Moving overseas is an adventure! But it is also a lengthy and difficult experience, and along with all the emotional ups and downs, there are plenty of annoyances and bureaucratic processes that you have to deal with, usually when you least expect them or have time to deal with them. This post might not be much fun, but if you want an idea of some of the more practical things you should try to do before you leave your home country, keep reading.
Have someone on the ground
There’s no getting around it – at some point – there’s going to be something that has to be done in person or sourced from your home country. You don’t want to have to fly home every time this happens! Having family or a close friend who you can get in touch with in these situations is a godsend. My parents have learnt to deal with many government departments and banks, made numerous phone calls and generally just been on hand to help me out.
Retain an address
If possible, retain an address in your home country (preferably someone you know J), where you can have documents sent to if necessary. I was lucky in that I was living at my parents’ house before I left, which meant that all my ID was already connected to that address. I found that sometimes it is just easier to pretend you still live there. Trying to get companies to put in your new address (that isn’t compatible with their system) and the extra costs they’ll charge to have something sent overseas can be annoying and costly. To get my marriage certificate I had to provide ‘proof of current address’ which had it been my Austrian address would have also needed an official translation! Lucky!
Know where your important documents are
If you know you’re moving permanently you should take your important documents with you, but if you don’t, just make sure someone at home knows where they are. My parents had to source my university transcripts, education records, birth certificate and numerous other things along the way. Luckily I knew where they all were, otherwise it would have been a nightmare.
If you’ve got super and you move overseas, you still can’t access it until you’re retired. That means that if you haven’t got enough in there, it can slowly get eaten away with fees. I rang my super company before I left and had them remove any irrelevant and unnecessary fees, which saved me a lot of money long term. And once you’re settled in your new country, you may find you have a new system which covers these things anyway.
Find out if you will need to do a tax return when you’re out of the country. While I wasn’t working and was therefore technically still an Aussie resident, I could do a simple tax return saying I hadn’t earned anything (apart from interest). However once I became a ‘foreign resident for tax purposes’ I then had to pay tax on all the interest I’d earnt in Australia – marking my biggest ever payment to the ATO. If I’d known beforehand, I could have notified my banks and they would have taken the interest out automatically, making it unnecessary for me to do a tax return. Oh well, next year!
Suspend your health insurance
Even if you’re only going away for a short time this is relevant and saves you paying while you’re OS. I wish I’d known the first few times I went travelling for 3+ months. There are a certain amount of days you can use up before you risk losing your Lifetime Health Cover (for those over 30). And if you register that you’re moving overseas, as long as you are gone for a full year, you won’t be pinged for the LHC if you decide to return one day.
Take photos of what you left behind
I first moved to Austria for 3 months, then a year, then… (gulp) forever. Before each depature, I took photos of my left-behind belongings at my parents’ house (clothes, CDs, kitchen stuff etc.). This came in handy when I decided I was staying longer – because I simply went through the photos, circled items of interest and sent them to my parents to ship for me. It also means that when I visit, I know what clothes I have, and that I don’t have to pack pyjamas and a heavy coat!
Keep a bank account and credit card
No doubt you will still have to pay for things in your home currency, so it makes sense to keep an account with some money in it, if you can. A credit card is very useful, and this will also make things easier if you ever decide to move back. I use my Australian bank accounts to buy presents locally online, paying for random fees (marriage certificate, police checks, etc.) and anything else that comes up. It saves having to pay international transaction fees every time you move money!
Find out if you’re allowed to drive in your new country with your current licence. In Austria, you should carry an international driver’s licence… and that’s only valid for 6 months, so after that you should apply for an Austrian one. Luckily for Aussies it’s only a paperwork process (submitting birth certificate, current licence, and a driving history) – but other countries are different. Note: you can only have one driver’s licence internationally, which means that if you get a new licence in a new country, they will confiscate your old one! That means you also need to work out if you’re allowed to drive in your home country when you go back for holidays!
And finally, make sure your passport and drivers licence aren’t about to expire – it is much more painful trying to get this kind of stuff done overseas.