What to do Before Moving Abroad: Top Tips for New Expats

Jacquelyn Vadnais
Last Edited Feb 28, 2023

Moving to a new country can be one of the most exciting and exhilarating undertakings one can take, but it can get rather tricky if you’re not well prepared. Determining your career prospects, figuring out housing, understanding health care, and other expenses you may have to face can be overwhelming.

Whether you’re relocating from the UK alone or with your family, for your education, personal growth, or to further your career, it is a major decision that should not be taken lightly. In this article, we will explore the major factors you must take into consideration to make your journey seamless, convenient, and comfortable.

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Top Tips for Moving Abroad from UK

Understand Visa Requirements

Once you have decided which country you will move to, the next step is figuring out the visa requirements. Aside from knowing if a visa is required, you also have to decide what type of visa is most applicable to your circumstances.

Short Rundown for USA

Even if you are coming from the UK, getting an immigration visa for the US is not an easy process.

If you have an employment offer from a US-based company, you can apply for a sponsored employment visa or work visa. This type of visa is also highly feasible if you have skills that are in high demand in the US. You may opt for a family visa if you have family in the US who can sponsor you.

The visa processing time for UK citizens varies depending on the visa that you are applying for, but the standard processing time is up to 61 months, as per the January 2023 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing forecasts.

Short Rundown for Canada

There are no visa requirements for British citizens visiting Canada. You just need to secure an Electronic Travel Authorization before your visit. This is an electronic authorization form equivalent to a visa but without the need to stamp or label your physical passport.

If you want to relocate to Canada, however, the process is different. Canada offers different kinds of visas, so you need to apply for the right type to increase the chances of your visa getting approved.

Canada has an Express Entry visa intended for skilled workers. Once you submit your application, the Canadian government will look into your education, experience, and skills and assess how you can contribute positively to the country. You don’t even need an existing Canadian job offer to apply for this visa.

For Express Entry, you will need your passport, an updated CV, professional qualifications and certificates, language test results, police certificates, proof of funds, medical results, and job offer/s if you have any. An Express Entry visa costs CAD 2,300 (~$1,723.38), and the process typically takes six months to complete.

Short Rundown for Australia

Australia’s Migration Program offers a convenient path for securing a visa and eventually permanent residence. It integrates family and economic factors to grant you a visa. This program includes family, skill, and special eligibility visas, with the skilled independent visa being the pathway for many Australian immigrants.

The family visa, as the name suggests, is granted to immediate family members of permanent residents and citizens of Australia and of eligible citizens of New Zealand. The goal is to unite partners, parents, and children with their families in Australia.

The skill visa is intended for skilled workers with qualifications, skills, and entrepreneurship that can positively help the Australian economy. It costs AUD$ 4,045 (~$2,826.99), and it can take up to a minimum of nine months to complete the process.

Search for Housing

Finding a new home in a new country is never easy. But this is one decision that has to be taken weeks before your arrival. Staying with family and friends is an option, but having a place to call your own speaks volumes of your capability of sustaining yourself in a new country.

If you don’t have family or friends in the country, you can contact property owners and building superintendents online and arrange virtual tours of prospective homes.

Remember that searching for housing entails more than just the actual property. You also have to look into the neighborhood’s safety and if the location is close to your future workplace or near the city business district.

Make sure you also check housing guidelines mandated by the country you are moving to and comply accordingly.

In Canada, for instance, you need to provide a residential address where you’ll be staying, regardless of whether you are visiting or permanently staying in the country. And this information is required before you can enter Canada. If you have arranged to move to a rental property, you need to present a copy of your signed lease, including the address, and if you have already purchased a property in Canada, then the purchase and mortgage statement that includes the address of your new home needs to be provided.

Apply for Healthcare or Insurance

Getting health insurance should be one of your major priorities when moving abroad. If you are relocating to another country due to work or new employment, check if the company offers healthcare as part of your benefits.

Many immigrants also opt for private insurance companies while waiting to be eligible for healthcare available to the country’s permanent residents and citizens.

Prepare Yourself Financially Before the Move

Relocating is expensive! So, plan ahead and expect a lot of surprise and emergency costs.

There’ll always be something new that needs you to shell out money. So, before the move, you should have designated money for at least four months’ rent and 3 months’ rent worth of monthly utility payments.

A good rule of thumb is to have a minimum of $5,500 under your name and then have a separate emergency fund that you can dip into when your financial situation is desperate.

Here are a few practical ways in which you can be financially prepared:

  • Research the cost of living in your destination country and create a monthly budget based on prices you find online as a guide.
  • Think about what kind of lifestyle you want to lead and understand that you may or may not be able to sustain your current UK lifestyle in your new country.
  • Earn from things you’re leaving behind in the UK. Welcome any sources of funds from selling your old items on online marketplaces, and you can onboard family members to continue the sales even if you have left the UK.
  • Be practical and save the tourist destinations for later. This new country is your new home, so there’s no rush to join tours or go on expensive trips.
  • You don’t have to splurge on new furniture and appliances for your new home. Know your local community and explore thrift shops and garage sales.

Do You Have Pets? Make Arrangements For Them

Moving to a new home should be a seamless experience for your pets, too. Thankfully, for common household pets, such as a dog or a cat (or both), most countries only have basic health requirements.

