Making a move to a foreign land for work is a lot more complicated than just packing a suitcase and finding a new place to live. Your life will literally change in ways you probably didn’t expect. From dealing with different foods to a new language, there is a lot to prepare for in an overseas relocation.
With so much to think about, it’s important to order the importance – and financial details should be at the top of the list.
“The first thing to think about it that you understand the total compensation package,” said Kay Curling, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Salient CRGT.
“It needs to be spelled out in writing, and you shouldn’t take anything for granted,” added Curling, who lived abroad for 10 years and now helps employees prepare for overseas moves.
There are taxation issues, with some pros and cons for working overseas as a U.S. citizen. One thing many individuals don’t consider is social security.
“When I worked overseas I was taxed locally including what would be the equivalent to social security,” Curling told ClearanceJobs. “If you are working locally and not an expat there is reciprocity for social security, but you must file for credit so you don’t lose that time in the social security system.”
Determine, too, how you will be paid. This includes making international banking arrangements, and whether you are paid in local currency or U.S. dollars that you’ll have to convert.
Those moving overseas may want to consider joining groups such as American Citizens Abroad, as this group can also help members maintain a U.S. financial account without a having a U.S. residential address.
“Many U.S. banks will not allow you to keep an account if you no longer have a U.S. residential address,” explained Marylouise Serrato, ACA executive director.
“It is important to keep a U.S. credit rating while you are overseas if you intend to keep investments, accept social security payments, finance children’s U.S. university education, help with eldercare etc.,” Serrato told ClearanceJobs. “It is best to keep some U.S. financial presence.”
Another major consideration, said Curling, is the moving package. Will your employer help you find a new home or will it help you sell your current house? In some cases you may be given moving expenses, but the process then falls upon you to sell the old house.
Fortunately, today there are plenty of online resources, including message boards and forums devoted to relocating overseas – resources that weren’t there for Curling during her past move. Taking advantage of online moving resources and information websites alleviates some of the sleepless nights spent worrying about finding a house on the other side of the world, noted Curling.
Planning an Overseas Move? Timing is Everything
“Timing was also an issue,” said Dan Stoll, a technical marketing manager at Nintex.
“When is the best time to sell the car, rent out our house, book flights, etc.,” added Stoll, an Australian who relocated to the United States for work.
“There is a lot of juggling around logistics,” he told ClearanceJobs. “You go from living your life in one country to organizing life in a new county, and it was demanding, especially for my wife and two kids.”
Then there is the move itself, and ensuring that your possessions are protected in transit.
“You need to understand who is insuring your household goods because when your items are in transit these may not be covered by either the home owners’ insurance or by the movers’ (coverage),” warned Curling. “You may want to buy extra insurance for those long distance relocations.”
Really valuable items such as antiques may need to go into storage, and this certainly includes any items that were legally imported into the United States in the past, but could now be on an embargo list. Consider what is essential – there is probably no reason to take that antique ivory statue you inherited from your great grandfather. Items such as that could be banned in some countries, and bringing it back could be a major hassle.
Another consideration few people take in is medical treatment when living abroad. Dealing with the U.S. healthcare system is complex, but for those in another country it can be a completely different maze to navigate.
“Medical insurance is therefore a biggie to think about,” said Curling. “Most U.S. insurance companies will cover you for travel but not for living outside the country. So you need to look into coverage, and it is essential to have normal coverage. Find out what your employer will offer, but there are plenty of options to look at if the company isn’t covering insurance. One thing to also think about is medical evacuation coverage, in case there is a major emergency.”
Making an OCONUS Move
When it comes time to actually make the move there are plenty of considerations. Unlike vacation travel, you’re likely going to have a lot more “stuff” with you.
“You need to have your passport and visa on hand,” said Curling. “But there is also a lot of misunderstanding even in what kind of visa you might need. Now in most cases the company should have a visa agent that represents the employees, but make sure you have the visas in order.”
Otherwise you could be in your new home and technically unable to work.
“Visas can also affect how people can come and go, your taxation status and even the work you can do,” warned Curling.
“When you board the plane you also need to carry everything you think is important such as wills, deeds and other important papers,” she noted. “You should have that in a carry on.”
The aforementioned ivory statue isn’t the only thing that may need to stay in the States.
“If you are traveling abroad for work, anything more than a personal laptop and a camera needs to be itemized in your passport, and this generally is more than a typical tourist would take,” said Curling. “You may be charged customs on the other side.”
Until a few years ago many electronics commonly used in the USA wouldn’t work in other parts of the world and this notably included TVs – which were both different voltages but also different formats. Today, these issues are less prevalent.
“There are electronics you can get in dual voltage before you leave the U.S., and in many cases it can be cheaper to buy these items here,” said Curling. “iPads are one item that can be a lot more expensive overseas. If you do plan to bring electronics, get a good quality transformer, not the cheap ones you buy at the airport. You want to make sure your devices are protected.”
There are items that may be embargoed, however. This includes some sensitive items that aren’t supposed to be exported from the United States, but also items that can’t be brought into other countries. Racy magazines and alcohol are just a couple of examples of items you can’t bring into nations such as Saudi Arabia.
To summarize, as you prepare for your overseas move, make sure your plans include:
- Financial Planning
- Legal Considerations
- Moving Logistics
Making the move overseas for work can be an incredible experience. Just make sure you put in the proper time to plan, and you’ll be able to enjoy the move, as well as the job.