Moving abroad is a big decision, so big, in fact, that it’s easy for expats to feel overwhelmed during the process. While life as an expat can be exciting, you have to ensure that you don’t leave any legal loose ends that could dampen your spirits or lead to unsavoury surprises.
Legal Things To Consider When You Move Abroad
Whether you want to become a permanent or non-permanent resident of another country, both processes require a lot of time, money, and planning due to the added layer of immigration.
1. Legal Documents
The first step in any international move is researching the documents you’ll need to immigrate successfully. You can consult an immigration professional who can help you understand document deadlines, immunisation requirements, immigration laws, and import laws. Make sure to set aside these essential documents:
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Adoption papers
- Child custody papers
- Divorce papers
- Drivers licence
- Immunisation record
- Social Security cards
- Medical and dental records
- No-claims bonus record
- Insurance policies
- School/university records
- Financial records
If you’re moving your pets overseas, you need to verify your new country’s requirements for this process. Some countries, like Australia, restrict imports of certain pets. An up-to-date immunisation record, health certificate, and a sturdy pet carrier are required in all cases.
2. US Tax Law
The United States is one of two countries that taxes its citizens no matter where they live. Some Americans may have to pay income tax twice (or thrice for Canadian goods) in some cases. The only way to avoid double taxation is by renouncing your US citizenship. Keep in mind that Americans won’t simply “lose” their citizenship when moving abroad, but the possible loss of US citizenship can occur if it was wrongfully gained. However, if you’ve lived in the US most of your life and aren’t involved in terrorist activities, you’ll be fine.
If you plan to work abroad, make sure you legally can. You may need a work permit, residency visa, or possibly refugee citizenship to work in another country. Some countries offer schemes that allow you to stay in a country for 1-2 years, but they’re typically exclusive to young people. If you’re moving to another country with your spouse, research whether your destination country allows you to reside independently from your partner or spouse. Some people may have to leave the country if their spouse has control over their immigration status.
4. Marriage Equality
Marriage equality is only legal in 31 countries. If you land in a country that doesn’t consider your union valid or even illegal, that could put you and your spouse in serious legal trouble. It’s important to consider if your marriage rights are upheld in the country you’re moving to. Divorce is legal in most countries, but the majority of nations favour men when it comes to divorce proceedings. Gender bias is quite common in the court system, one way or another. Check that your rights are protected in the event of a divorce or separation.
5. Bank Accounts And Credit
Opening a bank account in a foreign country is quite difficult for a non-national or temporary resident. In some cases opening up a local bank account is impossible. However, you must have a way to deposit and withdraw physical notes in case of an emergency. If you can’t open a bank account for a period, you can still withdraw money from a foreign bank account, but you’ll have to pay a fee. Getting a loan or foreign credit card can also be a challenge, but that’s easy to solve through other high-interest loaning institutions.