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Moving abroad — a guide for expats
A new life as an expat is an exciting prospect. You could be about to start a brand-new job, buy your dream property, or spend your golden years in the sun. Whatever the motive, you’ll be understandably itching to begin your adventure. But before you do, it’s worth considering the practical and logistical challenges of moving abroad.
At Intasure, we’ve supported expats with their insurance needs for nearly 20 years, helping customers on their overseas moves. Whether you’re wondering how to move abroad, what costs are involved, or what to consider before you move abroad, we’ve highlighted what you should know in this guide.
Why move abroad?
There are many reasons why thousands move to another country each year, including:
- Improved standard of living and lifestyle benefits
- Remote working opportunities
- Family reasons, such as having a partner abroad
- Retirement plans
- Education opportunities
How to move abroad
From budgeting and bank accounts to paperwork and insurance, there are many things you may need to think about before jetting off overseas. In this guide we’ll run through how you can prepare for moving abroad, to help make sure you’ve ticked everything off.
1. Save for the move
Moving abroad can be expensive, so you’ll want to factor in associated costs. You should have enough savings to cover initial housing, paperwork, and moving cost, this can include fees associated with purchasing flights, shipping belongings, paying school fees (if you’re moving with children), paying security deposits, buying furniture, and settling into your new home. Don’t forget to save extra as a buffer, should you experience unforeseen costs or if anything goes wrong.
If you don’t have a job secured initially, ensure you have enough savings to keep you afloat to cover rent, food, and any monthly committed payments. It’s also worth considering emergency healthcare charges and the costs of returning to the UK if your move doesn’t turn out as planned.
2. Do your research
Familiarising yourself with the customs of a new country can reduce the risk of culture shock. If you’re moving to a non-English speaking country, learn some of the local lingo before moving to get ahead. Being able to speak at least some basic words and phrases will help you settle in quicker and ensure you don’t feel isolated in a new country. Apps such as Babbel, Duolingo, and Memrise can help you get started.
3. Check the country’s entry requirements
You should also check the country’s entry requirements early, so you know what’s required for tax, visas, and documentation purposes. Some countries have additional requirements for moving, particularly around how long you can stay on certain visas. Before you book any flights, it’s important to check entry requirements first as they can influence how long you can stay, or if you can go altogether.
4. Apply for/renew your passport
Your passport must be valid to apply for a visa. Some countries require a valid passport with a minimum of six months left beyond your final travel date1. You should also renew your passport if your return date is likely to be when your passport will be expired.
Have essential paperwork, such as ID and certificates, on hand, as you may need them.
5. Apply for a visa
Visas are an essential step for expats looking to move abroad. All country’s visa requirements are different, so always check the official government website first to see what their conditions are, and which documents you need. Alongside official document copies, such as passports and birth certificates, you may need to provide additional information, like proof of income and savings.
You may also require different visas depending on your nature of work. For example, in Australia, you can choose between a variety of visas, including short-stay work, temporary work, and permanent work. For permanent work, you’ll usually need to complete a skills assessment and receive a sponsorship.
6. Understand tax rules
Tax rules for expats can be complicated, especially if you’re paying tax at home and in your new country. If you’re moving abroad, you must notify HMRC by completing a P85 form. You’ll also need to register with the relevant tax authority. The UK’s ‘double taxation agreements’ with many countries mean you might not have to pay two lots of tax. It’s best to seek professional advice before moving to ensure you abide by tax rules.
7. Check healthcare entitlements
You should check your healthcare eligibility for your new country. In some nations, you may have to cover costs or make contributions. Then again, you may find you’re entitled to state-run healthcare if you’re paying tax. In some cases, you may need a specific card to get a health number and access the national healthcare system. The crucial thing is to check before you go. You’ll also need to notify your GP.
8. Sort living arrangements
You should start your property search once you’ve decided on a budget. Whether you want to rent or buy a property, signing up with local agents is a great way to find out what’s available and draw on local knowledge. You could also browse property websites, such as rightmove.co.uk and primelocation.co.uk.
Make sure you consider location as well as the type of property you’re after. Also, ensure you check fees and deposits beforehand. In some countries, such as the UAE, you’ll likely need to pay several post-dated cheques in advance for your yearly rent. Essentially, this means paying your rent upfront, with each cheque banked by the landlord each month.
9. Contact your bank and phone providers
You should inform your bank and credit company of your move. You may want to research banks in your new area to discover what paperwork you’ll need to complete to set up a savings or bank account.
