Adulting: Setting up your new Expat Life

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After living and working long-term in 4 different countries, I don’t even think twice about what needs to be done to set up a new life after moving abroad…

However, if it’s your first time as an expat, it can be pretty overwhelming to think of all those ‘adult responsibilities’ looming ahead of you when all you want to do is explore, make friends and enjoy your new home!
So I’ve made this handy guide to help you through the basics. You’re welcome.

Tell companies back home that you have moved

OK so if you take one thing away from this blog post, please let it be to tell. important. companies. that you have left your country!

  • Inform your bank from your home country that you are leaving and that you may use your account in a foreign country. This will avoid them flagging your international use as fraud and blocking access to your money when you need it most.
  • If you have a Student Loan, contact your loan company and inform them that you will be working abroad and your new address. If you’re from the UK, Student Finance has a form you can fill out that allows them to calculate a Direct Debit payment to take out of your UK bank each month based on your international salary.
  • Contact your local council/municipality. They may contact you about jury duty or expect council tax payments.
  • And perhaps most importantly, tell your country’s tax office!
    Even if you have received your last pay-check and tax documents for the year, make sure to inform your country’s government that you are relocating. I went backpacking and had no fixed address to tell the UK tax office… Despite this, they ended up writing to my old address about unpaid tax from 2 years ago and tried to fine me over £1,300 ($2,000) for failing to reply to them. So PLEASE be aware of this!

Open a bank account

Obvious but important… Opening up a bank account abroad is usually a relatively easy experience and it’s one of the first things I do when arriving in a new home.
You need a bank account from the country you are spending in to avoid costly international charges and to receive your paychecks when you start your new job.
You will probably need to book an appointment to do this. Make sure you bring your Passport, Visa (if applicable) and something with your new home address on it when opening the account.

Bank Recommendations:
Canada:  TD Bank
Australia: Commonwealth Bank

Change your driving licence

If you plan on driving in your new country long-term, it is always best to switch over your driving licence. If you get pulled over by law enforcement or need to show your ID for any other reason, it makes the whole process much easier, faster and confusion-free. When I had just turned 21, I was refused entry at a bar in the US for being under-age because my UK driving licence prints the date the opposite way to the States (Nightmare!)

Australia: Check whether a change of licence is required for your country of origin. You may simply need to carry an English translation of your licence if applicable.

*Please note that the majority will take your old licence away as it is illegal to possess 2 at the same time, so it does depends on where you will be driving the most when considering the switch!

Apply for your tax number

You will need to provide this to your employer as soon as you start in order to identify you as employed and enable tax deductions on your paycheck – So apply as soon as you possibly can to avoid stress!

Canada: Social Insurance Number (SIN). Drop into your nearest Service Canada Office and apply in person. Bring your Passport and Visa and you’ll most likely walk out with it on the same visit.

Australia: Tax File Number (TFN). Click here to apply (Note: you have to already be in Australia to apply.)

Get a Health card

One of the worst things to happen when you’re budgeting and building a new life abroad is to get sick and have to pay a huge bill to see a Doctor and pick up a prescription… I put off signing up for a health-card in Australia and ended up with a throat infection that cost me nearly $200 in fees (that definitely hurt when I’m used to the UK NHS back home!)

Canada (ON): The Province of Ontario provides a Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) and it is available to those with certain work permits. I have a visa via International Experience Canada (IEC) and I found out I was eligible, so it is definitely worth checking if your visa makes you eligible too! The application form can be found here. Bring it completed to a Service Ontario Office, along with your Visa/Passport and a letter from your company confirming your employment, start date and current full Canadian address. You’ll receive your OHIP card in the mail a week or so later.

Australia: Medicare is the name of the Australian government body that covers public health. If you are a UK citizen (or a few other EU countries such as Finland, Norway, Belgium, Sweden…), you can apply for a Medicare card to cover in or out patient visits at public hospitals and money back from prescriptions. Register here.

