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Five questions to ask before working abroad

When taking those first steps towards building a career overseas, where do you start?

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Topic: Investing

Enhanced prospects. Better pay. New experiences. A bit more sunshine. As a young professional, it’s difficult to ignore the benefits of living and working overseas.

Whatever the reason, heading abroad and leaving home comforts behind is a move that requires some pretty serious planning. So, let’s take a look at some of the questions you might have:

Is there a good time to be making the move?

Ultimately, it’s down to your personal choice and situation. But if you’re looking for a sign, ask yourself if you’ve come to a natural crossroads in your career.

This could be when you’re newly qualified or if you’re looking to pursue or change specialism. That so-called ‘sweet spot’ – typically 3-5 years in – can be ideal for moving because you can work autonomously without incurring expensive training costs.

Doctors, for example, tend to have a gap between foundation studies and deciding on their specialism. Going abroad allows for that crucial breathing space needed before making an important career choice.

Whenever you decide to go, checking specific visa requirements is crucial. Many countries offer working visas to those up to the age of 30 (35 in Canada), if you don’t have a firm job offer.

How do I plan financially for moving abroad?

You will generally need about six months of living expenses, so the earlier you start planning the better.

Find out how much it costs to actually live in a country, including moving and visa expenses, rent, bills, taxation and health care – the move from national healthcare to private insurance can hit the wallet pretty hard!

Think about all of your long-term financial requirements and look at how living in another country could affect your benefits, retirement and how you are taxed. Your new home might have a double taxation agreement so you automatically avoid paying tax both locally and to HMRC, but always make sure to let the government know your plans well in advance.

One thing that is always easy to forget when heading overseas is the effect currency fluctuations could have on your money. The pound has suffered since the EU Referendum but if it were to strengthen then transferring money back to the UK could become more expensive.

Where can I get help and further advice about moving overseas?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is a really good starting point and if you need help with visa applications and professional registration, you could use an agency. For more specific advice, try industry organizations, like The Law Society, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and the General Medical Council.

Don’t forget the wealth of information from friends, family and colleagues. They can give the kind of advice you won’t find in a travel guide! From that hidden Michelin-rated ramen stall in Tokyo, to nabbing cut-price theatre tickets in Budapest and having a free tour from your mum’s old travel buddy in Melbourne, you will be in a better position when you arrive.

Are there specific qualifications or experience required before moving abroad?

This depends on the level and type of post that you apply for. Certification from a UK institute is generally held in high regard, although this will vary by company, so check first.

Doctors working overseas will need a Certificate of Current Professional Status from the General Medical Council. Lawyers must have relevant qualifications and familiarity with the law practiced in a specific jurisdiction. For accountants, the ACA qualification is recognised around the world, and the ICAEW has global membership agreements so its members can join local institutes without further exams.

If you’re struggling to find work, remember that overseas employers will be looking for transferable skills – opening you up to a whole new career path. Browse government visa websites for information on skilled migration programs and what’s valuable to a particular location.

What should I consider about coming back to work here, before I move overseas?

Naturally you’ll be focusing on the exciting times ahead in a new country but, unless you’re planning to meet that special someone and migrate for good…. you’ll need to think about your return home.

Keep up to date with your industry’s CPD requirements and ensure that overseas training is accredited. Maintain your professional network while you’re away to keep abreast of your sector’s news and trends. For doctors, the BMJ provides useful guidance for returnees.

Financially, don’t forget to keep your finances in good health. Being away may be defined as a gap in employment, poorly affecting your pension. You may also want to keep a place to live or set aside a ‘returning’ fund, if you do decide to come back.

So, if it sounds like moving abroad is for you, remember to be curious, plan well and always expect the unexpected!

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