How To Move Abroad
You want to move home, and you’re looking for a truly new start. You’re aiming to break the bonds of your current living situation, and take flight for pastures new.
Congratulations – that’s a brave step. Moving abroad is a glorious adventure, but it also comes with more than its fair share of stress, fear, and bureaucracy.
We’re going to lead you through each step of moving abroad, so you can start your new life as quickly and calmly as possible.
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Moving abroad can be overwhelming – but we're here to help
1. Decide where to move to
First, the most important choice. There are dozens of different aspects to consider – so here are some of the main factors that’ll help you make your mind up.
Of course, if you’re simply going where your company has sent you, the decision may seem less momentous. Nevertheless, you retain the ability to choose your neighbourhood.
If you speak multiple foreign languages, the world is your oyster.
You may well be able to get by in these nations while you acclimatise and learn the local language.
There’s no point in choosing a country, only to be refused entry. Ascertain how easy it is to move to the destination you have in mind, and check whether it’s possible to test drive your potential new home.
Us lucky Brits can spend large chunks of visa-less time in many foreign countries – usually 90 days, but often longer.
Check living costs around the world before you make your decision, or you may not be able to enjoy your new life to its fullest.
On the other hand, a wise financial choice can lead to you living in comfort for the rest of your years.
This is where a 90-day test drive will be particularly useful, but there are quicker ways to work out whether another country’s culture meshes with your approach to life.
Then look into which country excites you with its entertainment offerings, its approach to food and drink, and its national pastimes – and check out the working culture, too.
After all, there’s a big difference between France’s two-hour lunches, 35-hour weeks, and 30 holiday days, and the US’s mere 10 days of holiday.
2. Get a job
Becoming an employed, contributing member of society is generally the best way to convince the authorities that you deserve a temporary visa, never mind permanent residence.
We recommend getting a job before you make your move. If you’re taking a brave step into the unknown without paid work, be sure to get well-acquainted with job sites, and hit the ground running when you arrive to find a role as soon as you can.
3. Get a visa
This is easier said than done, but as will become clear when you start this process, it’s much simpler for Brits than it is for many other people.
Every country has a government website that lays out the different visa options, and how you can qualify for them. We’d also recommend phoning each country’s UK embassy, as representatives there will be able to answer all your questions.
Read carefully, follow the instructions to the letter, and work out how much you’ll have to pay ahead of time, so you can budget it in.
You too can be this happy on moving day – if you pick the right place
4. Find accommodation
By this point, you’ll hopefully have an idea of how much life in your new country will cost you, allowing you to see how much you can spend on your biggest expense: a home.
The biggest question is whether you want to rent or buy, but whatever you decide, there’ll be more choices to make: do you want to live in the exciting centre of the city, or the calmer suburbs? By the beach, or in the countryside?
This is your chance to experience something new and different, but what that means is completely up to you. Here are some tips to help you along the way:
- It’s difficult and inadvisable to sign a contract for your new home if you’ve only seen it online – so book an Airbnb or a hostel stay for a couple of weeks, and go home hunting in situ
- If you manage to find a place online that you can’t resist renting, sign a one-month contract. This way, you have a quick exit if it’s not what you expected, and you can chat to your neighbours after you arrive to make sure their rent is similar to yours
- Check online for reviews of your prospective property, and generally do your research
- Ask a friend or look online for your new country’s translation of “rent apartments” – then Google that phrase with the name of your destination city to find local websites
- Join useful Facebook and Reddit groups by searching with phrases like “renting in Prague” and “rooms for rent in Prague”. Locals give the best advice
- Speaking of which, bend your colleagues’ ears when you arrive. They can be excellent sources for tips, and may even know of lovely places just coming on the market
5. Tie up loose ends at home
Finding a new home, a new job, and new friends is stressful, but at least it’s exciting.
Tying up loose ends is not exciting, but it’s necessary. Once you’re done cancelling your subscriptions and saying goodbye to your friends, here are the steps the UK government requires you to take.
