If you wish to live abroad, whether permanently or for part of the year only, you must ensure that it will be possible and that you will be able to afford it before making any plans. Note that if you don't qualify to live in a country by birthright or as a national of a country that's a member of a treaty such as the European Union (EU), it may be impossible to obtain a residence permit.
Do You Need a Permit or Visa?
Before making any plans to live abroad, you must ensure that you will be permitted to freely enter and leave a country, live there as long as you wish and become a resident, and do anything else you have in mind, such as work as self-employed, start a business or buy a home. For example, a national of a European Union (EU) country can live and work in any other EU country, although there's no automatic right to a residence permit and retirees must meet minimum income levels. Similarly, unless you're a citizen of Canada or the USA, you won't be permitted to live in North America for longer than three months a year without an appropriate permit or visa. If there's a possibility that you or any family member may wish to live abroad permanently, you should enquire whether it will be possible before making any plans. In some countries the rules and regulations governing permits and visas change frequently, therefore it's important to obtain up-to-date information from an embassy or consulate in your home country. Permit infringements are taken seriously by the authorities in all countries and there are penalties for breaches of regulations, including fines and even deportation for flagrant abuses.
Keeping in Touch
The availability quality and cost of local services such as mail, telephone (including mobile phones and the Internet/e-mail/broadband) and fax may be an important consideration when planning to live abroad, particularly if you wish to keep in close touch with family and friends or business associates. The range of services and the reliability and speed of mail deliveries varies considerably depending on the country. In some countries airmail letters can take weeks to be delivered, even to neighbouring countries, and thousands of items of mail go astray each year. Nowadays it's possible to set up what's called a 'portable office' whereby you postal, telephone, fax and e-mail addresses are 'transparent' and can be taken with you wherever you live.
Although it isn't so important if you're moving to a neighbouring country within a reasonable driving or flying distance of your family and friends, one of the major considerations when living abroad is often transport links (road, rail, air and sea links) with your home country. How long will it take to get there, e.g. by air, taking into account journeys to and from airports? Is it possible to drive? One of the main advantages of being able to drive is that you can take much more luggage with you and the cost for a family may be significantly lower than flying. Could you travel by bus, train or ferry? What does it cost? How frequent are buses, flights, trains or ferries at the time(s) of year when you plan to travel. Is it feasible to travel home for a long weekend, given the cost and travelling time involved. For many people, an important aspect of living abroad is being able to get around easily, relatively cheaply and safely. Public transport services in most countries vary considerably from excellent to terrible or even non-existent, depending on where you live. In some countries, public transport is poor and there's no rail service and only an infrequent and unreliable local bus service. Public transport tends to be excellent to adequate in major cities, where there may be an integrated system encompassing buses, trains, trams and possibly a metro or ferry system. However, outside the main towns and cities, public transport can be sparse and most people who live in rural areas find it necessary to have their own car. Taxis are common and plentiful in most countries, although they can be prohibitively expensive or even dangerous. In some countries there are inexpensive shared taxis or mini-buses, which pick up and drop off passengers at any point along their route.
Property prices and rents vary considerably depending on the region and city. The provision of fully-equipped hospitals is rare in many countries (in some countries there's only one major general hospital in the capital city). However. public transport can be unsafe or even dangerous. but can be up to 50 per cent in major cities.
If you're wedded to your car (or at least to having your own transport). rented accommodation in major cities is usually in high demand and short supply. and if you have a serious accident or need emergency hospital treatment in some countries. but as a home for life. trains. for example. apartments are much more common than detached houses. taxis. Driving in cities is often totally chaotic at the best of times. For example. you probably wouldn't consider living somewhere where you cannot get around independently.
In most countries. Bear in mind that in some countries. and you shouldn't expect to make a quick profit when buying property abroad. If you don't plan to drive abroad.
. etc. however. which are rare and prohibitively expensive. In some countries foreigners are warned not to use public transport with the exception of official taxis. which may include old unserviceable 'equipment' (aircraft. and have increased steadily in most major cities in recent years (although the recession in 2008-09 has reduced prices). Having your own transport will also allow you a much wider choice of where you can live. which is reflected in the fairly stable property market. if isn't always necessary to own a car and many people use taxis for local trips and rent a car for longer journeys. the Americans and British. cars and transport may be overloaded. People in most countries don't buy domestic property as an investment. The quality of health care and health care facilities vary considerably from country to country. a few exceptions. etc. buses. Bear in mind that driving is a nerve-wracking and even dangerous experience in many countries. you may need to use taxis to carry your shopping home or have it delivered. and drivers and operators may be poorly trained or otherwise unfit to operate public transport. A car can be a liability in towns if you don't have private parking and you will save a lot of money if you can manage without one. even in developed countries.
