Multiple shots, 6 months out with documentation and about a $grand$ later he could fly in without making a 3 month layover in quarantine. Yikes.. or Meow…and that was still within the U.S. Keep that in mind when making the quick get away. The local embassy or country website you are moving to should be able to provide answers to most ,if not all questions, about pet import regulations.
7.Local laws and crime stats. New country, new government, new rules. In Amsterdam, you can get all the Mary J your burnt out noodle can hot box. In Indonesia, 1 roach blunt is punishable by death. You might want to look into that if that is your thing. Also, making that wrong turn at night into the Rio de Janeiro favelas might have you ending your night in the mortuary. True story for an elderly couple who’s rental car GPS led them astray. Find out the no-go spots and how to stay out of jail.
8.Ouch! I just got bit by a clown fish riding big surf in the lagoon out the front door of my hut in Indonesia. Do they have Obamacare here? NOPE! Better put a tourniquet and salt on that wound. I would start my adventure off with having some sort of vacation insurance . I print out a copy, laminate it (waterproof) and keep it on me at all times. That will get you going for the short term. Where to go for a medical emergency is something you should iron out during your test run. How do I fill my prescription? What if I need a dentist? How do I pay them? Does the beach bar I work for offer employee insurance? Where do I get Insurance or is that a thing in this country? Find out!
9.This Place is Awesome! I want to live here forever! I did everything above. I’m making hundreds of dollars a month at the beach bar. What’s next? Bank account! You need to put that fat stack of pesos somewhere, get a auto loan for that local beater to blend in and a home loan for the palm trees you attach your hammock to on the beach. Plus side, you may get a higher interest return on your savings. Some as high as 7% unlike US banks that offer 0.9% #yeswegetscrewed… Bad side, most overseas banks do not service American clients. And, if the account reaches $10,000 most banks have an agreement with the USA to report your account to the IRS. Shop around, keep the account low and have a good time.
10.Taxes. If you ever plan on coming back to America then get a tax guy and pay your taxes. I have one and he cost $320 a year, but he has saved me a mint. Worth every penny. I have claimed Expat status before. Rules change, but here is the gist: 330 days outside of the U.S. in one calendar year gets you $96,000 tax-free. After that, it is taxed as normal in whatever bracket. AGAIN… Get a tax guy and make sure. (I am not a tax guy).
11.Land. Know before you go. My buddy had to buy his condo in Thailand all in cash as they do not give out loans to foreigners. Foreigners are also not allowed to own land in some countries. You can marry a local and put it in their name to get around that, provided you don’t already have a spouse. That could get ugly. Foreigners can lease land for 100 years in Mexico, but never own. Same deal. Something to know before you eyeball that perfect beach house or chateau.
There you go. I think I covered the meat and potatoes of moving abroad. Do your homework, get your passport, pack light, stick with the expats, don’t get into trouble, don’t get yourself killed, pay your taxes, have fun, eat, drink and be merry. I hope you find what you are looking for and where you belong on this earth. And remember, sometimes where you were born is where you are meant to be, regardless of the current political leader.
Top 10 Locations to move to abroad:
- New Zealand
- United Arab Emirates
Top 10 cheap locations abroad for retirement or whatever:
CODE NAME DAD…OUT!