If you receive any benefits from the government, you need to tell the offices responsible for them that you’re moving to a different country.
They’ll tell you whether you can keep getting them while you’re overseas.
Let your local council know if you move overseas, so they can cancel your council tax payments, and make sure to provide a forwarding address.
If you’ve made enough UK National Insurance payments, you’ll qualify for a state pension, regardless of whether you’re retiring here or abroad.
Nevertheless, you should contact the International Pension Centre, where staff will tell you how to claim your pension from a different country.
Tell the Student Loans Company that you’re moving to a new country, so you can continue paying what you owe.
The government has prosecuted some former students for failing to repay their loans, and though it’s unlikely that you’ll be tracked down in your new country, you should keep up repayments if you harbour thoughts of ever returning to the UK.
You’ll need to tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about your move. Here’s how you can do that:
- Fill in form P85
- Fill in a Self Assessment tax return if you usually do
- If you’re leaving your company, ask your employer for a P45 form
- If you’ll be working for a UK-based company for at least one full tax year (April 6th to April 5th the following year), prepare a tax return
- Send all of the above documents that you’ve filled in to the HMRC, either by post, commercial software, or by using the services of a tax professional
The HMRC does not accept these documents if you send them online, for whatever reason.
If you’re planning on spending less than half of each year in the UK for the foreseeable future, you’ll likely be a non-resident, and therefore will only be taxed by the HMRC on any UK income you receive, and not on your income in your new country.
Voting and citizenship
There’s good news in both these areas.
You’ll almost certainly be able to vote in UK elections while living abroad, and you’ll remain a citizen too. If you want to vote by post or proxy, all you need to do is fill in the relevant document – just make sure to print it off first, as it can only be completed in paper form.
Then send it back to your local council’s electoral services team. Check whether they’d prefer it by post, or whether you can send them a scanned copy via email.
6. Move your belongings abroad
At this point, you’ll be ready to physically move yourself and all your most important belongings to your new home.
Shipping is by far the most efficient, least expensive way of making sure all your prized possessions follow you across the ocean in a safe and timely fashion.
Air freight is 12-16 times more expensive than sea freight, according to the World Bank, which makes it much less attractive.
Plus, from 2014 to 2016, ships transported an average of £9.3 trillion worth of cargo across the world – and 99.99% of containers travelled safely to their destination.
Your precious belongings are in good hands – and if you fill in this form, you can get free shipping quotes from specialists who can move your possessions to your new home.
7. Arrange your new life to your liking
Don’t worry, there’ll still be plenty to sort out after you’ve moved abroad. You’ll need to purchase plans for the following:
- Mobile phone contract
- Electricity and/or gas
And of course, you’ll have to find your local supermarket or butcher, baker, and fruit and veg maker. In all of these decisions, the key is research – so prepare as much as possible, and ask locals for their opinions after you’ve arrived.
And then there’s streaming services.
When it comes to Netflix, you’ll continue to pay the same amount, in pounds, when you move countries. If you’d rather pay the local price, just cancel your account the day before the end of your month, then restart it the next day.
And don’t worry: Netflix is available in these 190 countries. Unless you’re moving to China, Crimea, North Korea, or Syria, you’ll almost certainly be fine.
Likewise, if you’re signed up to Amazon Prime Video, it’s available everywhere apart from mainland China, Iran, North Korea, and Syria.
However, if you’re moving outside the European Union (EU) – or if you’re reading this after 2020 has ended – you’ll be limited to watching Amazon Originals.
Until January 1st 2021, if you’re in the EU, you’ll be able to stream and download the full library.
Moving abroad can be stressful, but you can get through it unscathed if you prepare, leave enough time to get everything done, and have a clear idea of what you want from your new life.
Follow our advice, and you’ll be ready for your next big adventure.
And you can take the next step by filling in this form for free shipping quotes from trusted experts who can move your belongings to your new home.