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Prepare to Live Abroad for a Year or More

From finding a new home to packing up boxes, making a move abroad can be both emotionally and physically exhausting - and that's not including the added stress associated with making an international move.

Here are some important tasks to complete before moving abroad.

Get required travel documents in order: If an individual doesn't have a passport, he or she can apply for one at the local post office or check with the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs for nearby passport-application locations.

“Some states will continue to tax you even if you live abroad, so you may want to cut ties with those states.”

— David McKeegan, co-founder of Greenback Expat Tax Services

Other important travel documents to potentially apply for are visas and work permits. Individuals can learn about visa requirements by visiting a country's immigration or travel-related sites.

Make tax preparations: David McKeegan, co-founder of Greenback Expat Tax Services, a tax advisory headquartered in New York, recommends that American expatriates notify the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about their move to ensure they receive refund checks and other correspondence. In addition, McKeegan says, "You should check the rules in your state before moving abroad. Some states will continue to tax you even if you live abroad, so you may want to cut ties with those states [including] bank accounts, library cards, etc."

Furthermore, McKeegan strongly advises individuals to consult a professional who is knowledgeable in expatriate tax matters. "Who you speak with will depend on how much money you have," McKeegan says. "If you have significant assets, it's probably worth speaking to a financial advisor. But everyone should speak to a tax advisor."

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Make arrangements for personal banking overseas: Prior to the move, it's wise for individuals to reach out to their bank. "Set up as many payments as possible to be automatically withdrawn from your home bank account to take care of ongoing domestic expenses," says Lisa Johnson, global practice leader for Consulting Services at Crown World Mobility, a global mobility management service provider based in New York.

Individuals can use a trusted online foreign exchange service to provide money conversion services and deposit funds in their domestic bank accounts. When living abroad, an online foreign exchange service may enable international bank-to-bank fund transfers, in addition to 24/7 online access and customer service.

Research foreign credit standards: When making financial preparations, Johnson says it's crucial that individuals find out the credit standards in the host country, particularly if they are looking to purchase a car or apply for a foreign credit card after they arrive. "I've seen people with good financial standing get turned down when they apply for a credit card because they have no credit history in the host country," she says.

Credit reporting standards and processes differ from country to country. Prior to departure, individuals can consult a representative from their home credit union or local bank branch to learn how to obtain access to credit and funding in the host country. To guard against unpleasant surprises when banking overseas, individuals may also consider using a bank with branches at home and abroad, so they have a credit history to fall back on.

Set up proper insurance: Since domestic insurance coverage may not extend overseas, individuals should consider purchasing policies from a global insurance provider, McKeegan says.

In terms of health insurance, the type of coverage that individuals will qualify for depends on the country's health care system. Some nations, like the U.S., have a private health care system, while others, such as the U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS), offer socialized medicine.

Hire a credible moving company: Individuals should also take care when researching international movers. "You want to make sure that the company is bonded and insured," Johnson says. "Also, find out the policies for lost or damaged property, including what percentage of the damages they'll cover."

Decide what to pack vs. purchase: Make a realistic packing list. Due to abrasive weather conditions, it may be risky to ship household furnishings to certain areas. "In some parts of Southeast Asia, like Singapore and Hong Kong, the temperatures can get sweltering, and the humidity is high," Johnson says. "So it's recommended that you reconsider shipping your wooden furniture over there, because it could warp with those drastic temperature changes." Due to electric current differences and housing size variations, Johnson suggests that individuals purchase large appliances and some of their furniture after they've arrived in the host country.

Take care of domestic property: Whether a domestic property is left as is or rented out, a property manager can oversee maintenance issues and take care of tenant concerns. McKeegan recommends that individuals hire a real estate broker who can set them up with potential tenants and a qualified property management firm.

By proceeding with caution and allowing adequate time to prepare, individuals can eliminate the stress associated with moving and ensure a seamless transition into their new life abroad.



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