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. Collins,

      Not sure if I understand your situation.
      If you have low grades now… are you still a student? If so, how about you spend a semester abroad (and your grades might improve).
      If you had low grades, and you graduated – then yes, you can still go abroad. When you have the degree, no one cares much what your GPA was.

  1. Hi!

    I’m a mid-lifer, with some savings. I earn my living through my online business. I’m looking to spend a few years abroad. More than happy to do something like take language courses, etc, but want to know how I can navigate getting a visa for somewhere like, say France. Too, what is the healthcare situation? I see that if I’m over 28, healthcare becomes more complex. I’m generally healthy, and pay for my own healthcare stateside. What’s my best approach?

    Also: Can one obtain a mortgage on property overseas? Would it be through a US bank, an international bank, or a bank within that specific country? Thanks!

  2. American and German dual-citizen here.

    I’ve lived all my life in United States, can’t get my passport due being a criminal. Can I give up my US citizenship and get my German passport and get deported? 🙂

    Jeremy

    1. Hey there – thanks for the comment. You don’t need to wait for deportation.

      The first real question is, can you travel?

      To fly outside the US, you need two things:
      1. A valid passport (whether US or other)
      2. Permission to leave.

      Most people don’t have to think about #2, it’s just assumed until it’s denied. People show their passport and boarding pass and they’re off.
      But I’m stuck on you mentioning criminal history and the fact your passport was revoked (or denied, in the case you applied for a new one). Revoking that means you were considered a flight risk…and that brings us back to #2. Did DOJ also tell State to revoke your passport?

      But you claim to have German citizenship. So you’re a EU passport holder (or can be after quick paperwork and a few weeks time).

      So, the answer is, you can travel. The option is not to fly. (Border patrol operate differently whether by air, land or sea.)

  3. hi there. I’m twenty one years old and I have an associates degree in kinesiology, health, and Wellness. I have only three years of experience from working in the food industry under my belt. I still want to continue my education, but it will be to change my major to get at least a bachelor’s degree in Criminology. I also have no debt and great credit. Will being an expat be possible for me?

    1. Hi Jerry,

      You certainly have great potential to travel. At your age, and with no dependencies or debt, you’re in great shape to live overseas for the short term.

      With your edu and work experience, long-term relocation would not be likely. I agree if you’re considering the B.S. to go that route.

      If you’d like to chat much more, contact me via e-mail: jeff@expatyourself.com

      Cheers,
      -Jeff

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