How many people do you know who talk about emigrating? Chances are, most of them have yet to do it, and it’s often because of the huge costs involved. It is crucial to get a detailed idea of these costs in order to avoid disappointment and/or hardship down the line.
The costs can basically be divided into “getting there” and “arrival” costs:
Establish first of all, whether you’re actually eligible to relocate to your chosen spot. Some countries like Australia and the UK , have a point system which includes your salary or earning potential; others like the USA look at your ability to support yourself and/or the family you are planning to bring with you.Visa type – all visas cost money, but some are more expensive than others. Establishing your eligibility should go hand in hand with figuring out what type of visa you’ll need (if applicable). If you have a complicated visa application, you may also need to hire an agent or a lawyer, which is never cheap.
Additional application costs, such as visa interviews (and travel to and from), background checks and medical exams must also be factored into the overall cost to emigrate. Requirements are different around the world, but none of them are free.
Visiting expenses – many people visit a place before emigrating, which can rack up the costs. Include flights, accommodation, vehicle rental or transportation costs, and temporary visas if applicable.
Shipping your goods – this will be one of your largest expenses, unless you’re planning to literally start afresh. In most cases, sending a container of goods abroad will run into the thousands, with the price increasing the farther you travel. Don’t forget to include the costs of shipping or flying animals.
Property costs – you may have a property to sell, which entails a fee to your realtor or agent. What if the property doesn’t sell by your moving date? How many months’ mortgage can you afford to carry? Do you already own property in your new country? If not, you’ll need rent money too.
As mentioned, you will probably need accommodation until something more permanent comes up. In some cases, you will be paying a mortgage on your house “back home” and paying to rent until it sells and frees up your cash. That can become very expensive.
Although you’ll have shipped your belongings, you may have to replace large and small appliances. This can run into thousands, depending on your needs.
Cars – many people sell their cars before emigrating, which obviously adds to the shopping list once they arrive.
Bills – yes, we have to pay bills no matter where we live, but do your homework on the cost of living in your “new” home. For example, there is not much of a safety net for immigrants to the USA , so you basically need enough money (or a means to earn it) to see you to your grave. Although clothes may have seemed a lot cheaper on your last vacation in Florida , actually living here may not be as cheap. You’ll also have to pay for your healthcare as a resident, which runs into the hundreds, often thousands, for most people each year.
Also look at the taxes you’ll pay in each country. In the States, you’ll pay state (which differs from state to state) and federal tax, property tax, plus a sales tax in most states. In the UK , you’ll pay the same type of taxes, plus a whopping 20% sales tax (VAT). If you’re a temporary resident, there will most likely be a complicated arrangement of tax payments to multiple countries. If your employer isn’t handling this, you’ll probably be hiring someone to handle it for you, which is another expense.
Utilities – bills such as gas, electric, and phone can also make a huge dent in your budget so try to get an idea of how they compare to what you have been paying. Some countries typically bill by the quarter and some monthly, so make sure you are comparing apples to apples.
Flights home – many people find themselves unable to fly home as often as they’d like, because of budget constraints. If this will be important to you, factor in flights home in your annual expenses.
Repatriation – What if you decide to return “home”? Will you be able to afford this? I know more than one family having to save for years to return to the UK . While most emigrants assume they are leaving for the good life, it’s not uncommon for people to return to their country of origin so it’s something to think about.
Even if you’re lucky enough to have most of your expenses covered by your employer, you can still encounter unexpected costs. Official government web sites will give you details of visa and other beaurocratic expenses, and web sites such as Expat Focus will help in establishing other costs.
Toni Summers Hargis is the author of "Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom", (St. Martin’s Press) and blogs as Expat Mum.