How To Become an Expat

So, you want to become an expat?

Gi1YsuitcaseFor clear, step-by-step: “Gone In One Year” is it.

Read all it covers in this infographic here (link to full size).


The Four Ways To Be An Expat

For everyone who moved to a different country, there are just four ways how they got there: as a student, from their government, as an private employee or they just pack their bags and left.


Four ways to become an expat

Let’s cover each of these 4 ways:

As a Student:

Travel as a Student Expat AbroadI would argue this is the easiest and least risky to visit another country. If you’re going to school now, you can apply for a semester or a full year abroad. Nearly every four-year university already has an exchange program in place, partnering with at least 1 or 2 universities abroad. It does not matter what your degree is in, be it the humanities or aeronautical engineering.
If you’re the least worried about job prospects (and in these times, you should be), then be aware that international experience of any sort can make you more favorable than your peers without it. Employers want graduates who are well-rounded as well as qualified.
Think of the partying experience you’ll learn from your international schoolmates to bring back home. heehee.

But seriously, look up Study Abroad or International Programs on your school’s website or ask Admissions for more information. Additional financial aid and/or scholarship money may also be available, so don’t forget to ask.

Lastly, if you’d rather matriculate into a university abroad, you might save a lot of money. UPDATE: Germany got rid of tuition in October 2014. Yeah, you read that right — if you go to university in Germany, you pay nothing. But feel free to read the other ways you can become an expat. Then get back to me.


In the Government:

Your Next President? It's Looking that Way
You’re NOT Fired!

If you’re in the US military today, then you know about TDY (that’s “Temporary Duty” for non-military types). Whether a short-term (under 30 days) or long-term (1-2 years) TDY, your superiors sees any time spent overseas as duty that distinguishes you from others and can look positively on your next review for a rank increase (read: paygrade increase). Besides, talk about affordable travel – the government provides extra Overseas Housing Allowance, plus per Diem rates!
About the US government, employees of many agencies DoE, GAO, DoT, DHHS to name a few, utilize GovTrip (the e-travel service of the US Govt) to get around. Be aware of the various GSA Travel programs to make your life even easier.
Diplomatic service. Successfully passing the written and oral tests may be challenging, but if you’ve wanted to be a diplomat, they’re just stepping stones to a greater adventure. After training, you will spend your first 2 two-year assignments overseas.

As a Full-Time Employee:

Know this: any time working internationally in your field is a HUGE plus on a resume or CV, -at any level in your career. If your office is a 6′ x 8′ cubicle, consider becoming an expat. Cubicle farms are not so common throughout Europe and Australia, where open space seating is used.

Things to ConsiderIf you find the days, weeks, or even months wash away quickly without any value-add to your career, consider becoming an expat. If you wish you had a cubicle or wish time passed by more quickly, then please, strongly consider becoming an expat.

Two ways for you as a full-time employee to work in a different country: either by your company transferring you or by getting a different job elsewhere. The first option highly depends on your company, but you cannot be sure how possible it is without asking the right person. Maybe only your small company CEO knows about expanding to Germany. Maybe your HR is aware of a need for managers in Italy. And in all cases, where there is a need, there is often relocation funds waiting to be spent for the willing employee to start work there as soon as possible. I’ve even heard of companies buying out a house to facilitate the relocation even faster. (However, in times of recession, those packages are all but gone) The other way of working overseas is finding your own job.
To find your own job overseas can fill many more articles, but let me just give these pointers here.
Do you want a particular destination or a particular company? (Not all companies have offices in every city, right?)
You do not send a résumé, you send your CV. They’re close, but not the same thing. A CV is usually longer than a résumé. While the résumé is 1 page, max 2, the CV can be much longer, including any publications, presentations and other accomplishments you can list. More over, the CV usually includes personal information (married? age?, a picture??), is strictly chronological, and focuses on education. Compared to American résumés, a CV is less of a self-marketing tool, and more an autobiography.
People with special trades, e.g. plumbers and electricians, will likely need to apply for trades licenses, perhaps apprentice first to gain local experience. Else, tradesmen can work by word of mouth (without license) = riskier, but better pay in the end.
Get help locally by sending your CV to recruiters. (This is how I got my job in Prague, by the way.) The timeline was very quick for us: just days between the job inquiry to a job offer. If you would like (a lot) of help with this process, give me one hour on the phone with you.

