Things to consider when moving to a new country for work

Relocating abroad for work can broaden your life experience and career prospects. With skills, services and experience now being transferable globally, many global companies, including those in the hospitality industry, recruit worldwide to find the best talent to fill their vacancies.

1.Is the salary enough to sustain the cost of living and still save money?

Is the salary worth it and will it cover everything to give you a comfortable life and still allow for savings? If not, then you need to ask yourself if the move is worth it. Many destinations, such as the United Arab Emirates and Singapore, see highly skilled expats earning fantastic salaries, but this is often countered by the extremely high cost of living in these countries, leaving expats with very little in their pocket by the end of the month. 

On the financial side, expats need to consider what their major expenses will be. 

For example, those with children, paying for their kids’ schooling will likely be a big expense if it’s not in your salary allowances. In some cases, such as the US or Australia, expats will easily be able to send their children to a local school at minimal expense, but in other destinations, such as in the Middle East, public schools are not a viable option for expats and they’ll need to send their children to a private international school, where fees can be exorbitant. Is there a decent public schooling system, or will your children need to attend an international school? Is home-schooling permissible in the country? Will the kids be able to attend a school close to home, or will they need to go to boarding school?

2.Is your family able to come with you?

Family is often a focal point for anyone considering an opportunity abroad, whether it is trying to earn money to provide for your family back home or you’re taking your family along with you. 

Some destinations which are popular with expats are not suitable to take a family along, whilst others may offer a wonderful opportunity for expats with families. So do your research on the location, its infrastructure: hospitals, etc and the suitability for a family.

If you also have a spouse that wants to work when you are settled, you should check if this will be possible. In some destinations, such as Saudi Arabia, the work prospects for a trailing spouse will likely be very limited. The lifestyle and restrictions for a family, especially women, may also be difficult for a family to adjust to.

3. Will you be able to adjust to the culture and lifestyle both of the business and the country?

There will always be an adjustment period when moving overseas, especially if moving to a place with a radically different way of life to what you’re used to. For some destinations, this is not a major issue, as expats live in close-knit, largely insular expat communities, away from the reality of life in their host country. This is often the case in Middle Eastern and African destinations. 

But the culture within a company is also important, as you’d want to fit in and feel comfortable with the way things are done. This is often not an issue if working for a multinational company with a local presence as the work culture will be familiar and likely more Western in nature, but this can be a challenge if working for a local organisation which may have hierarchical structures and protocols that are radically different to what you’re used to, such as a local business operating in the Middle East that functions according to the tenants of Islam.

4.Will my family and I be safe?

Safety and security are an important factor, not only for the employee, but especially for their family, and is a major deciding point for those looking to take their family abroad with them. 

Many move abroad for a better safety situation than what they’re currently living in, but with destinations that are considered risky or high up on the hardship scale, expats need to ask themselves whether the work experience and the high salary are worth the risk to their and their family’s personal safety. A good place to look is your own countries foreign office website with details of a specific countries. Check this out before accepting an expat assignment.  

5. Will I have access to adequate healthcare?

It’s imperative to discuss this matter with your company, especially if moving to a country with inadequate healthcare infrastructure, and where the cost of medical care will be expensive and an emergency may require air evacuation abroad. If this is not being covered in your expat package you should ensure that if this is the case, their company will supply adequate and comprehensive health insurance, not only for the employee but for their family as well.

6. 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?

7. Get Establishing

One of the keys to success is establishing a social network. It’s vital to building a new group of friends and associates that can help you to settle in the region. Living an isolated existence can be hard to sustain unless that is how you live normally.

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 but with effort on your part you will establish a network.

8. 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 visas on your behalf, but this should be clarified before you accept a position.

A number of mobility incentives and specialised visas for skilled workers exist to encourage foreign candidates to help plug local skills shortages. Additionally, countries like Australia and Canada practice a point 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 to. Some countries require a passport that's valid for a stipulated period after your arrival.

9. 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 rental costs, household and living costs, food shopping, utilities, clothes cost as well as just simply going out for dinner. All these costs will need to factor.

Local bank accounts will normally not be issued until you have both your work permit and resident visa. This will take a while to set up and may require a visit in person, but your new employer should help and assist you with this.

10. 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. If your new employer is keen to get you on board, they will be eager to assist you as much as possible wherever they can.

Find out the cost of furniture and other goods in your destination country. If they can be purchased relatively cheaply in your new location of work, consider whether it warrants the shipping costs.

11. 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. What are the options for promotion and do they match where you see your career going? It is always good to discover more about your employer’s work ethic and how it matches yours to prevent any problems. Then everyone is on the same page.

12. Family

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?

13. 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. 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.

14. Researching the location

Ideally where possibl, visit the country and the exact location that you are moving to. This gives you the opportunity to familiarise yourself with the location and all it has to offer. Use your network of connections and your new employer to gain insights into what day to day life is like. What are the best neighbourhoods to live in? What is the daily commute like? What changes can you expect to your current lifestyle? If you look online you should find articles written by expats detailing their experiences and things you may find helpful.

The journey of relocating for work can be stressful at times, due to all the above factors. However, if you do your research, ensuring you consult fully with your employer, use your network, then it should bring you potential exciting changes in your career and life which will, in turn, only enhance your career.

Check list at a glance "moving abroad “

The following is a very brief moving abroad checklist which provides you with the key considerations and plans you will need to establish before you move abroad:

  1. Know your visa requirements of your new country of residence
  2. Find out how far your accommodation is from work and if it is suitable for your requirements.
  3. Get to know if there are tax requirements for your home country when you live abroad.
  4. Make sure you meet your tax obligations of your new country of residence
  5. Make plans for relocating pets if they are allowed.
  6. Start to work out which objects to put in storage and which to transport abroad
  7. Choose an international moving company
  8. Sort out your insurance requirements (home, travel, life and car) and ensure that you comply with the rules of any existing policies
  9. Establish any driving requirements, including licenses and tests you may have to take
  10. Know what financial planning options you have and sort out your bank accounts
  11. Sort out a mobile phone, landline and internet provider before you move
  12. Tell the authorities in your home country your new place of residence