10 things to consider when moving country for work
Relocating abroad for work can broaden your life experience and career prospects. It’s common for early career researchers to consider relocation, as it may offer increased possibilities for academic posts, beyond their home country. Many global companies, including those in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, healthcare, oil, gas, engineering and software fields, also recruit worldwide to find the right candidate. As part of our "Crossing Continent" series of articles, we’ve come up with a checklist of the top ten things you need to take into account if you’re currently considering taking up a post abroad.
1. Lifestyle changes
A move abroad could involve a range of lifestyle changes. It’s important to carefully reflect on differences in climate, language, culture, work ethic, and quality of life when researching a move. Even better, a few trips to explore the location further would be hugely beneficial, ensuring that your needs and expectations are met. Remember to ask yourself — would my quality of life be improved or compromised? If it’s the latter—are there factors that would compensate for this, like increased remuneration?
I spoke recently to a friend who was seriously considering the prospect of moving to Dubai, UAE for a software position. He hadn’t properly though about the climate, and had got quite far on with his application when he realised his extreme dislike of hot weather would make it difficult. Another former colleague discovered he would benefit greatly from a move to a location in Australia, due to the opportunities for outdoor living and specialist sports, that are both of high importance to him. The key is to do your homework in advance, to ensure you know how the change would affect you and your interests specifically.
2. Establishing a social network
Any move abroad will involve a loss of one’s existing social network. It’s good to take into account the potential for building a new one when looking into a position. Are there regular social events that are organised by your new employer? Do you have any existing friends in the area? Will you be living in a lively or isolated location?
Wherever you move, it is likely that you will need to be proactive for a while to ensure you meet new friends. Seek out ways to meet like-minded people through events, courses and leisure activities. It will take a little time before your new network will be established.
3. Visa considerations
Many countries require that you obtain a work permit or visa to work legally. Usually, you would need a firm job offer before applying for the relevant visa. Employers routinely apply for visa's on your behalf, but this should be clarified before you accept a position.
At present, EU citizens do not need a work permit or visa to work legally in any other country in the European Union (EU). This will likely change for UK citizens, dependent on the terms agreed in negotiations for the UK's exit 'Brexit' from the EU, in 2019. The European Researchers Mobility Portal is a good resource for further advice.
A number of mobility incentives and specialised visa's for skilled workers exist to encourage foreign candidates to help plug local skills shortages. Additionally, countries like Australia and Canada practice a points based system for visa qualification for those wanting to settle permanently.
In the US, a H1-B visa, that requires the applicant possess a higher degree and specialised knowledge, is commonly used for researchers or those working in a technical field. Shorter scholar exchange programmes can be undertaken on a J-1 visa. For more information on criteria, it's best to visit the US Visa pages on the State Department's website.
Check the relevant foreign embassy site for specific information about the country you are thinking of relocating too. Some countries require a passport that's valid for a stipulated period after the date you enter - so check if this applies to you.
"Some countries require a passport that's valid for a stipulated period after the date you enter...check if this applies to you."
4. Finance and the local cost of living
Once offered a role, you should be given a clear idea of what your salary and benefits will be. Ensure you negotiate your salary, in line with the local cost of living. Find out about local property rental costs, household and living costs that will need to factor in.
Local bank accounts may take a while to set up and may require a visit in person. There are many articles about how to open bank accounts for expats moving to specific location that also review the best ones, so do this research in advance. In addition, use your future employer as a source of information.
5. Relocation and associated costs
Clarify with your employer as to whether they will cover any relocation costs. Find out what the budget is and what it includes (e.g., shipping furniture, travel costs, purchasing white goods on arrival). Ask if they are able to help you with temporary accommodation when you move, or alternatively refer you to a recommended agency who can. If they are keen to get you on board, they will be eager to assist you as much as possible.
Find out the cost of furniture and other goods in your destination country. If they can be purchased relatively cheaply in your new location, consider whether it warrants the cost of shipping. Opt to sell goods at home and repurchase them when you arrive, if it makes financial sense.
6. Your future employer and career prospects
It is important to research your future employer fully before relocating. Find out as much as possible about who you’ll be reporting too. How have those in their team progressed? What are the options for promotion and do they live up to your expectations? Try to discover more about your employers work ethic and how it matches yours. Contact fellow coworkers if possible, or ask to speak to someone doing a similar role in the organisation for insights.
"Contact fellow coworkers if possible, or ask to speak to someone doing a similar role in the organisation for insights..."
7. Renting or selling an existing property
Depending on whether the post you are applying for is temporary or permanent, you will need to look into options for renting or selling your existing property. Many expats opt for renting, especially if they may return in the future. This has the added benefits of additional income. If you don’t have friends and family close to the property, or they don’t want to be involved with tenant matters it is prudent to use an agency to manage the rental. Bear in mind this will incur extra costs.
For example, in the UK, agencies typically charge 12-15% of rental income for managing a property. Additional costs include inventory preparation, gas and electricity checks and any emergency work or call outs that are required during your absence.
If your move is likely to be more permanent, and you are looking to buy in your new location, you will need to choose a reliable agency to act on your behalf if you can’t sell before you go. Get recommendations from those who have sold in similar circumstances to find an agency that are communicative and will be able to give you regular updates on progress.
If you want to visit your home country on a regular basis to see family, consider the ease and cost of travel from your new location. How easy would it be to get back in an emergency?
If you have a young family who are relocating with you, you’ll need to look into options for local schooling, nursery and preschool. What are the options available, costs and how will your children integrate there? If your post is temporary, consider options for international schools that would match up with the expected levels upon your return home.
9. Tax treaties
Several countries have bilateral tax treaties in place, to determine the rate at which a non-resident will be taxed on their income, pension, dividends when relocating. This also avoids double taxation in your home nation and abroad. There may be a period of exemption in your host nation. You will be liable for tax if you stay beyond the exemption time, which could change your finances considerably.
"There may be a period of exemption in your host nation. You will be liable for tax if you stay beyond...which could change your finances considerably."
Ensure you find out the conditions of the relevant tax treaty between your home country and where you are moving. For example, in the UK there are over 100 such treaties with different states. Residents are required to fill in a P85 form to inform the national tax organisation — the HMRC, that they are moving. Don’t forget to inform the equivalent tax organisation in your home nation and find out whether you will still be required to pay tax contributions in your country of origin. Working overseas may also affect your state pension, so make sure you clarify your pension status.
10. Researching the location
It’s key to visit a country and the precise location that you are moving to—multiple times if possible before the move. Use your network and employer to gain insights into what day to day life might be like. What are the best neighbourhoods to live in? What is the daily commute like? How does it compare to home? What changes can you expect? Look for expat articles for their experiences, and post in relevant expat forums online if you have unanswered questions.
The process of relocating for work can be a stressful process due to the many factors involved. However, if you do your research, ensuring you consult fully with your employer, use your network and family, it has the potential to bring exciting changes, enhance your life knowledge and prove highly valuable for your career.
What should I remember when contemplating a move abroad?
- Location, location, location. Is this going to be a place in which you'll thrive?
- Bureaucracy: there's no escaping it, even overseas.
- It can be stressful, yet also fulfilling; following common sense tips will make it easier.