When it comes to your phone, you can request that your carrier unlocks your smartphone ahead of the move. Once relocated, you can purchase a SIM card from a local carrier to allow you to make local calls, if not supported by your current provider.
10. Make copies of your important documents
It makes sense to ensure that you have backups of your essential documentation, such as your passport, driver’s licence, health records, visa information, and birth certificate — these copies are helpful for any residency appointments.
11. Consider what to pack
Shipping items can be expensive and logistically challenging. So, you may want to consider which belongings to bring with you, and make plans for the rest. You could store items if your move isn’t permanent. Alternatively, you could donate or sell them.
12. Make relocation plans
Once you know your move date, you can start collecting quotes from international removal companies in the area. These companies can be knowledgeable on all aspects of moving abroad, whether you need assistance with your visas or support moving pets. This process can take a while, so you should start as soon as possible.
13. Plan your money transfers
Using high-street banks for money transfers can be costly, especially when dealing with large sums. Foreign exchange services generally offer competitive exchange rates, and some won’t charge any transfer fees when converting to currencies worldwide.
14. Set up your local bank
Once you’ve relocated, you’ll need an open bank account for accessing money day-to-day. In some cases, you may need to open an abroad bank account before you move, so check local requirements first. Be mindful that you could incur transaction charges with your UK bank account. Many international bank accounts are designed for money movement and could provide a better alternative.
It might be wise to keep it running if you have ongoing activity in the UK — such as direct debits and rental income. Also, if you’re planning on returning someday, it makes sense to have it for when you return.
15. Get expat insurance
Life in a new country can be exciting, but it comes with risks and challenges. As such, you may want to consider expat insurance for cover should something unexpected happen. This type of insurance is designed especially for expats moving abroad, which can include cover for a variety of risks, such as damage to your new home, alternative accommodation expenses, and public liability cover.
Get protected with Intasure
At Intasure, we’ve helped expats with overseas insurance for nearly 20 years. Our expat insurance can help protect UK citizens and EU passport holders who live abroad. We also offer expat home insurance to help protect your new home and its contents from damage, theft, and other risks.
Our English-speaking team is available if you want more information about the cover we offer. Give us a call on +46 844 689 552 to find out more. Alternatively, you can get a quote online.
How much does it cost to move abroad?
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for moving costs. Total costs are affected by several factors, including where you’re moving to, which belongings you take, what visa you need, your new property, and if you have secured a job position in your new country. It’s important that you have adequate savings to cover all fees, plus some extra if something happens or you incur additional charges. Save more than you think you need to ensure you’re covered.
Moving abroad in 2023 – what to consider
Many countries have strict entry requirements, which include sharing your health records. Whether it’s vaccination proof for yellow fever, polio, or Covid-19, check what your new country requires by reading government guidelines. If you’re still unsure about anything, you can discuss this with your GP.
Since Brexit, UK citizens without residency permits are restricted to stays of no more than 90 days at any one time during a 180-day period in EU countries. Subsequently, the UK government often advises expats who live abroad to register as residents in their new country.
British citizens abroad in the EU are also advised by the UK government to take out health insurance according to their new country’s requirements1. The new UK Global Health Insurance Card (UK GHIC) replaces the existing European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
The UK government has published guidance on healthcare for UK nationals living abroad.
Cost of living
Many countries have been affected by the ongoing cost of living crisis, causing price surges for many products and services. Before you move abroad, carry out research to understand the cost of living and ensure you can budget for this accordingly. Often, salaries are inflated to account for a rise in cost of living, but it’s not the same everywhere.
Can I keep my bank account if I move abroad?
Depending on your bank you can usually keep your UK bank account even if you move overseas. However, you may wish to avoid using it for daily transactions as many overseas banks add extra charges for this. If you’re moving abroad permanently, it may make more sense to close your UK bank and stick to an overseas account only.
Do you need to tell HMRC if you move abroad?
Yes, you must tell HMRC if you move overseas. You’ll need to inform them if you’re leaving the UK to live abroad permanently or going to work abroad full time for at least one full tax year.
Can you move to another country without a job?
You can generally move abroad even if you haven’t secured a new career position. However, rules vary between countries, so refer to the official government guidance before moving. Some countries will only let you move if you can prove you have a job offer, while others may only allow entry if you’re within a specific job role.
Is there an age limit for moving abroad?
No, there’s no age limit for moving overseas. However, visa and entry requirements can vary depending on your age, especially if you’re retired. Check local rules and regulations before setting up a new life abroad.
The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited trading as Intasure accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.