Many—indeed, most—professionals never set foot outside the continental U.S. for business, but for those who have the opportunity to do so, it offers a host of new experiences.
Being selected for an expatriate assignment is an exciting event filled with anticipation of new cultural experiences and a chance to “see the world” on the company’s dime.
Shortly thereafter, the reality of just getting there sets in and life becomes a flurry of details and deadlines.
Several weeks ago, Jonathan Berube wrote about relocation and his career-launching move to Texas. True to his character, Jonathan focused on the positives, as most career relocations are positive events.
Studies say that changing jobs (including a promotion), along with relocation and moving, are high on the list of the most stressful events people endure, with an overseas relocation near the top of the charts.
But there is hope for those tackling this task. As with many things, overseas relocation gets easier with practice. Several of our experienced expat clients have it down to a science and offer these suggestions to those considering accepting an overseas position.
What you are signing up for?
Go over every detail on the contract with your human resources representative and make sure you understand the monetary aspects of your package as well as the benefits, as they will likely differ from your current role.
If your salary is not in US currency, calculate the conversion so you can negotiate (yes, you can negotiate) an appropriate agreement. Your benefits will probably be based on the company’s local norms, including socialized medicine.
Investigate the local real estate market so you can determine what your housing allowance nets you. Chances are, your standard of living will change in some way—up or down—so if you have to move a family of five from a four bedroom home in suburbia to a two bedroom urban flat, be prepared.
Passports, visas, and drivers licenses
Working internationally typically requires both a valid passport and a work visa tailored to the expected length of your overseas assignment. Make sure your passport will remain current for at least a year after your departure and contact the embassy of your destination country for their visa guidelines. Most countries have embassies in all major US cities.
You will likely have to provide documents you haven’t seen in a long time such as college diplomas, birth certificates, your marriage certificate, and even a recent resume. If relocating with your family, each family member will likely need a valid passport and visa.
Also ensure that your US driver’s license is current for the duration of your projected assignment. Even if you get a license in your new location, you will need a valid US license if you need to rent a car when you return stateside.
Banking and credit
We’ve heard horror stories of trying to set up a bank account in the Middle East, primarily because of US concerns about money laundering. In one case, the local bank wouldn’t accept cash and it took six weeks for a bank draft to clear.
Some expats have had success managing finances through their US bank accounts and credit cards using online banking, but make sure the credit cards won’t charge international transaction fees for each charge. Of course, if you are paid by the local company instead of the US organization, this may not be as easy to manage from afar.
This is not the most fun subject, but it is a critical one. Laws in each country are different, so engage an attorney to help you work through it. Ensure you have a strong will that addresses all unfortunate contingencies, including death of one or both spouses. You don’t want your family in limbo in a foreign land.
Medical records and health care
Take hard copies of everything and don’t be surprised if you have to sign a release for each doctor or facility and possibly pay photocopy fees. The experts recommend having a full health checkup, dental work, and eye exams—the works—before you go. And make sure you take a good supply of medications and vitamins that will last until you can find a location where they can be purchased abroad.
Don’t forget the pets
Research the requirements for pet entry. Some countries require quarantine; investigate those rules before making your final decision.
You will need to make sure your pets’ shots are up to date and have been implanted with a microchip. Just prior to departure, your pet will need a final health exam and a health certificate.
You can’t prepare for an overseas relocation in one sitting, but this will give you enough to get started. Check back next week for Part Two of our critical to-dos for relocating abroad.