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Making the expatriate career move – how well will you be prepared?

If you are thinking of becoming one of the 320,000 who leave the UK each year, many of whom leave to take up a new career overseas, how well prepared will you be once you finally set foot on the departure flight? The answer to that question may well determine whether you are on a return flight a few months later or whether your departure really is the start of a new chapter in your life.

Research carried out amongst recently departing expatriates by international mortgage broker has revealed that at one extreme, there are employers out there who will hold your hand every step of the way, even down to providing a “meet and greet” service at the airport, whilst for others, the level of support can be virtually zero.

Given that the success of an expatriate placement is critically important for both the employer and the employee, what steps can you take to make sure your placement will be a success and what can be learnt from those companies which have realised the importance of making sure new arrivals and their families feel welcome, safe and settled? Research shows that there are a number of key areas where good quality preparation pays off both in the short and long term, if a placement is to be a success, as once abroad, priorities can and do change. Day one essentials include language and cultural integration, accommodation quality, and healthcare. Interestingly, whilst many expats cite the desire to lift income as a major driver of the reason for the move, little if any support is available to help guide expatriates through this complex area, apart from the basics of making sure a local current account is opened for salary receipts and bill payments.

Given that most working expatriates admit that one of the main reasons why they go abroad is for career enhancement or to access a significantly higher standard of living, logic suggests that making sure your finances are in line would be a priority. For many, though, that is not case. The most common areas for misunderstanding unearthed by included:

  • Understanding your taxation responsibilities as an overseas landlord
  • International pensions planning once abroad
  • How to take out an international mortgage, once you are overseas, whether to buy in the UK or elsewhere, e.g. France, Spain, Italy
  • Basic offshore savings – a common misunderstanding amongst those emigrating was that once abroad, their UK accounts automatically became “offshore” and therefore UK tax efficient.

Simple personal financial planning steps which can make or break the long term financial value of an expatriate placement were often relegated to the list of “things to do when I get there”. That list rapidly disappears from the outset, as socialising, work and travel all take over as priorities.

International healthcare is another area where preparation varies considerably – only around 52% of those leaving the UK will have some form of private medical insurance in place, which means that 48%, or nearly half, do not.

At one end of the placement preparation scale sits Saudi Aramco, the oil giant. Boasting perhaps one of the most comprehensive expatriate support packages available, the company looks to cover every eventuality in addition to work and accommodation and takes great care to ensure cultural integration support is given – the company has a network of “buddies” who are available to give one to one personal experience of life in the Kingdom and extensive blogs are held on file describing individual work placements, their experience of the employer and what they like and do not like about the job. New arrivals are allocated their own company support officer who is there to resolve any issue which may arise. The company even goes so far as to offer a “meet and greet” service at the airport for new arrivals.

Contrast this with the situation of many others who, once they have a job offer, typically have to arrange their own accommodation, find schools, if they are moving with family and generally make their own way. Sadly therefore, it is clear that for the majority of expatriates, this is still a DIY experience. Employers overseas could learn much from the Aramco model. has published a list of 10 things you should know, if you are moving abroad to work. Click here to view.

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