Minimise the stress of your overseas relocation by using the following tips about:
Take all the required paperwork with you when starting a job overseas. It can be very time consuming to organise for important documents to be mailed to you, once you've left Australia.
Take the following documentation with you:
- birth certificate
- financial statements
- driver's licence(s)
- insurance papers
- marriage certificate (if applicable)
- any documents related to a name change.
In some cases it may be best to take a properly authorised photocopy of the document rather than the original, to safeguard against loss or theft.
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Terms of employment
Check the employment laws in the country where you will be working to see how they differ from Australia's and how they might affect you and your contract. For example, how is redundancy, dismissal or your probationary period dealt with in the laws of your host country?
For further information, visit your local professional body or trade union, which is likely to have listings of relevant organisations overseas.
You may need to visit the list of trade unions [opens in new window] around the globe.
Some employers will pay your resettlement expenses and subsidise accommodation, company cars, club memberships and school fees. Your contract should clearly state what your employer will cover and what you are expected to pay for yourself.
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You may be presented with a contract prepared in a language in which you are not fluent, or with two contracts, one in English and one in a foreign language. Ensure that all versions of your contract are checked by a professional before signing.
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Whether you are going to work overseas to further your career or to supplement your travel plans, you will still need to keep a close watch on your finances.
Remaining financially solvent will be a challenging task. In many cases you will need to spend thousands of dollars travelling to, and establishing yourself in, your new home before you receive your first pay cheque.
Depending on where you are based, you may be paid only monthly or even quarterly, so you will be required to manage your finances differently to ensure that your money lasts.
Understand the value of your salary in local terms. What are your destination's rental, utilities and transport costs, and how well will your salary cover them? Will you be paid in local currency, the Australian dollar or another currency (such as US dollars)?
You should also be clear about how much you will be paid. The figure quoted by your employer may sound impressive by Australian standards, but may be significantly lower than the average salary paid to an equivalent employee in the host country.
Keep an eye on the fluctuations of the international monetary markets. A sharp rise or fall in the local currency could have a devastating effect on your savings. The Australia Travel Search [opens in new window] website calculates the current exchange rate for most currencies.
Advise the Australian Taxation Office of the date of your departure from Australia and the period you plan to remain overseas. Any interest earned in an Australian bank account while you are residing overseas is liable to be charged a higher rate of taxation. Seek professional advice about the tax situation in the country you will be based in, and keep careful records of your expenditure.
Some Australians have faced large tax bills at the end of their overseas work contract because tax deducted from their salary was not forwarded to the relevant tax office. You may need to ask for regular updates of tax deposits during your overseas work to avoid this problem.
The Australian Taxation Office website [opens in new window] introduces you to the tax issues you will need to know about when you decide to leave Australia to work overseas.
Try to open the bank account you intend to use overseas before you leave Australia. This way you can avoid any language problems, missing documents or difficulties involved in obtaining identification required to open the account, and you don't have to deal with a different service culture.
Check whether your ATM or credit cards are due to expire during the time you will be absent. If so, contact your financial institution to organise for the replacement card to be sent to you overseas.
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The impact of relocating
The decision to work overseas should not be taken lightly. Before making it, you need to address some significant personal issues: the impact such a change will have on your family, your health and security, and the effect this decision may have on your long-term career.
What effect will working overseas have on your family? Uprooting your family from its familiar surroundings and routines for a long period will have a significant effect on them. Your partner will have to consider their employment future and any necessary child care will have to be taken into account. Also, the whole family will have to deal with being parted from friends, relatives and pets.
Possible issues include:
- Will your partner be able to get employment? If not, will they be happy not to participate in paid work?
- Will your children have access to the same quality of education they have in Australia?
- How will your children adjust to a different country and culture?
- Will the level and cost of health care be equivalent to Australia's?
- Are you prepared to deal with a significant event, good or bad, occurring for your friends and relatives while you are overseas?
- Do you have any pets that need to be cared for while you are overseas?
Some companies have measures in place to help employees and their families during the moving and settling period. Check with your potential employer about the services they offer to employees in your situation. These may include:
- additional leave
- partner and (where appropriate) child career counselling programs
- cultural training programs for the entire family
- organising for your children to meet with other children who have lived overseas to get a first hand report on what to expect
- a pre-placement visit to your host nation, possibly with your partner and children, to gain a sense of the local culture and so be better prepared once you make the move.
Moving yourself and your family overseas also has its positive aspects. Sharing the challenges of relocating has brought many families closer together.
The effect on your career in Australia
Your absence from local industry and occupational changes may be cause for concern to Australian employers.
Stay abreast of changes in Australia so that, when you return, you can talk about them in the context of your overseas experience and demonstrate your commitment to your field. Make sure you maintain and build skills and a knowledge base relevant to the Australian context while you are away.
