Making the decision to relocate was one of the biggest, and most exciting, choices of my life. I was offered a job in Johannesburg and it was an opportunity that I couldn't refuse, so I accepted in a minute. Literally, 1 minute. Once the initial excitement died down, I found myself in a bit of a panic. Just how do you go about packing your life into a suitcase and relocating to the other side of the world?
Before you get carried away in the excitement and romanticism of emigrating, read our guide on getting the process started.
First come visas. Ahhh, visas. If you've already got a job waiting for you, then talk to the company as early as possible about what visa support they will give you, if any. Some companies go all out, paying for visas and overall costs – whereas others will leave it to you. Find out, and budget accordingly.
Visas and permits can be costly and time consuming to arrange. The paperwork and documentation may seem endless at times, but you will eventually get through it. Some destinations (such as South Africa or Australia) require you to have a full medical examination and chest X-Ray in order to be eligible for certain permits. You can arrange this through your doctor for a fee.
You might need to get a Police Clearance Certificate from ACPO for certain countries (such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA.) This will cost £45–£80, depending on how quickly you need your certificate.
Chances are that the embassy you apply to won't return the documents you submit so make sure you get plenty of copies made and have each one certified as genuine by a Commissioner for Oaths.
Is there free state healthcare available to you, or will you need medical insurance locally? Perhaps your employer provides it? This is something you really shouldn't neglect, and if you're in any doubt about healthcare then ensure you take out comprehensive travel insurance to cover you for the first few months. Be sure to check that the insurance provider covers you if you are working abroad, or are only travelling on a one-way ticket. Many providers don't cover this, and you don't want to be left high and dry in an emergency.
Check out the health advice and recommendations given by the Foreign Commonwealth Office to find out what vaccinations you'll need before travelling.
Air tickets are an unavoidable expense, but there are ways to cut costs. Booking as far in advance as you can is ideal for long haul, as this usually means you get a better deal. Check baggage allowances for the airlines you're considering using as some limit you to 1 bag at 23kgs, whereas others also permit you to carry sports equipment such as a bike. If you're planning on taking your skis, bike or golf clubs then you may want to choose an airline where you can carry them for free.
Consider booking a date-changeable return ticket, instead of a one way. If there's a chance you might return home for a visit during the first year, then this can save you money. It also gives you a pre-paid backup option if things don't work out exactly as planned.
Whether you rent, own or are living with your folks, I guarantee that you have accumulated a great deal more than you realise. So, how do you decide what to take with you, what to put in storage and what to get rid of?
If you're planning on renting somewhere at first, consider putting your furniture into storage and letting a fully furnished place for a while. Once you are confident that you'll stay and have settled in, you can have your belongings sent on. Choose a reputable removals service to move your property, and consider marine insurance to protect it in transit.
It's easy to lose track of your finances during a big move. Try to think ahead so that small costs don't accumulate quietly without you noticing. Other than the costs mentioned above, it's worth building the following into your financial plan:
- If you plan to find somewhere to live on arrival, you'll need a hotel to stay in at first.
- Research local transport prices, or the cost of your own vehicle.
- Research local utility costs so you can anticipate your bills.
- If you need any legal documentation on arrival, then there may be fees associated.
- Find out if you'll need to pay import tax on anything you're bringing.
If you don't have a job secured already, don't factor in any salary you expect to earn when budgeting. Plan to survive on your own funds for the first few months so if job hunting takes longer than expected, you will have funds in reserve to support you.
Taking the plunge and emigrating is an exciting and life-changing decision. There'll be lots to organise first, and plenty of headaches along the way – but remember that it will be worth it in the end. You're about to embark on the ultimate adventure and you have countless new experiences waiting for you. Successfully settling into a new culture and community is truly rewarding, and could be the best decision you ever make.