Moving Abroad: The Ultimate Guide
Written by Zenyx Griffiths
2nd Aug 2017 (Last updated on 20th Feb 2020) 11 minute read
Moving abroad is not something that can be done on a whim, there’s a huge stack of admin involved. It requires an enormous amount of planning, careful consideration, big thinking and budgeting down to the last penny.
Don’t let this put you off, fantastic adventures lie ahead and we are here to help you through the process smoothly. Compare My Move has helped hundreds of people, just like you, year after year. We hate to brag but, as experts in International Removals, we know a thing or two about how to move abroad.
The big overseas move can be daunting, your mind might be frazzled at the prospect of finding a job, hiring a removal company, understanding new laws and contemplating the cost of living and taxes. Whether you are upheaving the entire family or moving abroad alone, we’ve got everything you need right here in our moving abroad checklist…
Why Move Abroad?
With the current state of affairs, the grim weather and the fact that the Bake Off has left the BBC, is it any wonder that more and more people are considering fleeing? Notable surveys conducted to find the most common reasons for UK Citizens moving abroad lists ‘Better Quality of Life’ as the number one reason, closely followed by ‘Weather’… We do have notoriously gloomy weather here in the UK and being deprived of sunshine and summer for so many years has left us yearning for the warm rays. Some people move for the sake of taking in a new culture and some go to feel more relaxed and live a healthier lifestyle. Whatever your reasons for wanting to move, it will be an exciting time and a valuable experience. With a whole world to choose from, why stay in one place. The most popular Expat Hotspots are Spain, the USA, France and Australia.
The Downsides of Moving Abroad
Moving abroad isn’t for everybody. Some of us are eternal patriots, fond of UK culture and most of us are just too close to family and friends to up sticks and leave. Sometimes it is worth considering all we have here in the UK before making the decision to split. Say what you will about the NHS but we are lucky to have it. If you have considered all the reasons not to go and you still want to go then good for you… Let’s do this… after all, there’s always a million reasons not to do something, right?
You may already have a country in mind or perhaps it has been decided for you due to work commitments, but if you have the freedom of choosing a country to move to then there is a lot to ponder. We massively recommend a few visits to the country you have in mind before you take the plunge. You will need to assess whether the area you have selected will meet your needs. Is there a suitable school nearby for the kids, will you have access to health care, will your political views or your sexuality be tolerated? This is where avid research is so necessary. Read blogs, articles, watch videos and the best thing you can do is scour the Expat forums speaking to people that have already done what you intend to do. They’ve been there, done that, got the T-Shirt.
Jobs and Visas
Depending on your reasons for moving abroad, you are likely to need a job. You may be being sent abroad for work by the company you work for or perhaps you’re retiring but otherwise, you are going to have to find work in your chosen country. You must consider language barriers, make sure that you have relevant experience to work in the country and that your qualifications are recognised. You may need to apply for a visa which will need to be done before you go…. It can take up to 2 years so again, we say… You can’t do this on a whim. Currently, you do not need a visa to move to a country within the European Union, but you will for other countries. If you want to work abroad, you need to be sponsored by your workplace or have a skill which is needed in your specific country.
If you are retiring outside of the EU, you may have to prove that you are wealthy enough to support yourself, or be sponsored by a local resident. The visa requirements will vary depending on the country’s regulations, so find out exactly what the requirements are before you move. To fill in the visa applications, you should visit the embassy or website of the nation you intend on moving to; the visa applications should be online for you to complete. Once your application has been processed, your visa will be mailed to you within two weeks to two months and can be attached to your passport.
Budgeting and Costs
Planning a big move abroad will inevitably cost you. There are the flights, the removal costs, visas and, of course, the price of your new property.
Here are just some of the costs you must budget for:
- Shipping or Airfreight Costs
- Removal Company Costs
- Packing Materials
- Import Taxes
- Flight or Train Tickets
- International Bank Transfer Fees
- Annual Property Tax
- Income Tax
- Education Costs
Buying a Home Abroad
You could think about renting for a little while before buying, just so you can be sure it’s what you want. You really should visit the home you are planning on buying. You shouldn’t just rely on pictures as you may end up bitterly disappointed if the place is much smaller than it appears or if it smells like cigarette smoke or there’s a goat living in the spare room… Who knows. You’ll want to see if the area suits you, is it noisy or quiet and are there places nearby like shops and a pub?! Once you are happy, it is super-duper, mega imperative that you find a reputable estate agent and a decent, English Speaking lawyer experienced in the law of the land. The processes involved in buying a house can vary – It really depends on where you are going.
Moving Your Items Abroad
Decisions, decisions, decisions. When thinking about International Removals, you need to decide which method of transport works for you. Will you use an air freight or shipping freight?