Going Rogue: Jump. Pack a Chute When You Get There

Ask Questions LaterThe last of the four ways to become an expat. This means you pack your bags, leave your home and land in the home country…and then figure out what you’re going to do next. Not recommended for the faint-hearted.

Call it the “Shoot first, ask questions later” method. It takes guts. It’s the easiest way to start (no “wasting time” on preparation). For many adventurers, they are a semi-resident tourist, because without “official papers” you are officially a “tourist.”

Visa paperwork? A whole other topic. The “jump first” method is not my recommendation for those with a family – the risks of all having to leave could mean big, unplanned travel costs.

Which way do I recommend?

I could get off easy and say “It depends on you”… But I won’t.

It depends on your risk appetite. How comfortable are you with not knowing what tomorrow brings, how adventurous are you? Without knowing you, I’d recommend the proper route – getting a job, getting official, then getting there permanently.

My Suggestion:

Let me guide you, by consulting or a through a step-by-step program.

Step-By-Step: Gone in 1 Year

If you or someone you know wants to move overseas, I just launched a program guaranteeing success. Based on years of consulting, I created a step-by-step program: tools, guidance and ‘homework’ (consulting). By the end, you’re moving overseas, employed and secure, or money back, guaranteed.

Check out “Gone in 1 Year” here.

Top Tips from 18 Experts

Want to know what 18 expert expats have to say?  If you’re new here, see the list on “Welcome to ExpatYourself.

Speaking personally, I have gone down all four roads. As an American, my first trip abroad was as an university student in Moscow, Russia. I’ve also served in the US military in Saudi Arabia, jumped over to South Korea to teach English. And most recently, I worked full-time, for 4 years, for a German company in Prague, Czech Republic. Whew! Where am I now? Now I work for myself in Halifax, Canada.

How financially stable are you? Do you have a little savings or are you broke now (or would you only be “broke” after you pay off tens of thousands in debt?). For most folks, getting a job first, then moving is safe and financially safe (even lucrative). For other folks, even that’s boring.

146 thoughts on “How To Become an Expat”

  1. Hello, Jeff!

    Your advice has been most helpful thus far and I would be grateful for more of your insight. I am a US citizen and I am planning to be an expat who lives in Italy, Russia or the UK within 8 years. My plans are still in the early stages but, due to my success in the financial markets, money would not be an issue. I am certainly not going there to work but I might take vocational classes according to my interests. Ultimately, I want to find love and a new life in one of those aforementioned countries. Think of me as Sir Michael Caine’s character in 1988’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels…but SANS the con-man gig, OF COURSE. 😉

    What steps should I take now in order to make that European dream of mine a reality? Thank you so much in advance and you are more than welcome to email me your guidance!

    1. Hello Martin,

      Given your financial success, perhaps your simplest and fastest route to Europe is just purchasing property. If you’re a HNWI, then sounds like you could retire and/or move abroad under an entrepreneurial program. This applies to a number of different countries in the EU.

      Look up DAFT – Dutch American Friendship Treaty.


    1. Hi Joan,

      Smart choice – and the best part is your pension and/or SS checks are yours, regardless where you live. — So, why not use the same US$$ where they have more buying power?

      Lots of possibilities for retirees. Need warm? Dry? Beach nearby? Too many choices…(literally the whole world) to say in a comment.

      Hope I can help you more

  2. Hello!

    Great article. I have just graduated from my undergraduate studies and I’m intending to land an overseas job as my first career. Would you recommend it? Or is it statistically unlikely? Haha


  3. Jeff,
    I live on SS disability and Windows benefits.How do I keep my benefits while moving to the Dominican Republic with my daughter and her fiance who is Dominican,has a home and job there?

