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 now…
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 very 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.
- 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 HMRC… 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 has always been relatively easy for me 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.
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 for being under-age because my UK driving licence prints the date the opposite way to the States (Nightmare!)
Canada (ON): I went to a Service Ontario Office and handed over my UK driving licence. I needed to do a quick eye test, got my photo taken, paid $90.00 and was given a shiny new Ontario license. Done!
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. I wasn’t planning on driving a lot down-under and the UK licence is accepted there so I didn’t bother changing it.
*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 possible 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 in 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 your 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 also most often provide you with multiple discounted fares…
Canada (ON): Presto Card
Australia (VIC): MyKi
Make sure your employer signs you up for a Superannuation account
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 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 die of frostbite. Arrive with the 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.
What have you found to be the most challenging part of setting up a new life abroad!?