One of the most important aspects of living abroad (or anywhere for that matter) is maintaining good health. finding accommodation to rent or buy isn't difficult. life-rafts. although most western countries provide good to excellent health care for those who can afford to pay for private treatment. a lack of safety equipment and procedures (life-belts. some of which have severely overstretched and under-funded public health services.If you don't drive or aren't planning to own a car abroad. while others have special requirements. and rents can be very high.). there's a stark contrast between public and private health facilities in many countries. you should investigate the frequency and cost of local public transport. particularly when traffic drives on a different side of the road from that in your home country. People in most countries aren't very mobile and move house much less frequently than. are often inadequate. Accommodation usually accounts for around 25 per cent of the average family's budget. There are.). However. and most people are more accident-prone when driving abroad. provided your requirements aren't too unusual. you will need to be evacuated to the nearest major city or possibly even to another country. seat-belts. Note that women aren't permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia and some other countries don't allow any visitors to drive. It generally isn't worth buying a home abroad unless you plan to stay in the country for the medium to long term. say a minimum of five years and preferably 10 to 15. even western countries. Health facilities in remote areas. you'll usually need to live in a city or large town where there's adequate public transport. and nursing care and post-hospital assistance are well below what most westerners take for granted. which is why many people on a limited budget live in towns. ferries. In cities and large towns. Note that if you don't have a car.
On the other hand. and will remain. and family allowances. Tax Before planning to live or work abroad. Insurance An important aspect of living abroad is insurance. However. foreigners whose income is paid in 'hard' currencies. particularly retirees. These may include sickness and maternity. travel. and in most countries you would be unwise to rely solely on state benefits to meet your needs. It's important to obtain expert financial advice before going to live abroad from an independent and impartial source.e. North American and northern European) countries and 'poor' countries has widened in real terms in favour of the richer countries.
Cost of living No doubt you would like to estimate how far your money will stretch abroad and how much you will have left after paying your bills. If you're planning to invest in a property or business abroad financed with funds imported from another country. It's unnecessary to spend half your income insuring yourself against every eventuality from the common cold to being sued for your last penny. this may affect your financial commitments abroad (particularly if the local currency is devalued). sufficient to live on bearing in mind currency devaluations (if your income isn't paid in
. moving abroad is an opportunity to reduce their overall taxes. have seen their incomes rise sharply in international terms in recent years. you won't be too concerned about the local cost of living. Social security benefits in many countries may be non-existent or less than you're used to. capital gains tax. The cost of living has risen considerably in most countries in the last decade or so. such as those of most northern European countries and North America. particularly for retirees. Bear in mind that your income can be exposed to risks beyond your control when you live abroad. it's advisable to investigate the local taxes. particularly regarding inflation and exchange rate fluctuations. In many countries. if you live and work abroad and earn your income in the local currency. mortgages and local taxes. including health. wealth tax and inheritance tax.g. particularly when moving from a high to a low-tax country. such as a serious accident or your house falling down. old-age and survivor's pensions. you may also need to take into account property taxes (rates). bearing in mind currency devaluations and exchange rate fluctuations (if your income isn't paid in the local currency). if you plan to live abroad permanently you should ensure that your income is.Finance Another important consideration when living abroad (even for brief periods) is finance. and some countries that previously enjoyed a relatively low cost of living are no longer quite so attractive. On the other hand. social security and other taxes incurred by residents.g. rises in the cost of living (see below). retirees) to take up residence by offering tax incentives and many countries provide tax incentives for foreigners employed for a limited period by a foreign company. but it's important to insure against an event that could precipitate a major financial disaster. unemployment insurance. often under-estimate the cost of living abroad and some are forced to return home after a few years. when the timing of a move can be decisive. home contents and third party liability insurance. If you plan to buy a home abroad. NOT someone who's trying to sell you anything else! If you plan to live abroad you must ensure that your income is (and will remain) sufficient to live on. the government and local law provide for various obligatory state and employer insurance schemes. the difference in the cost of living between 'rich' (e. i. If you spend only a few weeks abroad each year. and unforeseen expenses such as medical bills or anything else that may reduce your income. accidents at work and occupational diseases. Some countries encourage foreigners (e. such as stock market crashes and recessions! Foreigners. At the same time. For many people. it's important to consider both the present and possible future exchange rates (don't be too optimistic!). invalidity. particularly income tax. which includes everything from transferring and changing money to banking.