Start saving with a travel card

As soon as you arrive in your new home, you want to be able to explore your new surroundings and save money when possible! That’s why it is super important to grab a travel card at your local station. These ‘tap on, tap off’ smart cards allow you to load money onto them and quickly board public transport hassle-free. Not only this, they often provide you with discounted fares if you use them for multiple journeys…

Canada (ON): Presto Card
Australia (VIC): MyKi  

Make sure your employer signs you up for a Superannuation account

(Australia only)

OK, so Superannuation or ‘Super’ for short is probably the best thing since sliced bread! It essentially is a Savings Account for us travellers temporarily working in Australia. The funds are paid into an account by your employer (they are legally required to pay 9% of all your wages into it…) and you can claim it all back once you’ve left the country. SO not only do you get your wages and a lot, if not all, of your tax back at the end of the year, but you also get your extra super money too when you go home  #winning! Comment below if you ever need help claiming tax/supers in Australia, it is SO easy and lots of companies try to scam you into paying them to do it for you.

And last but not least…

Buy suitable clothing!

Please don’t be like me and turn up in Canada (in January) with only your Australian summer wardrobe and nearly die of frostbite. Arrive armed with a knowledge of the local weather and pack your suitcase accordingly – You can throw yourself into making new friends and memories in your new home that much faster.

me in snow

What have you found to be the most challenging part of setting up a new life abroad? 

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  • Reply
    April 4, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    I moved from NYC to London a few years ago, and it was a tricky time! Great guide to getting settled! <3

    • Reply
      Kate -
      April 18, 2018 at 9:39 am

      Amazing! What made you make the move? London is my absolute favourite city (although I’m probably slightly biased…) Glad you found it helpful!

  • Reply
    Michelle Broadna
    April 4, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    It’s on my bucket list to live in London for six months or so and every now and again I pop by a couple of blogs to read how exactly people do it. This was so informative and I’ll definitely be reading it again if I decide to make the big move.

    Great post! x


    • Reply
      Kate -
      April 18, 2018 at 9:41 am

      I have one thing to say….. DO IT! London is magical and 6 months sounds like a great adventure that you will never regret. I hope you can look back on this when you take the plunge. Good luck xoxo

  • Reply
    April 4, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    I can barely keep it all straight moving from one house to the next (in the same town). I can’t imagine an international relocation, although I would certainly try if given the opportunity!!

    • Reply
      Kate -
      April 18, 2018 at 9:44 am

      Haha it is definitely an overwhelming prospect at first … but once you throw yourself into it you figure it all out 🙂 You should grab the opportunity if it comes your way!

  • Reply
    Nadalie Bardo
    April 4, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    Although I am a Canadian, I never really took into account how much planning you’d have to do and the changes you must make when living abroad.

    • Reply
      Kate -
      April 18, 2018 at 9:45 am

      Hi Nadalie – I didn’t even realise everything I’ve done until I sat down and actually wrote it all down! So many responsibilities you can easily miss.

  • Reply
    April 4, 2018 at 10:22 pm

    We’d love to work overseas but arghhh it sounds so overwhelming! Great to have a list in one place though 🙂

    • Reply
      Kate -
      April 18, 2018 at 9:47 am

      Hi Stephanie! Oh you should definitely do it, it will be the best decision you ever make. The list may seem overwhelming but you could honestly do everything on this list in a day and you’d be set to go!

  • Reply
    April 4, 2018 at 10:59 pm

    I guess it’s a good thing that I have not considered moving abroad because I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know until I read this post. WOW! This has been eye-opening. I’ve learned something new today.

    • Reply
      Kate -
      April 18, 2018 at 9:48 am

      Thanks Amber Lynn! So happy you enjoyed it. It was definitely eye-opening for me too when faced with this to-do list(!) but so worth it when you’re all set up and can enjoy life abroad.

  • Reply
    Joe A
    April 5, 2018 at 5:36 am

    What a super informative post! You mention so many points I know I wouldn’t have thought of. Great post!

  • Reply
    April 5, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    I’m thinking about moving so thank you for sharing this!

    • Reply
      Kate -
      April 18, 2018 at 9:51 am

      SO great to hear Sydni, you should do it. Let me know if you decide to go for it and I’d be happy to help with anything. Good luck xoxo

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