Planning your move abroad
When moving abroad, forewarned is forearmed. You’re probably receiving lots of great advice and hopefully a generous relocation package from your, or your husband’s, company, but it still won’t hurt to find out as much information as you can about your prospective country.
You want to take control of everything that’s going to affect you. So don’t assume anything. Imagine how you’d feel if you get to your new place and realise that you can’t get a mobile contract (in some countries it’s hard to get a mobile phone as a foreigner) or that the utility bills are much higher than you’re used to, or it’s considered unsafe to travel as a lone female. Any one of these things, and more, can happen. Don’t make assumptions about your prospective country based on rules in your current country.
Find out, find out, find out!
Doing your own research is vital to a successful move overseas and this article is going to focus on the relocation package.
Your relocation package in 9 steps:
What is a relocation package?
A relocation package consists of all the added bonuses, one time payments, allowances and paid perks related to a move abroad due to a job. Some of the perks are continuous whilst others are one-off payments.
If you’ve never experienced a relocation package before here are some of the things that you might want to have included in the relocation package, or at least know about when you and your partner sit down and go through the contract.
1. The family
The best kind of relocation package includes all expenses paid not just for the employee, but also for his/her family.
This is especially relevant if you have children and are weighing up the stress and cost of bringing them versus not going at all. These consist of travel expenses, meals while travelling, visa application fees, passport fees, private school fees if English speaking public schools are not available. Some companies also offer cultural education for employees and their families, like language courses – essential if you are going to a country with very few expats, for example.
2. Relocation fees
Moving abroad means lots of packing and the shipment of your belongings to your prospective country and as you can expect, there are quite a few moving expenses to consider! Is the company going to be handling them?
Also, when you are leaving your current location, do you have to break a rental lease and pay a penalty? Do you need to sell or rent your home out?
Some companies offer to pay all of the fees for breaking your rental lease and some companies also offer sales assistance for selling your home, and will pay the estate agent fees, cover mortgage payments while the house is on the market, and even handle the closing. This might be worth negotiating with the company.
3. Housing costs
Often companies pay your rent directly, or pay you a housing allowance. Make sure you know how much typical housing costs are in your new location so you know if your housing expenses are enough. If your company won’t pay a housing allowance, make sure your salary amply covers this fee.
4. Living costs
Same goes for living expenses like food, gas, rent, phone, utilities – do some research on the cost of living so nothing comes to you as a surprise and you are well informed when negotiating your contract. The salary might be 30% more but the living costs might be 50% more in the new country. Many companies pay a cost of living adjustment if the cost of living is much higher in the new country.
Is your partner’s company going to give you a one-off payment to cover miscellaneous items related to moving, like buying curtains, furnishings, etc? In some countries (like France) rental properties come completely unfurnished even including the cooker and electrical appliances. Is this something you are expected to cover yourself? And if so, how much is furniture abroad?
5. Dealing with paperwork
Dealing with foreign governments can be frustrating and expensive. Ideally, your company will assist you in applying for the work permits and help you sort out any visa issues and in a perfect world, they will handle it for your entire family.
Preparing taxes when you have assets in two countries, or when you work outside your country can be a bit of a headache. Make sure you have either tax services provided for you or tax assistance paid for. If you are going to be double-taxed, your salary should reflect it.
6. Exchange rate protection
If the salary and expenses are going to be paid in a different currency from the currency where you are living, then you will want an exchange rate protection.
Let’s say you are only paid in dollars and then the other country’s currency suddenly goes up, your dollars won’t last as long and you might have difficulties living the lifestyle you thought you would. Nothing is worse than spoiling the dream abroad than not having the kind of money you thought you were going to get.
7. Getting a car
Will you be able to buy or rent a car immediately as a foreigner in your new country? You might need a local social security number to get the car registered or to get insurance for it, and all of that can take time. Make sure your company is paying for a rental car for you to use if you need one, or make sure public transportation is available and safe to use. This is especially relevant if your husband is out at work all day and you are forced to rely on public transport.
8. Medical insurance
Medical insurance should be part of every employment package, but do check that the entire family is covered overseas as well. It would be absolutely dreadful if something happened to one of the children and you assumed the medical costs were covered by the company but in fact were not.
If you have pets and want to bring them with you, make sure you know the laws and costs involving importing pets. The transportation and the paperwork can be expensive and while the company may not include pets in your relocation package, make sure you budget for it in your move. Imagine the emotional distress if you realise you are not able to bring your two beloved pooches abroad with you.
All these points are food for thought when considering your move abroad. It really doesn’t hurt to find out as much as possible about your prospective country when you and your partner are trying to negotiate the best relocation package possible. Forewarned is most certainly forearmed when it comes to all the finer details!