U.S. Expats Working Abroad: What to Know
If you're planning on working abroad, there are several things that you should know before you go!
Moving abroad can be thrilling, but before you even get to begin enjoying this new occurrence, you’ll have to go through a long and painful process of dealing with the checklist. There are great many things to consider before leaving, indeed many more than once you actually arrive.
Let’s go through the most important of them.
Don’t Book Accommodation Unless You Have Seen It
A brief glance at expat forums will tell you that renting accommodation from your comfortable chair in the U.S. isn’t the brightest of ideas. Unless you’re planning to relocate to a highly regulated country (e.g., Japan), don’t book anything long-term before you see it!
It is always better to stay in a hotel or a hostel upon arriving and take your time finding suitable and affordable accommodation. On top of that, you’ll be able to get help.
Namely, the first thing you should do when relocating to a different country is - get in contact with the local expat community. You can look it up while you’re still in the U.S. (they tend to be active on social media platforms, for example).
Check Visa Requirements
Depending on the country you’re relocating to, visa requirements will differ. A long-term visa is always the best option, but you should get familiar with different visa types and decide which one might be best for you.
Check visa requirements first; you may not be eligible for all of them.
If you already have a job awaiting you, you will need a work visa. In many cases, it is provided by the employer, but you’ll still have to obtain the paperwork.
Needless to say, this is never an easy task and can be highly time-consuming, too.
Keep Copies of Important Document With You and Back at Home
Because of this, it is highly recommended to make copies of important documents. We aren’t referring only to those for visa requirements, but also to any additional documents you may come to need once abroad (the birth certificate, for example).
Also, it is a good idea to leave additional copies with a family member of a friend. In any case, you’ll need a reliable contact back home, so plan well in advance. Your contact should also receive your snail mail while you’re away, so make sure to set forwarding (easily done online).
Don’t Forget the Banks
Banks can be troublesome even when you’re at home, but when you’re abroad, they evolve into real pests. For one thing, you’ll need to look deeply into the matter of a credit/debit card with no foreign transaction fees. These can go up to 5% per transaction, so be persistent while looking for a suitable card!
Also, make an appointment with a bank representative and inform them that you’ll be out of the country. Double-check which services you won’t need, and reduce outstanding debts and fees to avoid unpleasant surprises in the future.
A word of advice: even if you have a suitable card and have settled the matter with your bank, never ever travel anywhere without a stash of money on you. You never know what may go wrong (but you can be certain that something will) and you’ll need the means to survive until the matter has been settled one way or another.
Cancel All Memberships
Well, maybe not all of them. Online memberships and subscriptions that can be accessed from abroad may not have to be cancelled, but do some planning beforehand. Cancel the subscriptions that you’re certain you won’t need.
We need not mention apartment rentals and phone plans will be canceled first, right? What about your car, though? You certainly won’t leave it parked outside your old home, so think of an option. One solution is renting a cheap garage and degrading your car insurance plan (obviously you won’t be driving it, but a tree still may fall on it!).
Set Mail Forwarding
We’re referring to snail mail here. Re-route it to a family member’s or a friend’s house just in case something important you’ve forgotten all about arrives (and somehow it always does). If you will be traveling through areas without strong Wi-Fi for an extended time during your travels to and from one destination to the next, you also want to make sure to set forwarding.
Calculate the Taxes
This is one of the most difficult factors to calculate for novice expats, so let’s try to break it down.
There are multiple taxes you’ll need to keep an eye on. First, there are U.S. taxes (federal and state taxes) and secondly, there are the taxes of your new country of residence.
When it comes to the latter, make inquiries early on. Ask the expat community to help you learn the ropes or recommend an affordable and reliable service that will help you with the taxes.
Insurance matters no matter where you are. On top of the required coverage you’ll likely be requested to have obtained before applying for your visa, there may be additional things to consider.
First of all, if you have an insurance policy in the U.S., think hard of whether you should keep it. Because you’ll need to get coverage in the other country, keeping both may prove both too expensive and excessive.
Secondly, if you decide to keep your policy at home, you should think about the costs and ways of paying the premiums.
Make Health Appointments Before Leaving the U.S.
One thing you won’t need while abroad is health insurance in your home country. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use the benefits of your current policy. In fact, making a health appointment is the very first thing you should do before leaving. Note that some countries may have vaccination requirements, so check them out beforehand.
Of course, you don’t need to undergo a cosmonaut’s health check, but at least schedule physical, dental, vision (and women’s care) appointments.
Adjust Two-Factor Authentication
This is our final tip simply because it seems so unimportant that nearly everyone forgets about it.
When logging in from a different country, social media platforms and other communication services may display an internal security alert, keeping you locked out of your account. This is a huge no go for freelancers and digital nomads and, well, pretty much any expat who needs to meet the local expat community ASAP.
As you can see, there are some large things and a myriad of small things to consider, but our advice is - don’t overexert yourself! Make a list of things that you need to do and sort them by priority. Obviously, paperwork and canceling phone plans top the list, so do them first.
Smaller things that are less time-consuming should be done at your leisure. Don’t stress yourself too much. After all, you’re getting ready for the adventure of your life; you may as well enjoy it!
Angela Ash is a writer at heart, focusing on numerous topics related to business, productivity, mental health, travel and more. But, she also loves to edit, is addicted to HARO, and somehow finds time to write poetry and play the piano.