Seven years ago I applied for an Irish visa with the plan to move abroad. It was exciting but also somewhat terrifying. Not only was it my first time travelling, but it was also my first time moving away from home. To do that in another country added quite a bit of extra stress as I had a lot to take into consideration; not just where to find a place or roommates, but also a lot of legal factors to take in. How long could I stay for? What kind of visa did I need? Could I work while living there? Each country has their own rules and regulations that need to be researched in advance, but in the end, the experience of moving abroad is definitely worth it.
So if you are looking for a change and eyeing Australia’s sunny beaches, the picturesque streets of Paris, or historic towns in the UK as your possible new home, then this post is for you. Here are my top tips for moving abroad.
Sort Your Visa
Chances are if you are moving abroad you will need some sort of visa that will allow you to a) spend an extended amount of time in the country and b) allow you the possibility of working abroad. I know for myself, there were a couple different visa options that also factored in my age at the time of application. There are a few programs that will help you with this, as a Canadian I used SWAP, a working holiday program for Canadians, which helped make the process easier than doing it on my own.
Once you have figured out which visa best suits your needs, you will need to apply for it. This often takes quite a bit of paperwork, possible fingerprinting, and perhaps even some letters of proof from places like your bank to show that you have enough money to support yourself.
Keep in mind that the visa process isn’t always fast, you will want to give yourself several weeks or even a couple of months. For example, I applied for my Irish visa in July for travel dates in September.
Check Your Passport
I think it’s pretty obvious that you will need a passport to move abroad, however you also need to take into consideration the expiration date on your passport. Most countries require your passport to be valid for, at minimum, six months past your return date. So, say your visa will let you live abroad for a year. Your passport then needs to be valid for at least 18 months after your arrival.
You will also want to make sure you have plenty of blank pages in your passport if you plan to do some travelling while abroad. When I lived in Ireland, I took advantage of the cheap flights and travelled to plenty of European cities including Edinburgh and Prague which meant a lot of passport stamps. Since many countries have rules about the number of blank pages in your passport, it’s best to ensure you have plenty of space before you leave your home. It’s a lot easier to get a new passport while in your home country than to try to figure it out abroad.
Be Aware of the Expat Rules
Having your visa and passport sorted takes off a lot of stress when moving abroad, however, that’s not the end of the paperwork. Many countries will have additional requirements that you need to complete in order to stay and work legally. In my case, I needed to register with the Irish Garda 30 days after my arrival. But, I couldn’t register with any office- I needed to register at the office in the city in which I would be living. I chose to live in Galway, so after getting settled I went to the office where I filled out more forms, answered some questions, was fingerprinted, and given an ID card. The ID card was pretty important and I was told I needed to have it on me at all times. While I was never asked for it in the streets, I was asked for it at the airport.
Figure Out Your Banking
Banking is something you want to take care of quickly once you have moved abroad. Sure, you can use your banking and credit card from home but, as I found out, you can rack up some pretty nasty expenses really quickly.
Personally, I hate carrying around a lot of cash so I would withdraw 40 euro at a time which, of course, I did a couple times a week. About a month after arriving, I checked my bank account to discover I was a couple hundred dollars short of what I had expected. Panicking, I went through every transaction only to realize I was being charged $5CAD for every withdrawal I made. Trust me, that was a painful lesson to learn the hard way.
Credit cards are also susceptible to international charges that add an extra 3% or so to the exchange rate for foreign purchases. So, really, when it comes to banking, your best bet is to open a local account in the new country as soon as possible or, see if your home bank has some suggestions on how to waive those fees and manage your money.
Make Your New Home Feel Like Your Home
Moving abroad isn’t cheap; with all the visa applications, flights, dealing with the currency exchange rate etc. things can add up pretty quickly. So when it comes to things like making your new home actually feel like a home, we tend to be stingy. But we shouldn’t because creating a homey space is pretty important when moving abroad away from friends and family. Plus, it doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think.
A couple nice photo frames with personal photos will go a long way into transforming your new space into your new home. If your landlord allows it, a fresh coat of paint in your favourite colour can also do the trick. Think of things you enjoyed at home as well that you can also do here. If you love gardening, maybe see if you can start a garden or at least buy a couple of plants for your room. If you enjoyed cycling around your hometown, see if you can find a used bike for sale on a second-hand website like gumtree and use it to explore your new city. Yes, you moved abroad to experience something new, but bringing some of your habits and likes with you will help make the transition easier.
Don’t Forget About Your Taxes
Probably the worst part of moving abroad but, hey, it needs to be done and you don’t want to be caught in a panic at the end figuring out who to pay what where. Depending on your home country, you may have to still file for taxes there as well as in the country you recently moved to. It can be pretty confusing, so don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. Just don’t leave it until the last minute because then the panic will really set in.
Moving abroad to Ireland was one of the best adventures of my life. After all, it was thanks to that experience that I fell in love with travel and ended up being able to turn it into my career. So, if you are thinking about taking the leap, I say do it. Yes, it’s a big decision and yes, there is a lot of work involved. However, in the end, it’s absolutely worth it.