Top Tips For Becoming An Expat From Our Guest Expert

GoodMigrations Whale


If you’ve made the decision to become an expat, then chances are you’ve been thinking about it for a while. You’re aware that the process can be complicated, but as the millions of expats around the world will confirm, the rewards can greatly outweigh any risks. A happier life can await you in your new country of residence.

More people than ever before are becoming expats. There’s a lot to consider, but with careful planning, there’s no reason why you too can’t become an expatriate with the minimum amount of fuss…

Things to consider:

The Paperwork
First up, visas. Everywhere is different, so this will require a bit of research on your part. If you have a job waiting for you on arrival then speak to your employer early on about visa support. Some businesses will take care of everything for you, including the costs; but others will leave it up to you. Find out what and how much you need to pay, then budget! A good place to start might be with VisaHQ.
Visas and GoodMigrations
Depending on where you’re headed to, visas and work permits can be incredibly simple, or very complicated. There could be a lot of paperwork, and some countries require you to have a full medical examination (at a cost to you). This can be arranged through your local doctor.

Other factors include a potential Police Clearance Certificate. This can be applicable when traveling to the likes of Australia, Belgium, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the USA. The cost can vary, generally between £45-80 (€55-97).

It’s always worth making copies of your original documents too, as embassies have been known to be less than forthcoming when it comes to returning your documents.

Again, this really comes down to where you are going. Some countries provide free state healthcare; however, some do not.

Some companies provide private medical insurance as part of their employee benefit package options. If you are in any doubt, contact your employer and find out the exact details of any cover they will be providing. It is vitally important that you have comprehensive health insurance for you and your family.

We at Cigna have a wide range of levels of expat medical insurance cover available to protect you in your new homeland, and anywhere else you may be travelling*. Find out more about Cigna Global Health Options insurance (

Be sure to check the health advice recommendations (including vaccinations etc) for your new country of residence. A good starting point would be the CDC.

*certain geographical exclusions may apply depending on level of cover.

It goes without saying that air travel can be expensive, but it is of course a necessary expense if you are to become an expat. That said, there are some ways to reduce the cost of air travel. Booking a good while in advance generally results in discounts for long haul flights. Be sure to check out baggage allowances for the airlines you’re considering flying with, as some heavily restrict your weight limit, while others allow you to carry sports equipment for free. Travel insurance is also a must. As well as cost, make sure you’re happy with the whole package of your travel insurance, including things like cancellation cover and baggage cover.

Shipping or Storage?
Just like everyone else, you too will have accumulated much more in the way of possessions than you previously thought. So what do you take with you?

If you’re planning on renting at first in your new homeland, you could consider renting a fully furnished property and put your furniture into storage until you’re settled. You could then arrange to have your belongings shipped over at a more convenient time. This is one of the less glamorous aspects of becoming an expat, but it’s a necessary evil. It’s all about planning. If you know the accommodation you’re arriving to, then you know what you can afford to take with you. Let’s face it, it’s also a good excuse to have a good clear out, and start your expat adventure with a clean slate.

Given the logistical complexities with moving overseas, it can be easy to lose track of your finances. Adhering to a strict budget is crucial. Try to plan ahead as much as possible, including the little things as much as the big expenses. Be sure to factor in things like: hotels if your new abode isn’t ready yet, local transport prices or the cost of a vehicle, local utility costs, legal documentation costs on arrival, and import tax where applicable on any goods you may be taking with you.

Don’t be afraid to delve into the minutia of financial outlays, everything adds up, and you could be surprised by the cost of some things.

budget your move abroad

Becoming an expat takes planning and research. By following the handy steps above, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a fully-fledged expat.

But wait, there’s more…

Things you won’t have thought of…
Becoming an expat isn’t just about ticking all the boxes we’ve laid out above. There are aspects that involve being prepared for a mental, emotional and behavioural shift in your lifestyle now that you’ll be living in another country. For instance, people’s attitudes. People will behave differently from what you’re used to. Attitudes are cultural, so it’s not a case of right and wrong. The conventional ‘have-a-nice day’ attitude popular in places like the USA, may not be replicated in your new home country, so be prepared for something a little different if the situation calls for it. One of the biggest struggles for new expats is the adjustment to more alone time. Whether you’re leaving a large group of friends behind, or moving to accompany a partner’s new job, you may find yourself with more free-time and more alone time than you’re necessarily used to.

There’s no quick fix for this; it comes as part and parcel of making the big move and it will take a bit of getting used to. Over time, through various social opportunities like expat communities/support groups, and through daily life, the level of alone time will decrease.

Some of the most positive expat experiences can come by simply immersing yourself in the new culture. Much like any other big life event, it can be stressful, so a sense of humour is of paramount importance. Be willing to laugh at the situation, and indeed yourself when you get things wrong. Becoming an expat is very much a marathon, not a sprint. The struggles that you face initially will diminish over time. It’ll be an exciting time, so take it all as it comes, don’t expect miracles overnight, and enjoy starting a new chapter in a country overseas.

Guest Post Written By:
Jonathan Connelly – Communications Manager at Cigna Global
Cigna Global

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