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How to Become an Expat

Jake Norrie

January 13, 2021

These days it’s easier than ever before to start a new life in another country. Countries like Belize have long welcomed expats. Over the past year, several other Caribbean countries followed suit, making it easy to get an extended visa, work, and stay in countries like Aruba, Barbados, and Bermuda. Whether you’re a digital nomad or a retiree looking for a change of scenery, here’s what you need to know about becoming an expat. 

What Is An Expat?

Simply put, an expert is someone who lives in a country outside of their nationality. Expats don’t have a set demographic, nor are they all retirees, as is the common misconception. Short for “expatriate,” an expat might be in another country for work, either temporarily or permanently. They may have gained official residency status in their new locale, though that’s not always the case. 

And while it might seem like a romantic notion—or a bold one, depending on your mindset—expatriating isn’t for everyone. You’re living in a country far from home, and there are certain skills and aptitudes you’ll need to cultivate. Agility, adaptability, and curiosity are essential!

Plus, there’s the not-so-small matters of visas, cost of living, and culture. You must consider the legal, financial, and social aspects of your decision well before you make a move. After all, your happiness and peace of mind are closely tied to your environment. You certainly don’t want any surprises.

Preparing For Your Move

There are plenty of countries that accept expats. Your choices will likely come down to personal preferences, what non-negotiables you have, and what you can afford to pay. 

Personal preferences might include climate, scenery, rural, or urban lifestyles. As for non-negotiables, let’s say you’re a digital nomad; you’ll want to be sure wherever you’re going has reliable internet and cellular.

You’d do well to have a budget in mind before you begin, too. Some countries, like Viet Nam and Thailand, welcome expats and offer a high standard of living for a very low cost. Other countries, like Germany, The Netherlands, and the UK, are more cost-restrictive. In these locales, perhaps you’ll enjoy a more cosmopolitan way of life, but rental housing is expensive for non-citizens, and the cost of living is much higher in general. 

So job one is to do your research. Make a wish list and search your options to find out what it takes to settle in there. One website to check out is WhereCanI.Live, where you’ll find details on what type of visa you’ll need and pretty much everything else there is to know. 

Finding a Job

It’s often easier to settle in another country if you’re not looking to work in that country. However, if you’re not a freelancer and need to work, you’ll have to get creative. Younger folks can look into working holiday visas or student work visas, but there are other avenues to consider. 

Countries looking to fill skills gaps in their economy may issue skills shortage visas, so if you have a desirable specialization, it’s worth checking into. Alternately, some countries issue startup visas to entrepreneurs and founders. Either choice is an excellent inroad to permanent residency, and in the latter case, you may also gain access to incubators, government funding, and loads of local talent.

Taking Care Of The Spaceship

No matter where you go in the world, there are a few things everybody needs to consider. Staying healthy and strong is number one. You don’t want to be stuck anywhere without the right support. 

Healthcare, for example, is a bit iffy in some countries. So, for example, if you’re middle-aged or older, you’d want to ensure access to quality care, a critical detail that might help you eliminate a few destinations on your list. Take Belize – a beautiful, temperate country with a stable economy, and (bonus) it’s outside of the hurricane zone. But if you have complex health issues, you’d probably have to go to Mexico or Florida if you need specialized care. 

Health insurance is a concern also. If you don’t have resident-standing in some countries, emergency care can be quite expensive. Be sure you’re adequately covered for every scenario. Even if you think your current policy covers your time abroad, it might fall short. Read the fine print so you understand the gaps and ask your insurance provider whether they offer international insurance. Most do. 

Understanding The Culture Of Your Destination

It doesn’t matter where you go in the world; you’re bound to be in for a little culture shock, at least until you get in the swing of things. Little things we do without even thinking about are unheard of in some places, so you’d do well to bone up on local customs and faux-pas before you go. 

For example, tipping at restaurants isn’t often done in Europe, certainly not at the level we’re used to shelling out. In countries like Japan or China, leaving a tip is considered an insult. Chewing gum could land you in jail if you do it in Singapore, and you don’t ever want to run out of gas on the Autobahn. When in Italy, don’t feed the pigeons in Venice’s San Marcos Square or wear shorts to the Vatican. Sure, some laws and customs might seem a little ridiculous, but in the interest of fitting in, best to fall in. There are undoubtedly other ways to assert your individuality that won’t get you arrested or tossed out on your ear.

Taking Care of Business: The Virtues of a Virtual Mailbox

Whether you intend to stay at your new location indefinitely or continue to explore the known universe, every expat needs a virtual mailbox. That way, no matter where you go, you maintain some consistency and will continue to receive postal mail. 

Earth Class Mail virtual mailbox services were made with expats in mind, providing you with cloud-based access to your postal mail, check deposit services, secure shredding, and more. Your mail is always accessible through our cloud-based system, meaning you can pick up your mail from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection. We integrate with most cloud storage systems, so whether you prefer Dropbox, Box.com, or G-Suite, we’ve got you covered. 

Here’s how it works:

  • Choose a street address or PO box from more than 80 locations across the United States.

  • Postal mail arrives at our secure processing facility. 

  • Our HIPAA-certified mail technicians open and scan your mail.

  • Scans are converted to PDFs.

  • Log into your account, view, forward, or save mail to your preferred cloud service.

  • Let us know what you want us to do with your mail – trash and recycle, shred, forward, it’s your call. 

A virtual mailbox from Earth Class Mail is an excellent way to ensure you continue to receive your bills, tax documents, and other postal mail communications. If you receive packages, we’ll forward them wherever you choose. 

Your virtual mailbox is a real address you can use to register your business and maintain continuity even when you’re traveling. Ultimately, even expats need some stability. Earth class mail is here to support you, whether it’s short or long-term. 

Final Thoughts

Becoming an expat is a big step – but you’ve got this. And we’ve got your back! No matter where the tradewinds take you, a virtual mailbox from Earth Class Mail will make it that much easier to make it all work. Choose your virtual address today, and start packing!

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