Thursday, 26 July 2012

Relocating - tips for moving to the USA (and elsewhere)

A note from Diana and Lisa: One of our readers submitted the blog, below, to share with all of our readers. It is a good reminder of some of the details involved in an International move. While the article focuses on moving to the USA, many points outlined are relevant to moving internationally....

 So You Want to Emigrate to the USA….

Emigrating to the United States carries a unique set of challenges, and it goes without saying that this is a major upheaval that requires a degree of certainty when making your decision. There are many factors to this move that should be taken into account and here is a ten-point guide to some of the challenges that you face.

1.      Obtaining a Visa
This is the logical first step once you have made your decision, but the process is predictably lengthy. If you decide that this is the right move for you and your family, then you will need to apply several months in advance. Therefore, it is vital that you have at least six months to run on each of your passports.
Each of the applications is considered on an individual basis, so you must be prepared to plan ahead before booking those flights.

2.     The Green Card
Many people mistake a US Visa for the famous ‘green card’. In fact, the visa itself starts you on the long road to US Citizenship, the process for which takes five years. After that qualifying period, the Green Card is subsequently issued. Therefore, it’s also important not to assume that the process of becoming a permanent US resident is a rapid one.

3.   Choosing your Location
America is such a vast country that you have so many towns and cities to choose from when it comes to setting up base. If you’re moving for work reasons, then your choice may be already decided to some extent, but you should always plan this aspect carefully. Identify some locations and look on their own websites to get a feel for the place. Suffice to say that New York City is very different to a small village in rural Wyoming.

4.       Family Upheaval
This is perhaps the one aspect that you have to consider more than all others. If you have a family, then you must be open to their needs and listen to their thoughts and views.If you have your own heart set on a move to the USA, then it can be easy at times to close your mind to other opinions and hear what you want to hear. Look for any signals of uncertainty before you make that decision, and remember - you can always come back, but it will have been an expensive process if you later change your mind.

5.       Removals
There are many specialist haulage companies available with years of experience in moving entire households across the Atlantic. Take your time to choose, get quotes, and look for reviews and recommendations on the 'net. This could be a perfect opportunity to de-clutter, too, and to dispose of any bulky items of furniture that you don’t need. Alternatively, if beds, sofas and other heavy items can be easily replaced in the US, then this will make for a cheaper and easier removal. Remember that if you have pets, you will be able to take them subject to the required vaccinations and a quarantine period.

6.       Finding a house
House prices vary greatly in the USA, but many UK expatriates claim that they were shocked at the increase in figures to those they were used to back home. As a result, many choose to rent their property, but this isn’t as short term a fix as it may seem.The rental market in America is huge and it is geared up to allow lifetime arrangements if they are required. As always, the advice is to do as much research as possible before you travel.

7.       Finding Work
It’s true to say that if you don’t have a job lined up in the US then you are unlikely to be granted a Visa. Therefore, the work position has to be finalised first and you cannot just come here as a job seeker.
Occasionally, you may get sent here by your company or, alternatively, you may be offered a job by a firm who then sponsors your visa application. However, many migrants are business owners looking to relocate and that is acceptable, but remember to get work in place before travelling.

8.       Insurance and Medical
As far as health insurance is concerned, that should only be arranged via a US based company. Your existing pensions may not be transferable, so you should check with your provider as to whether you can still make contributions once you leave the UK. Additionally, remember to arrange any travel insurance for your eventual departure.

9.       Driving
Apart from the obvious advice to remember to drive on the right, you should pay particular attention to your license. If you have an International Driving License then you can drive in the US, but you will have to renew this every year. Alternatively, if you pass a regulation US driving test, then there is no need for the annual renewal.

10.   Changes in Lifestyle
When you move to any new country, you will be experiencing new cultures and new personalities that are alien to you. Some migrants find it hard to adapt and never really get used to their changed surroundings.
If you can, it is a good idea to take plenty of trips to the US and immerse yourself in the country before you make it your permanent home. This should help you decide whether this type of move is right for you and your family.

Author bio:
This post was written by Simon Markland the MD of shipping and excess baggage specialists VOOVit. VOOVit are a low cost shipping and storage service who ship to Australia, South Africa, USA and worldwide. Visit them at

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Where do Expats spend their summers????

"Where are you spending the summer?" is a common question and point of discussion amongst Expats, worldwide. Summer vacation, a long holiday for the kids from school, is often a time when Expats return to their home countries to catch up with friends, families and their own home culture. It is often a time of indulging and enjoying all the things they miss from ‘home’. Where, then, does the Expat family who has no real home base go for the summer holidays?
In our family, we do not have a ‘home base’. Our kids have two passports but have never lived in either of their passport countries. 'Home’ for them is wherever we are as a family. Therefore, our family has adventure vacations every summer. We focus on doing something interesting, new, exciting and adventurous.

This summer we are rediscovering a country we lived in from 1996-1999 - Egypt. Our youngest child started his life in Cairo, a place that remains to be very special to our family. We decided to spend three weeks of this summer holiday in ‘El Gouna’, a resort/village on the Red Sea, 22km north of Hurghada and about 400km south of Cairo.Being in El Gouna means rediscoving the Red Sea, which is a true wonder of nature. We have spent our long, lazy, summer days kitesurfing, diving, snorkeling, paddle boarding and swimming. The Red Sea is so abundantly full of the most colorful, exotic fish that do not shy away from curious  observers. The masses of coral never cease to amaze us with the incredible colours, shapes and formations. I, personally, think the Red Sea remains somewhat unknown to most of the outside world. It is so rich in marine life - we saw a group of about 50 young dolphins on our first day out on the boat, and it is so warm, so incredibly crystal clear and so diverse in what it has to offer.

Our evenings are spent in outdoor cafes, on terraces where the locals indulge in shisha and chai, while we linger nearby, enjoying the sweet aroma of the apple tobacco bubbling away in the gurgling water pipes. We really appreciate the local food, especially the hot and cold mezze; hummous, tabouleh, yougurt and mint, baba ganoush, kofta, kebab, felafel…there is nothing nicer then indulging in a long, lazy outdoor meal, enjoying long forgotton flavours, smells and textures of middle eastern specialities. 

Egypt is not our ‘home’, but it once was, and we still feel a closeness to the country, the culture, and the incredible history. It is wonderful to be back with our kids, who are much older, and appreciate rediscovering this special place.
Summer holidays for Expats can be just as diverse as the nomadic lives we lead.