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The hitchhiker’s guide to becoming an expat

With 195 countries in the world, becoming an expat is an enchanting idea. However, moving abroad is an enormous decision that comes with a laundry list of to-dos and what-ifs — How do I obtain a visa? Where will I work? What if I can’t find a place to live? How will I make friends?

Becoming an expatriate comes with its challenges and with a lot of preparation, but at the end of the day, experiencing all the world has to offer can be a fulfilling life experience with opportunities to learn about new places and cultures. Living in another country can push you outside of your comfort zone and force you to appreciate life in the moment.

To help you plan this new adventure, here’s a list of things to keep in mind before moving overseas.

Plan your timeline

An international move doesn’t happen overnight. Give yourself time to organize your life back home and your future move. Prepare your friends and family for the move while ensuring you’re completing everything on your moving abroad checklist (i.e. passport, vaccines, visas). The more in advance you plan, the more organized your move will be.

Deal with the clutter in your life

Most likely, you’ve accumulated lots of “stuff” in your life. Sell off everything? Keep things in storage? An important fact of moving abroad is that everything you own will not be making the move with you. Maybe your parents or a friend has a closet they’re willing to let you store things in. If you have a car, consider selling it. Bedroom furniture, kitchen appliances, clothing items — go through it all and clean it out.

Update your passport and get a VISA

Before you even begin packing to make the move abroad, make sure you’re legally able to board the plane. If you haven’t traveled in a while, pull that passport out of your drawer, clean off the dust and double check the expiration date. If your passport expires in less than 2 years and you’re not 100% sure how long you want to be abroad, go ahead and renew. Your passport is the most important thing you’ll own when you’re moving overseas. 

Visas are the gatekeepers into the country you wish to live in. Each country differs, and making sure you’ve applied for the right visa is, unfortunately, totally up to you. You’ll probably find that there are many different visas when you go to apply, though if you plan to work, or you’re heading over to study, it’s really important to apply for the right visa. For instance, restrictions on a tourist visa won’t allow you to work, and in many countries may only permit you to stay for 30 days. It’s a big deal if you breach the terms of your visa, so make sure you’re getting the right one.

Print all the Visa application forms and information, pull out your highlighters and read through everything a couple of times. I find that physically printing something out and being able to highlight it means I understand the process better than if I was reading it online. I then make my own checklist of everything I need to do and include. Visa applications can take a lot of time to process, and they often cost a lot. If you’re denied because you forgot to include something, you won’t get a refund of your money or your time. So be meticulous in checking, double checking and triple checking your applications.

A simple Google search will usually point you in the right direction but be careful with third party websites that claim they can get them for you fast. The best place to find visa information is usually on your government website, and the government website of your chosen country.

It's all about the money

Your money will go further in some countries more than others. For example, lunch in Thailand will cost you about 2 dollars while lunch in Rio de Janeiro will set you back more like 8-10 dollars. Consider the cost of living and your budget before jet-setting!

Find a place to live

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