Shipping freight is the most common and cost effective way to transport your items to their new home. Find out more in our guide Freight Shipping - Everything You Need To Know.
Air Freight is a useful if you need to move you stuff quickly, although this comes at a price. We've covered more in our guide to Air Freight.
It is likely that you will not only have to exchange a large sum into your new currency, but you may also transfer money regularly between your new home and the UK. Look out for a foreign currency broker to make your transfer abroad easier. They can charge lower fees and offer better exchange rates than your British bank. When you do eventually move overseas, don’t assume that the exchange rates will stay the same. You can protect yourself against currency fluctuations by fixing the rate with a forward contract for up to 24 months.
The tax you are required to pay varies from place to place. Some countries tax as family units and some have up to six tax brackets etc. You might think that the tax seems low in some places but always keep in mind that when something seems too good to be true, it’s usually because it is. Low tax often means that you also need to pay for health insurance on top of that and then it all adds up. It is massively advisable that you get expert advice on this ahead of moving abroad. Don’t forget to notify HMRC in the UK that you are leaving or you could end up paying extra taxes that you shouldn’t need to. Get yourself a P85 from Revenue and Customs, fill it out and return.
Money and Banking
When choosing a bank, look for one that is well known in your country and do your research. It is best to apply for your new bank account three months or so before you move. You can also get your pension paid into an overseas account. It is a good idea to keep your bank account in the UK open, especially if you are still paying out in the UK for things like a mortgage or university fees.
You have already considered and accepted the fact that moving abroad means you will no longer have the safety net that is the NHS. Depending on where you’re moving, you might be expected to pay into some other national healthcare scheme. It is likely you will need to register with local authorities before being entitled to healthcare. This will all need to be well researched before you make big decisions about where you will be going.
Moving Kids Abroad
Moving with children is not without its challenges and if you are braving a move abroad with kiddies then you have an even bigger job on your hands. Check out our guide on Moving with Children because much of the info on there will still apply to moving abroad. Skype and other video messaging apps will be life-savers when moving abroad with kids. It is important that you help them to stay in touch with family and friends back in the UK.
There is more to consider when you are going to live abroad with children. You need to be sure that your child will get a decent standard of education. Most schools will be free but there can be costly fees involved in putting your children into an international school. Then, there is the paperwork to be done – The new school will likely need to see your child’s birth certificate, passport, visa, references, proof of vaccinations and data from the previous school in the UK.
Moving Pets Abroad
We Brits sure do love our pets… whether you’re a dog person or a cat person, your furry companion is part of the family so if you’re going to Spain, France or Timbuktu, your little buddy’s travel arrangements need to be considered. Prior to your travels, pets will need to be microchipped and have rabies vaccinations at least 30 days beforehand. Consult with your vet about obtaining a ‘Fit to Fly’ certificate as near as possible to the day of departure.
Moving your pet from the UK to other parts of Europe is usually the most straightforward option as we utilise the standardised Pet Passports throughout EU member states. Of course, with current affairs, this could change so keep an eye on that. Lufthansa, KLM and Iberia are the primary airlines which carry pets as ‘excess baggage’, where they will be placed comfortably in the livestock hold. This area for animals is pressurised and heated. Other airlines may require you to check in pets as cargo, which is a different process but will ultimately have them stowed away in the same heated and pressurised conditions. If you plan on moving your pets to the US, you will need a Pet Passport and arrange for your cat or dog to be microchipped. If you are moving to the UAE, it is recommended that you consult with a pet transportation service or customs broker in the UAE. These professionals will arrange and provide the necessary import permit from the Ministry of Agriculture UAE. For more information about the type of animals that can travel, visit the DEFRA website.
If you’re a driver, you’re going to want to think about what it will take for you to legally drive in the country you’re moving to. You will need to consider the local driving laws and regulations and get clued up on the driving license requirements. It will probably be as simple as getting an international driving permit from the post office – usually having this permit as well as your UK driving licence is enough but some places will require you to apply for a local driving licence as well.
Voting from Overseas
It is important that you’re aware of your entitlement to vote in UK elections after you move away. This is still your homeland after all. If you are still a UK citizen, you can vote in UK Elections for up to 15 years after you blow this popsicle stand. You will need to register to vote from overseas.
The Impact of Brexit on Expats
Well, where to begin with this… We wish we could provide you with some clear info here but it seems no one knows what’s going to happen. Leaving the EU will probably have an impact on those of us that wish to live and work in EU member states. There is a possibility that EU states can adopt the same visa rules that apply to non-EU countries. There is much we are yet to know but the likelihood is, the UK government and the EU authorities will come up with viable solutions for Expats.
Compare International Removal Companies
So, you’ll be off then? Don’t forget to international removal companies with Compare My Move, we can even save you up to 70% off your costs! We wish you all the very best in your new venture.