If you’re moving from the UK to Canada, you will need to ensure your pet is microchipped, has an up-to-date health certificate, and is vaccinated against rabies within five days of your travel date.

Canada doesn’t require dogs and cats from the UK to undergo quarantine, but other pets like birds, fish, horses, rabbits, and other exotic pets would have different requirements. Make sure you go through the Canadian rules for importing your pet to the country and prepare all the necessary documents.

But different countries have different guidelines in place for pets. So, do your research about your destination country and ensure your pet’s documents are updated.

If your pet can’t travel with you, make the necessary arrangements for someone you trust to care for them while you process their travel. The safety and well-being of your pet should always be your top priority.

Cost of Living Comparison

Researching as much information about your target country and the current cost of living and demands there can help you be more prepared.

There are various websites today like Numbeo and cost of living calculators that you can refer to for the cost of living and the average prices of commodities and utilities of different countries. It can help you prepare a monthly budget and keep your finances in check.

Research the Culture

Before you make the big move, it’s crucial that you be proactive regarding learning about the people, culture, and widespread practices of the country where you’ll be relocating.

Learn the country’s basic do’s and don’ts, and if English is not the primary language there, learn essential words and phrases to get you by. Knowing the cultural practices and differences will also ensure you don’t make a faux pas and offend someone.

Take a look at some cultural practices in different countries that may surprise you:

  • In China, avoid giving white flowers to anyone, because it is associated with death and grief. You should also not give taboo items like a clock, umbrella, handkerchief, and things that come in a set of four.
  • In Turkey, going dutch or splitting the bill for a meal is considered impolite. So, the best way to reciprocate is to invite the other party to another meal.
  • In Australia, riding in the backseat of a taxi is considered snobbish if there are no other passengers. So, if you’re traveling alone, remember to ride shotgun!
  • In Mexico, getting your head shoved into a cake during your birthday is customary.
  • In Malaysia, pointing with your index finger is offensive, so they use their thumb to point at things.
  • In Japan, making slurping sounds while eating signifies that you are enjoying the meal.

Build / Have A Strong Network

thenetworkMoving to another country can be overwhelming and at many times lonely too. In this era of social networking building where Facebook and Twitter have connected event the most remote places to the world, use it to your advantage and develop a social network in the city you’re moving to, even before you start living there. Admittedly people can be different in person and they may not be the kind of people you would usually hang out with, but as they are the locals, they will your portal for interaction with other people and may even help you build useful contacts.

Have A Backup Plan

backupbuttonDon’t want to be the glass half empty kind of person, but this is among the Expat tips that need to be emphasized on in the beginning. Moving to a new place can be uncomfortable for people at the beginning, but for some, that feeling may never go. If you can’t live in the place anymore and want to move back to the UK, you must have a backup plan to reassess your assets and see what you could do to land on your feet when you get back home. Have a place back home where you could go back to and save some money, at least enough for a ticket home where you have the people you have lived with most of your lives to support you.

Make Efforts To Blend In

blacksheepinherdMoving from the UK into a country where the traditions are different and so is the language, life can be confusing at times and social activities may take a plunge. Invest your time into learning the language of the country before you move there and study about the culture to familiarize yourself with the people of the particular nation. Go out of your way to talk to people and make new friends and socialize with the people at your workplace, it will make the workplace a lively space to work in and help you connect with your colleagues on a personal level.

Keep Your Eating Habits In Check

Britons have a certain taste for foods and some of the things we eat may not go well with people of other countries. In the same way, the food that the locals eat may not be best suited according to your food and dietary habits. Keeping your health in check is one of the most important things you should do. Familiarize yourself with the nearby grocery stores and learn to cook for yourself, or find a home kitchen so that you can have a healthy home-cooked meal and avoid the unhealthy takeouts.

Save More Than You Need

If you have moved to the new country for your existing job or have found a good-paying job there, the chances are that your expenditure would be much less than it was in the UK. Use this to your advantage and be smart about where you spend, saving more money than you need to will come in handy to make strong future investments or even in the case of fallout. Maintaining a bank account in the foreign country is a good practice as it will help you make regular payments of the phone bills and electricity bills directly.

Connect With Other Britons

brit2It may seem downright weird to move to a foreign land and still hang out with the people from the UK, but this among the lifesaver Expat tips that are out there. Other people from the UK who have been living in the same city know everything about the region that you don’t. Things that may be troublesome for you to figure out, like the train route to downtown or where the nearest Laundromat is; they may be well familiarized with them. It will ease your transition into the foreign country to have a fellow Briton and there are many social websites that help you build connections with UK expats in different countries all around the world.

Make A Review Trip

relax and take notesWhether you’re moving to a new country for work or threw a dart and it landed there, you need to make a review trip before you finally move. Just like you would test drive a car before buying to know it feels, the same way you need to have an insight of what it is going to be like living in a different lifestyle and culture. This trip might be somewhat different than when you actually start living there, but you will know what you need to know before taking this huge step forward.

Final Conclusions on Moving Abroad & Doing So Right

Moving abroad, although a brave and well-planned decision it may be, is a life-changing opportunity to see the world from a different perception. All the hard work you put into planning and executing your relocation from the UK to a foreign country will pay off as you begin to enjoy it and realize how fruitful it has been. Keep these Expat tips in mind as you plan your future to ensure a smooth and adventurous life outside the UK.


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