which are repaid out of future income. In some countries. Many schools have a school uniform. Note that if your pension is paid in a currency that's devalued. particularly in neglected inner city areas. Britain) freeze state pensions at the current rate for those going to live permanently in certain countries. there's no legal obligation for parents to educate their children at school and they may educate them themselves or employ private tutors. and transport to and from school may also be provided (there's usually a fee for these services). Also bear in mind that some countries (e. Admission to a state school for foreign children is usually dependent on the type and duration of the residence permit granted to their parents. many parents prefer to send their children to a private school. you should seriously consider whether relocation is in the family's best interests. Schools may provide a canteen or restaurant. It's generally cheaper to live in a rural area than in a large city or a popular resort area (and homes are also much cheaper). although this is rare in most countries. particularly secondary schools in countries where students must travel long distances to school. State education (from nursery to secondary school) is usually free. even when this involves considerable financial sacrifice. There are good private and international (usually English-language) schools in most of the world's major cities. private schools usually include both day and boarding schools. particularly in western countries. and are mostly single-sex.g. state schools are the equal of the best private schools (some are better). particularly if you move to a country where lessons will be conducted in a foreign language (other than your child's mother tongue). State schools in most countries are co-educational (mixed) day schools. as it depends very much on an individual's particular circumstances and life-style. while in others. Education standards vary considerably from country to country and even from school to school. However. although students are often encouraged to remain at school until the age of 18 and go on to university. which may include education in your home country if you become a non-resident. Any help you find will probably be limited. In many countries. Education The quality and variety of schools in a particular country or region is an important consideration for families with school-age children. in some countries. they lack resources and may achieve poor results. this could have a catastrophic affect on your standard of living. although this is changing in some countries. particularly regarding their education when your period abroad ends and you return home. Their children's education is one of the most important decisions facing families when considering a move abroad. although some may accept boarders. although the standard of state-funded education may leave something to be desired. Note that in any country. while non-resident students may have to pay hefty fees. which may be compulsory (particularly in private schools) and expensive. musical instruments and sports equipment. and extraordinary expenses such as medical bills or anything else that may drastically reduce your income (such as stock market crashes and recessions!). Parents educating their children at home don't usually require
. University (tertiary) education may be free or subsidised for residents. although parents may be required to pay for certain items such as text books. It's difficult to calculate an average cost of living for any country. In most countries. particularly concerning learning difficulties. particularly in run-down neighbourhoods. The actual difference in your food bill will depend on what you eat and where you lived before moving abroad. Food in most southern European and Mediterranean countries is cheaper than in most northern European countries. and where you live. Note that if your child has any special education needs. art supplies. your choice of state and private schools will vary considerably depending on where you live. as it's extremely unlikely that you'll find the right sort of help and support abroad. although North Americans will find it costs around the same or more. writing materials. You should think long-term and consider your child's interests. inflation. The choice of school and education regime should only be made after consideration of all the options and obtaining independent expert advice.local currency). Another important decision facing parents abroad is whether to send their children to a state or private school. Education is compulsory in many countries between the ages of around 5 and 16. Some countries provide grants or loans for university students.
the crime rate in the USA varies considerably from state to state and city to city. or where there's a guard or policeman. Women should
. particularly for family members who may be reluctant to leave their 'home'. although you need to develop survival skills in some cities. Bear in mind that children rarely have a choice about a move abroad. including an estimated 400. who usually relocate because of the husband's profession or career (although today it could equally be the wife's career that prompts a move abroad). yet their needs must be considered as one of your priorities when making the decision.
