Considering Moving Abroad? It’s not as simple as packing up your bags and heading out. There are a million little details that no one ever tells you. Things you would never think of until you are in the thick of it.
The excitement of moving to a new country far outweighs the daunting tasks that will take up all your free time in the months preceding the big move. However, with careful planning, you can get yourself on track.
If you own a home, you either have to rent or sell it. This is an overwhelming task on its own. I suggest starting early to help ease the stress. I started that process a year in advance and glad. It took almost 6 months for the entire process, including moving to a smaller place.
Whether you sell it just before you move abroad or a year in advance, timing is important. For me, a year in advance meant moving to an apartment for a year. This included downsizing enough that when ready to move abroad, what remained had to fit into a 10×15 storage unit.
Also, make sure the end of a lease coincides with leave dates. Don’t cut it too close. Leave time for goodbyes. Lucky for me, I was able to leave about 40 days to return to Chicago to stay with family. But that is not an option for everyone.
This extremely important detail not mentioned to me early on. I recommend allowing 4-6 months for this process. I had to carry out this monumental task in the last two months while trying to move. This is not a good when addresses are changing to a new home base in a different state. It can affect the process.
Also, You must allow time in “business days” for processing, time for money to transfer, cards to be mailed, and transferring over automatic bill pay, as well as time for mistakes from both parties. Trust me…MISTAKES WILL BE MADE!!!
The most important part of changing banks is picking the right ones and knowing what they will be needed for. Don’t forget to think about foreign transaction fees.
foreign transaction fees must be considered. These can really add up over time. Thanks to Nomadic Matt’s Blog and his book, he literally has saved me thousands. He recommended Charles Schwab due to its no foreign transactions fees and refunds of the fees if there are any. I just received my chip enabled debit card. It was the perfect choice. I was also able to obtain an investment account for retirement. Thanks Matt!!!
For more info, visit his blog at: http://www.nomadicmatt.com
Understanding A Tax Free Salary
Moving to the Middle East also has the bonus of earning a tax-free income. That has its own set of rules for an American. You must consider applicable tax laws based upon the country you will reside in. It could become a huge problem later if you are not aware of how the country you are moving to does business with the U.S.
For example for me, to keep my salary tax-free I must live 330 days of a year in a foreign country. (Physical Presence Test for tax form 673.) While the days don’t need to be in the same year or consecutively, you can not be in the U.S. more than 30-35 days per year. (Ex: Aug-Dec 2015 through Jan-July 2016) When the first full day starts is even more complicated. Know and understand the fine print when working abroad.
If you are lucky enough to earn a tax-free salary, be careful how you invest it for retirement. The last thing you want is to pay taxes later on something that could remain tax-free with the right investment. A Roth IRA can keep your money tax-free long-term.
I am by no means an expert, therefore I recommend consulting two important people: an international tax accountant, and a financial advisor. These two have played an important role in the process of setting up the correct accounts and filling out paperwork correctly. Later, the international account can help you navigate filing your taxes. That first year abroad will be a challenge because you would have part a year in the U.S. and part internationally.
I am sure there is so much more to this tax thing that I have not a clue about. Maybe you are reading this and can offer your advice or expertise. Perhaps you have experience and want to offer some enlightenment or encouragement to us newbies to international life. Please comment below.
Endless Amounts of Paperwork
Like the two sections above weren’t overwhelming enough, seriously, prepare yourself! There is additional paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork. New employment paperwork, international health insurance, tax forms, new bank accounts, gathering important records, updating passports, international drivers license, passport photos, and so much more. I have worked on these details for months.
Let’s not forget about sorting out visas. I am lucky that my new employer is handing that. Work visas are more difficult than travel visas. At the time of this blog post, mine is still being processed. Along with moving abroad comes residency cards. In Bahrain it is called the CPR card. It is necessary to obtain things like internet, or purchase a car, etc. What ever country you pick, make sure you know what you need well in advance.
In the age of technology there are some big considerations here. For example, make sure you have an unlocked cell phone so you can change out SIM cards for the country you are in.
Also, it’s a good idea to have portable chargers. When traveling internationally, you must enter the country with some charge left in your devices. I am still sorting out which to buy. Plus, its easy to drain a battery using a map app. Don’t forget about the adapters for different power sources too.
I invested in the Bose QC25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones. Nothing like being able to drown that noisy passenger and the hum of jet engines on a long flight.
There are other devices for my move abroad that I am bringing due to their high cost in Bahrain. This includes things like a laptop, Ipad, bluetooth portable speaker (can’t be without music in my new house), Apple TV with a VPN so I can stream U.S.Hulu and Netflix (a great tip from another international teacher), and of course, power adapters for international power sources.
There really is so much to consider when moving abroad and planning for the future. It is not for everyone. The other day my mom asked, “How has your head not exploded?” I just laughed because I know in the end it will all be worth it. Seeking out your #LIfeMeant is not meant to be easy, its all about the journey.