Moving Countries: Tips to Make Your Travel Dreams a Reality
Moving countries — whether it's short- or long-term — is a great way to experience another culture and broaden your horizons. But an international move comes with different financial considerations than staying domestic. But that shouldn't scare you from following your dream and spending some time living abroad.
If you've decided on a country, and have your heart set on going, read on for tips to make it a reality.
Beyond ensuring that your passport is current, you'll need a special visa if you're moving countries for longer than a normal tourist visa.
For example, U.S. passport holders can visit countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in a 180-day period. The "easy" way around this is to visit countries within the Schengen area for 90 days, live somewhere else for 90 days, and return to a Schengen country.
But if you're looking at other parts of the world, or want to stay put, you need a different option. Visit the embassy or consulate of your chosen country for more information on visas, how to apply, and what fees you may incur. While you're there, you'll also want to look into immigration if you're interested in a more permanent move.
If you're self-employed, try obtaining a residence permit as a freelancer in Berlin. Working holiday visas are another option, even if you don't plan to work. Requirements vary by country and take into account things like age, income, or skills. Australia has a Visa Finder tool to help you determine which visa makes sense for your specific needs.
It may be easier to line up a job before you leave and negotiate airfare, accommodations, and visas as part of your contract. One common way to work abroad is to teach English. Regardless, you'll want to make sure you have a plan in place before you leave — some countries have such high unemployment rates that it may be challenging for you to find work after you arrive.
As an American citizen, you have to file taxes — even if you're filing taxes in another country (if you renounce citizenship, the rules change). You're allowed a two-month extension on filing your return.
See if you qualify for the foreign tax credit or the foreign earned income exclusion. To determine eligibility, take the bona fide residence test and substantial presence test. Talk with an expert to determine if the credit or exclusion is best for you; changing your mind can complicate things.
Ship, sell, or store? If you're planning to return to the U.S., look into monthly storage costs. You can also estimate the costs of shipping your items — whether via a moving company, as part of your airline baggage, or a service like UPS.
By selling your belongings, you can help finance your trip — or have money ready to repurchase must-have items. You also won't have to worry about customs or insurance to cover the loss, theft, or damage of your items.
Consider leaving your car behind. Different countries have different specifications for cars, which may make it harder to ship your car abroad. Alternatively, look into public transportation at your destination. If you absolutely need a car, consider purchasing a used one locally. You'll need to factor in insurance and driver's license requirements and costs.
Plan on returning to the U.S.? Keep your American bank accounts open to help your credit score and make returning easier. Look for a debit card that has no foreign currency fee for international purchases or ATM withdrawals. Online banking makes it easy to manage funds from abroad.
If you have bills in your new country — like rent or Wi-Fi — you'll want to open a local account to make payments easier. Consider exchanging some of your funds for local currency before leaving so you'll have some cash on hand when you arrive.
Overwhelmed? There are plenty of options out there that provide a little more structure to your move abroad. Consider attending a foreign university, finding a volunteer project via Global Vision International, or working at a hostel or as an au pair. Remote Year is another option, bringing together entrepreneurs and freelancers for four or 12 months of working and traveling.
Be sure to give yourself several months to plan and execute your move, and have fun taking the plunge!