preparing for an international move

Preparing for an International Move: 4 Questions to Help You Get Started

Moving from one neighborhood to another is a stressful endeavor. Packing, getting a moving truck, enlisting help for moving day, changing utilities, updating the address on all your accounts—it’s enough to overshadow the reasons you decided to move in the first place, and the excitement it can bring. 

But here you are, preparing for an international move beyond your neighborhood, city and state, across borders and oceans to a new country entirely. 

While some level of stress is inevitable—especially when moving to an entirely new country—thinking through a few basic questions can help you begin to get your head around everything, and help limit your anxiety.

With that in mind, here are four high-level questions to consider when preparing for an international move.

1. What is the motivating factor behind your move?

Anyone that has worked with me before will know that before we start making any plans, I always start with the why. Clearly identifying your goals and priorities before embarking on a plan for a transition will give you a clear decision-making framework to use as you encounter decision points along the way. 

If you have multiple goals, it is a good idea to identify one or two that are most important. For example, you may be moving to be closer to family, to fully experience a different way of life, or for a new job. Knowing that your priority is to be closer to family will lead you to make different decisions than if your main goal is to experience a new way of life or for adventure.

Keeping this main objective in mind whenever you are faced with a decision will help you get the most of what you want from your move.  

Spend some time thinking deeply about your goals and priorities, discuss them with your partner to make sure you are on the same page, and write them down.

2. How long will you live abroad?

Is this a permanent move or a temporary move? To be clear, temporary doesn’t have to mean a few months or even a few years. If you are intending to return to your home country on a permanent basis at some point, the move is considered temporary. 

For instance, some Kiwi friends of mine have lived in Corvallis for the last 20 years. Their children grew up in Corvallis and consider the US to be their home. They maintained a home in New Zealand and would go back home to visit frequently, often spending long periods of time away. Now that their children have finished school and moved out of the house, they have decided to move back to NZ to retire. Although they lived in the US for almost two decades, they always knew that they would end up back in New Zealand.

Knowing how long you will be staying can help you determine the answers to some important questions, such as:

Should you buy or rent a home?

If it is a permanent move, buying might make the most sense. A temporary move of a year or two is almost definitely a situation where renting would be best. It’s those in-between stays that can be hard to determine what to do.

Look into the local real estate market to find out if it’s a good time to buy (things aren’t looking great at the moment). Enlist a financial advisor to help you weigh the pros and cons of buying vs. renting and how both options fit in with your larger financial plan.

Should you move/sell any assets you have in the US?

Assets can be anything from your house and car to stocks and bonds—anything of value to you. Often, people moving outside of the country find the idea of keeping their home in the US appealing for emotional reasons, but finding people you can trust to take care of your home while you’re away can be difficult. On the flipside, maintaining an address in the US can make it easier to keep ties in your home country.

How should you set up your finances?

If you plan to move permanently, you will likely need to move your financial “home” as well—opening up new bank accounts in your new home country, closing your old ones, moving retirement plans, etc. 

A temporary move may mean that you would still keep your financial “home” in your current country of residence and instead set up some “satellite” accounts to tide you over while you are abroad.

3. Do you plan to work abroad?

When preparing for an international move, the answer to this question will help you determine what type of visa you will need to get and also has important tax implications. If the answer is yes, you will need to flesh out a few details. 

Will you be earning your income from a company based in your new country or in your home country?

This is an increasingly common question as the rise of Zoom and other remote work capabilities have freed people from the need to go into a physical office. The source of your income will determine what tax forms you need to file and where.

If you’re moving to Australia and planning to work for an Australian company, then you’ll need a different kind of visa than if you’re planning to work for a US-based employer. 

The answers to these questions are useful for tax-planning reasons, as well, so knowing the plan ahead of time can help make sure you are compliant with relevant tax laws and minimize your tax burden.

4. Will you be moving with school-aged children? If so, will you be enrolling them in local schools?

There are so many factors at play in this question that we could write a whole blog post on this one alone (stay tuned!). 

If you are still in the early planning stages, the biggest impact this decision will have is on the timing of your move. 

The American school calendar is a bit of an odd duck in that we start in the fall and end in the spring. Many schools overseas—including Australia—follow the calendar year, beginning in January and ending in December. 

Consider timing your move with the beginning of the school year to help ease the transition for your school-aged children. 

If your children are nearing college age, then you might have a few different considerations. Where will they be attending school? How will your residency impact their potential acceptance and financial aid? 

These are just a few of the preliminary questions to consider when preparing for an international move. Despite the potential stress and unknowns of an international move, you are capable of rising to the occasion, no matter the obstacles!

Want to talk through the details of your move? I have helped individuals and families make the move from the US to Australia—and vice versa—and would love to see how I could help you! Click below for more information.

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