You should also consider when you plan to return to work in Australia. If you will need to search for a job on your return, keep in mind different industries' peak and quiet periods. Aim to align your return to the job market during the peak months for your industry.
If you are planning to work overseas as a holiday, ensure that when you get back to Australia and your vocation of choice, you emphasise the life skills you have gained and how these skills can benefit the employer.
For example, if you are a professional planning to spend a year behind the bar of a hotel in West London, you could sell your experience to potential employers on your return to Australia as evidence of your ability to take risks. Having had a holiday, you might say, you are now ready to settle down and work productively.
Travelling overseas gives you the chance to visit professional associations and do short courses and community work (if this is legal in the country you are visiting). Don't overlook these experiences, as they can greatly enhance your understanding of your chosen career field.
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Accommodation and living standards
Companies might overcharge you for accommodation by taking advantage of your ignorance about local rents, as this following story from an Australian, freshly returned from Japan working for an international company as an English teacher, illustrates:
'My biggest mistake was not researching before leaving Australia. All I knew when I got there was what my company told me. They placed me in one of their overpriced apartments, but I didn't realise this until after I signed the lease. A small amount of research on cheaper accommodation options prior to leaving Australia would have saved me thousands of dollars and a large amount of stress in Japan.'
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Recognition of qualifications
It is not guaranteed that your Australian qualifications will be accepted overseas. The Australian government is working towards having Australian qualifications recognised in as many countries as possible. However, each country currently has its own standards on what qualifications are accepted.
Each country also has its own set procedures for recognising foreign qualifications. You should call the local industry body representing your profession before applying for or taking up a position overseas.
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Most countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months after your visa expires. It may be advisable to apply for a new passport before you leave to avoid any potential problems that a passport close to expiration may cause.
If you are also eligible for citizenship from another country it could be worthwhile for you to apply for a passport and become a multiple citizen. Citizenship in a country such as the United Kingdom gives you access to a European Union passport and allows you to live and work in any European Union country. The British Government has no objection to people holding passports from more than one country, but other countries do object, so check the specific laws of the country in which you are eligible for another passport.
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If you are 18 or over, you can obtain an international driver's licence, which could be an advantage to you in your job hunt. To find out how to apply for one, visit the NRMA website [opens in new window], or the Australian Automobile Association website [opens in new window].
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Health and security
Depending on the region you will be based in, there could be a danger of disease, crime or political instability affecting you and your family. As a precaution, research your destination before accepting the position. Ideally, you should speak with other Australians who are already working in your host nation and get their advice about these issues.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides Travel Advisory notices [opens in new window], which focus on risks to Australian travellers.
Private health insurance while overseas is a necessity. Sometimes your employer will cover health insurance payments - check your contract to see whether or not you will be paying for your health insurance.
If you have a pre-existing condition, it may be very difficult for you to get insurance covering that ailment for the period you are overseas. Keep this in mind when considering your job offer, as you will be personally required to cover any costs arising from medical problems that are due to a pre-existing condition. As medical costs in countries like the United States can reach tens of thousands of dollars for even minor procedures, getting sick could be a very expensive experience.
Even if you are a generally healthy person, you can still become ill overseas, particularly in a tropical area. Visit your doctor or the Travellers Medical and Vaccination Centre (TMVC) to find out what vaccinations to have before you go and what other precautions to take during your time overseas.
The TMVC has a useful booklet, 'A health guide for international travellers', which gives an overview of medical issues you may face while overseas and the TMVC Travel Doctor website [opens in new window] is also worth a look.
International Medicare agreements
Australia has reciprocal medical and health care agreements with the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Belgium, Malta and Slovenia. In these countries you are eligible for basic medical treatment.
For further information on this scheme and each country's rules about it, visit the Your Health - Going Overseas website [opens in new window].
Australian citizens who move overseas retain their access to Medicare for any return visits to Australia for up to five years after they last lived permanently in Australia.
Your usual medication will not necessarily be available or legal in the country you are moving to.
There is information about staying healthy while traveling, including information about traveling with medicine, on this page on smartraveller.gov.au [opens in new window].
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A power of attorney is a legal document that authorises another person to act on your behalf in your absence. Granting a family member or close friend power of attorney over your affairs while you are overseas can be helpful in the case of lost or stolen credit cards or unforeseen changes to your health or financial well-being.
Each state and territory has its own rules relating to powers of attorney. Contact one of the following to discuss the option of granting power of attorney:
- your lawyer or a community legal centre
- legal aid
- the Law Society or Institute.
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Why you should not work illegally
Some people arrive in their country of choice on a tourist visa, and then try to find work.
This is, of course, illegal. It puts you at risk of being arrested and deported and jeopardises any chance you might have of obtaining another visa to that or any other country.
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