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Moving abroad is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Before you book your ticket, ask yourself these tough questions.
1. Where am I going to live?
Finding an apartment to rent can take weeks – months, even – so you might have to spend time in hotels or on friends’ floors. Realtors in the U.S. will insist on running a credit check and be warned, your U.K. rating is meaningless here. There are sneaky ways to get around this (like offering to pay a huge deposit), but know that it’s unlikely to be a smooth transition from the immigration line to your dream U.S. pad.
2. Can I hack it without my friends and family?
If your social life is largely impromptu pub gatherings with your mates and Sunday roasts round your mum’s house, think about how you’ll cope when these get-togethers are no longer an option. Of course, you will meet new people in the U.S,. but for a while you might have to make do with your U.K. friends drunkenly Skyping you from bars.
3. Is my paperwork in order?
Form filling is a massive snooze, but buckle down because you’re not getting in without a visa. If you missed your slot at the American embassy, call immediately and get another one. Traveling to the U.S. as a tourist and swapping over to a more permanent visa once you’re in the country is a big no-no.
4. Can I afford to emigrate?
Whether it’s hotel bills while you search for an apartment or extortionate realtors’ fees once you find a place, make sure you have sufficient funds to pay expenses. If you’re moving for work, negotiate a relocation fund from your employer, or an interest-free loan you can pay back slowly.
5. Have I tied up my loose ends?
Be sure that you’re not fleeing the country without paying your bills, or informing your bank that you’re moving abroad. If you can persuade a friend or family member to let you forward your mail to their UK address, this will make it easier to keep across your UK commitments. Click here for more ways to tie up loose ends.
6. Am I leaving for the right reasons?
I’m sure you think you’re emigrating to find a better life. But are you being realistic? Work out what money you’ll have for fun after your monthly outgoings. Then, imagine what you’ll do with your free time and money, and how you’ll get about. If you don’t have a driving license and money for a car, for instance, then relocating to a sprawling city like L.A. might not be for you.
7. What am I going to do with my stuff?
No doubt you’ll want to up sticks with more than your in-flight baggage allowance, so audit your things and make arrangements. Some stuff you’ll want to ship; the rest you’ll store, sell or donate. Be strict – you’ll save a fortune in haulage fees.
8. Will I have immediate healthcare coverage?
Ask your new employer when your healthcare plan kicks in. It won’t necessarily be when your job starts so you’ll need to buy a policy to cover the gap. If you’re a student or dependent, check what deals are available to you.
9. How often will I make the trip home?
If you’re planning on heading back to the U.K. regularly, you need to be realistic about how much this will cost. Three return flights at peak times like Christmas could set you back as much as $2500. Plus, U.S. employers are stingy with holiday allowance – 10 days a year is normal.
10. Who will I hang out with?
Perhaps you have a couple of friends over here already. That’s nice, but it’s not enough. So be prepared to cozy up to colleagues, join groups and volunteer. Embrace your new role as that annoying person who wants to be buddies with everyone.
Seasoned expats: what words of wisdom do you have for newbies?
See more posts by Ruth Margolis
Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.