Moving to new and perhaps sunnier pastures is an exciting prospect but it can also be a scary one. There’s so much to think about – where are the kids going to go to school? How will you get a job? Where are you going to live? How do you send money abroad?
You shouldn’t let these worries stop you though, as help is at hand. We’ve produced this useful guide to moving abroad that answers all those questions and more. Let’s get started.
How to choose the right country when deciding to move overseas
You probably have one or two places in mind already, but narrowing down exactly where you want to live is the most important consideration of all. Starting your life somewhere new isn’t cheap, so unless you’re made of money you probably only have one chance to get it right.
Whether you have your heart set on somewhere in particular or not, it’s important to do your research to ensure the reality lives up to your ideals. The city or town you’re moving to must be able to cater to all, or at least nearly all, of your needs. No matter how wonderful a location is, if it’s lacking in schools, transportation or jobs, it’s not going to work.
Research the culture too – do the country’s values mirror your own? Is it tolerant of your race/sexual orientation/religion/gender? Are crime rates low? Make a checklist of all your must-haves.
You’ll no doubt have loads of questions you need to ask about your chosen country. The best way to get the answers is to speak to expats – who have already done everything you’re about to do. Forums such as BritishExpats.com are an incredibly valuable resource and the ideal place to get some helpful advice.
Lastly, visit the place in person. Even if you have been there before, things may have changed since then. Get a good feel for the location and decide whether it’s right for you and your family.
Finding and buying your next home abroad
Once you know where exactly you’re moving to, it’s time to start the property hunt. Begin by looking online – it’s an easy way to see what you can get for your money. It may be tempting, but don’t buy a property you haven’t seen in person. Line up a number of different viewings and spend some time over there getting to know each area.
Refer back to that list of needs you created at the beginning – will this property and the area it’s in fulfil them? Choose an estate agent you trust and who speaks your language well. Ask about the house-buying fees before you put in any offers; you need to make sure you can afford to pay for the house and the estate agent.
Alternatively, you could choose to rent a property abroad instead. This will give you a lot more flexibility, but it really does depend on how affordable this option is for you. Plan to buy or rent at least a year before you move – this will give you time to put your home on the market and sell it.
When you’ve found a property abroad that’s perfect for you, hire a lawyer to help you with the buying process, as it is likely to differ from what you’re used to in the UK.
Transferring your money abroad
Whether you choose to do it in one big lump or small, regular payments, when you move your money abroad, you’re going to want to receive as much of it as possible. No one wants to lose hard-earned cash thanks to high transfer fees or poor exchange rates.
Exchange rates can be pretty difficult to predict – they can change in a matter of moments, for the better or the worse. A forward contact could allow you to fix an exchange rate in advance.
It is important when you send money overseas that you consider the savings and associated benefits of using a currency broker, as opposed to going through the bank or the high-street.
Understand the tax system abroad
No matter where you go, it’s highly probable that the tax system will differ from the one you’re used to in the UK. In France, for example, you’ll be taxed as a family unit, not an individual, even if you’re a single childless person. Naturally, the rate of tax you’ll pay will be much lower than that of a couple with two children, but it can be confusing nonetheless.
Be wary of low tax rates, as this often means that you’ll need to pay for private healthcare insurance on top, which can be more expensive. In order to get your head around the costs, speak to an expert for guidance. They’ll be able to explain how the tax system works in the country you’re emigrating to.
It’s worth noting that Britain has a double taxation agreement with some countries, which means you won’t pay tax on the same income in both countries. Check to see whether this applies to you before you move.
Setting up a bank account abroad
You’ll need a bank account that’s set up and ready to go as soon as you arrive in your new country of residence, so make sure you apply for one at least three months before you’re due to emigrate. Shop around and compare a few banks, but make sure they all have a strong presence in the country, as you want to be able to access your local branch easily.
Some expats choose to keep their home bank account running – this is a good idea if you have ongoing financial commitments in the UK. If your account is free, and there’s a chance you may return home one day, keeping it open isn’t going to do any harm.
Pension incomes can be paid into an international bank account; just make sure you let the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC National Insurance Contributions Office know. Company and personal pensions can be a little trickier to transfer – the Gov.uk website has some useful information on this if you’re not sure what to do.
Applying for a visa abroad
Some countries won’t allow you to enter without a job, therefore securing work is a priority – unless you’re planning to retire of course. Read up on the visa requirements of the country you are moving to and find out if there is a requirement that you need to have worked there prior to emigrating. Will you need to learn a new language? Are your qualifications recognised?
Only when you meet the requirements should you apply for a visa. Be aware that visas can take up to two years to be approved, so get the application out of the way as soon as you’ve decided where you’re moving to.
There’s clearly a lot to consider, but moving abroad can be an incredibly rewarding experience for you and your family. Sometimes, the grass is greener on the other side. For more help and information on moving abroad, download our full guide below.
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