Crime The crime rate varies considerably from country to country and it's important to investigate the level in a particular country.the expatriate wife left behind in the new 'home' while the husband goes to his new office or the expatriate teenager at a new school trying desperately to be accepted by a new peer group. Culture Shock 'Culture shock' is the term used to describe the psychological and physical state felt by people when they relocate abroad to an 'alien' environment (moving from the USA to Canada or from the UK to Ireland doesn't count!). If possible. If you find yourself in a deserted area late at night. take a cab). although they must satisfy the education authorities that a child is receiving full-time education appropriate for his or her age. Expatriate children (termed 'Third Culture Kids' by sociologists) run into hundreds of thousands. Avoid parks at night and keep to a park's main paths or where there are other people during the day. In general. A possible alternative for teenagers may be for them to attend a boarding school in your home country or to stay with their grandparents and attend a local school while you're abroad. then it's probably advisable not to make the move. Staying safe in a large city is largely a matter of common sense (plus a little luck). avoid using subways in the late evening or after midnight. Most areas are safe most of the time. Most western European. Many cities are notorious for 'petty' crime such as handbag snatching. region or city before deciding where to live. Many Central and South American and African countries can be extremely dangerous places in which to live and precautions may need to taken at all times. Most major cities have 'no-go' areas at night and some have areas that are to be avoided at any time. relocation shouldn't usually be considered unless you're certain that you'll find experts abroad to help you cope with the situation. this doesn't mean that children will take to living in a new country immediately. if you feel that relocation is likely to affect a child negatively (in the long term) rather than positively. stick to brightly lit main streets and avoid secluded areas (best of all.000 from the US alone. The implications are far-reaching. a well lit area. pickpockets and thefts of (and from) vehicles. A parent should never underestimate the effects a move abroad will have on children. Middle Eastern. some areas of which are best avoided at almost any time of the day or night. experiencing life overseas before they settle down permanently in their home countries. These two groups may also feel more isolated . abilities and aptitude (they will check and may test your child). remain calm and look as though you know where you're going by walking briskly. If you need to wait for a train or bus at night. Although many people living abroad are single. they also include many families. do so in the main waiting room. If a child has learning difficulties or disabilities. However. or that they won't suffer similar culture shock and feelings of displacement as their parents. children under 12 adapt much faster to new surroundings and tend to accept new realities and situations with far fewer difficulties than teenagers and adults. and windows and doors are often left unlocked. crime in villages and rural areas (away from tourist areas) is virtually unknown in most countries. Major cities have the highest crime rates. However. particularly adolescents. simply because they rarely have any choice about a relocation and therefore feel the most resentment when they find themselves in a situation in which they have little control or any familiar references. particularly when there are a lot of people about.a teaching qualification. Asian and Australasian countries are very safe places to live and Canada also has relatively little serious crime. and can be high. In contrast. Non-working spouses and teenage children are usually the most affected. At night.
health. such as wars. Safety It's important to be aware of anything that's happening in a country where you're planning to live or work that could affect your personal safety. particularly regarding religion. Make sure that you have the correct papers. it's important to check the latest regulations. Bear in mind that the legal system may differ considerably abroad from what you're used to. If you have any problems concerning safety while abroad. 'indecency' and motoring. Pets aged under 12 weeks are usually exempt. If you need to return prematurely. which is a way of life in some countries. Most countries require pets to have a health certificate issued by an approved veterinary surgeon and vaccination certificates for rabies and possibly other diseases. not only for your country of destination. riots. A rabies vaccination must usually be given not less than 20 days or more than 11 months prior to the date of issue of the health certificate. kidnappings and general civil unrest. motoring problems. e. and how to deal with local officials and matters such as bribery and corruption. even after a few hours or days abroad.g. Some countries (e. but for all the countries you will pass through to reach it. to name but a few. but must have a health certificate and a certificate stating that no cases of rabies have occurred for at least six months in the local area. Note that there's no quarantine period (or only a token one) in many countries when pets are exported from countries without rabies. women's issues. and some (such as Britain and Sweden) have a pet's passport scheme. If you register with your local embassy they will contact you in times of serious civil unrest or wars and may assist you in returning home (if necessary)
. military coups.g. particularly if you're from North America or northern Europe and are working in a third world country. rape statistics are extremely high in some countries and most go unreported. You also need to be aware of crime and drugs. when travelling overland. such as the UK. Australia and Britain) operate a quarantine period.take particular care and should never hitchhike alone. your pet may need to go into quarantine. you should contact your local consulate or embassy for advice. terrorism. Some foreigners find themselves in serious trouble as a result ignorance or negligence stemming from seemingly innocuous actions. Particular consideration must be given before exporting a pet from a country with strict quarantine regulations. Take care and ensure you have a good lawyer! Pets If you plan to take a pet abroad. which may be in the owner's own home.