    1. Hello Wendy,

      Moving abroad does NOT affect your benefits.
      You are entitled and will receive your SS benefits, regardless where you live.


  4. I’m 55 and retirement in US is not until 62, I believe. But, I’m tired of struggling financially and don’t necessarily want to give up my citizenship, but wouldn’t mind buying some property in Belize or a condo.

    1. Hi Marilyn,

      If you’re able to purchase property (in Belize or elsewhere), then that’s an option available to you. If you would need to finance it (you mentioned struggles), then it’s very difficult to secure a mortgage without stable income within that country.
      Most people (us included) purchase property only after a year of living in a country.

      Let me know if you need more specific help.

  5. Hi Jeff,

    I am 35, recently laid off due to management reorganization, and wishing to move to Europe (mainly the Netherlands or any surrounding countries. My ex boyfriend lives in NL but we just broke up. I traveled there on two separate occasions and fell in love with it. My problems lie in the realm of job skills. I’m not in IT or any kind of technological field. I am an experienced administrative coorfinator and customer service specialist. I have worked in many industries such as hospitality, transportation and logistics, and some state/government work. But I have the a smorgasbord of skills and industry history. I had my bachelors degree in General Studies which just adds more complication. I have read many many articles and many comments from people looking for the same things as me but they usually have specific and much sought out experience. Do you have any advice for someone in my position (a very general, lackluster background) who wants a better life surrounded by a different country from the US? It seems nearly impossible to attain my goal and desire. I only know one language fluently (English) but I am slowly learning Dutch. It’s a very slow process. Help?
    Ann B.

    1. Hi Ann,

      Good question! I also have several years of experience as an Administrative Coordinator and wishing to move to Europe (mainly, Italy, France, England or Switzerland. ) With my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, my goal is to pursue a career in Management Consulting.

      1. Hi Rachel –and Ann,

        I’ll chime in here, too. Having the degree definitely helps you in being eligible for securing a work permit (& residency visa) in a number of countries. I will say that “administrative coordinator” sounds to me like a personal assistant/secretary/executive assistant. Is that right? If so, having such experience isn’t high in demand, or necessarily is a “tough to fill” kind of role. Now, if you happen to be fluent in a second language (along with native English speaking/writing skills), then your marketable value goes up tremendously.

        Does that help?

  6. Hi,

    I’m a single mother of two looking for something new I have been researching places to live over seas and my kids and I would love to move to the uk.. The only experience that I have job wise is a certified nursing assistant, I’m not sure if that is enough to actually move to the uk..what do you recommend?

  7. Hi Jeff:
    I am 56, a U.S. citizen and was forced into retirement resulting from severe disability and absolute permanent disability. In. the U.S. I am exempt from paying tax on my disability income per Notice 703. This work form calculates if any part of my disability income is taxable. My disability income of $25,600 is reduced by exactly one-half of my income which equals $12,630 resulting in a net income of $12,630. Because this amount is below the $25,000 threshold of taxation, I do not pay tax on any portion of my income. Do you know if I became an expat in Spain if my income from severe disability is also exempt for Spanish taxes. I read the following:
    What INSS benefits are exempt from personal income tax in Spain (not including the Basque Country and Navarra)?

    Income exempt from IRPF includes the following economic benefits managed by the INSS:
    * Absolute permanent disability and severe disability
    * Retirement: resulting from severe disability and absolute
    permanent disability.

    If you don’t know, what advice would you give me in finding out the answer to my question. Topics relates to paying taxes is very extensive , complicated and sometimes contradictory.

    Thanks, Doug

  8. Hi Jeff,

    I really want to move abroad. I’m quite early in my career (about 2 years out of school), and I’d love to move abroad. My concern is that I do not want a time limit and I’d like a job that will move me forward in my career vs. taking temporary jobs to get by. I feel like I don’t have enough experience to get a visa from a company.

    Ideally I’d love to work in either Sydney or London.


  9. Hi… My name is Gary I’m working as a diesel technician in South Africa for 20yrs now and my salary is not getting any better. The economy is thrived on by government thieves. I can not keep up with my debt monthly I find it very difficult to survive I’m thinking seriously on going to your step 4 TO THE STATES.. please help???

    1. Hi Gary! Sorry to hear it is so difficult for you in SA.
      Possible we can talk on the phone?
      I have helped a few laborers from SA, so I believe I can be helpful.

  10. Hi Jeff,
    Myself kirubakar completed my Electrical engineer degree. Started my career in production/manufacturing field as trainee. As on now with production engineer position in the same company with 5 years of experience. Having good career records. But, my passion to revolve all around the world. I send resume for maximum numbers of company in the world. But nothing can happen. I feel I’m born with bad luck.
    Basically, I don’t have any person for reference to my job. I willing to move any where. Could you please help me ?


      1. Yes, that’s mine jeff. I already told you that my resume will present in maximum number of job sites. I put my full effort. Awaiting to taste the success.

  11. Hi my name is Karla, and I am 54 years old An American who is disabled. I receive ssi want to move to the UK, is this possible. If not what other avenue can I take to move financially.

    1. Hi Karla,

      Thanks for your note. To answer your question, Supplemental Security Income will follow you, regardless where you live. It doesn’t matter if you live in the UK, US or any country — your payments are yours. Again, you don’t lose your entitlement just from leaving the US, despite some fear-mongering I’ve seen.

      Is it possible for you to move to the UK? Yes, given a large enough nest egg to invest in some property, to retire there. Even so, medical coverage, given your disability, is in question. I’m willing to do some specific research for you if you’d like me to consult for you. I would recommend you hire someone to help you, if not me.

      Best of success,

  12. Hi Jeff

    I recently went on a small holiday to Europe, mainly Amsterdam in Netherlands and just fell in love with the place. I am almost 31 and currently residing in South Africa where the prospect of moving forward isn’t very bright. I completed my electrical trade last year but don’t really have much experience in that field as my company could not place me in the technical area due to not having positions open so I was moved back into an office job which I do 100% but detest every minute. I have been dealing with customers for the last 12 years but have no formal qualification in that field. I am also currently doing an additional electrical qualification on a part time basis to broaden my knowledge. I can speak and write English fluently and learning Dutch won’t be that difficult I think as my mother tongue is Afrikaans.
    Do you have any advice for me that I can take to heart?

  13. Hello,I check your blogs named “How to become an expat? | Learn How to Become an Expat Yourself” like every week.Your writing style is witty, keep it up! And you can look our website about free ip proxy.

  14. Hi Jeff,

    I am interested in moving overseas, because I have not found much in the way of opportunities here despite my education. I have assistant management experience, inbound, and outbound call center experience. I have an MBA and a Masters of Internet Marketing, and I am working on my Doctors of Business Administration. In my spare time I drive for Uber, design my friend’s websites, and help them with their marketing since I have not been able to find meaningful employment in my career field. I have thought about teaching in South Korea. I’d like to go to Germany, Spain, Prauge, or Scottland but I fear Europe would be to expensive. Any place where I can just have a life and not work to the point of exhaustion. I have also thought about doing a blog but I have no idea what to write about.

  15. Hi Jeff.
    What if your desire is to retire to a large boat in international waters and no specific port of call? And I’m 37, still enjoying my career as a pastry chef here in the US, but my dream is to retire to a sail boat in the SE Asian Islands and sailing the world. What would you recommend as a first step in planning for 10+ years out for this particular situation?

  16. Hi, I’m retired toying with the idea of relocating to british isles. will be visiting there early next year for first visit. all heritage is from there and am drawn there. Own a house here. Can sell etc. any thoughts? have had health concerns in the past, all is well now. Does medicare reciprocate with UK?

  17. hi Jeff
    I have recently relocated to Prague and my boyfriend is looking to come and join me.
    He is a highly experienced plumber but also offers other construction work.
    However, we are finding it incredibly difficult to find him a job out here.
    Any suggestions much appreciated.

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