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Thinking of taking the leap and working abroad? When making such a life-changing decision, there are some things you need to be aware of – because there’s a lot more to moving and working abroad than just packing your suitcases and hopping on a plane. It takes courage and proper planning to completely uproot your life.
SA-born, Los Angeles-based actress and producer Roxane Hayward shares the lessons she’s learned about the life and hustle of working abroad.
So you want to live and work abroad? Tick these 5 boxes before you jump…
1/ Visit the place before you actually move there.
You’ll never know everything there is to know about a city or town, but it’s a great idea to get a feel for the lifestyle before officially packing up your life and moving across the waters, says Roxane.
2/ Establish a strong base – personally and professionally – before moving over.
You may not be able to get all your ducks in a row, she says, but you’ll want a support base when you arrive. This base can and will continue to grow, but start with a few people you know will have your back and are eager to welcome you into their country.
3/ Hire a reputable immigration attorney who comes highly recommended.
“Ask questions. Lots of questions,” says Roxane. “Know exactly how much the visa process is going to cost so there are no surprises along the way – this includes lawyer fees, government fees, printing and shipping costs, filing fees and more. Do your research before you start the official process of hiring an immigration attorney. And if your company is going to sort out the paperwork for you, make sure you understand what your responsibilities are to maintain that paperwork. Unless you’re stepping straight into a paid job, I’d say it would be safe to have six months’ savings to ensure some security when arriving.”
4/ Do your research on the average cost of living in the city you’re moving to – think housing, transport, food, insurance, etc.
“On that note, make sure you have travel insurance and health/medical insurance – look at plans abroad and predict what the cost will be once you can no longer use your SA plan,” she says.
5/ Establish a credit history as soon as possible.
In the USA, planning your life is heavily dependant on your credit history and credit score – you’ll need this when renting an apartment, buying/leasing a car, obtaining a credit card, etc. It takes about six months to build a credit score, so keep that in mind and start working on it ASAP.
Done? Okay, then dive right in…
Rather than waiting for someone to invite you, dive, head-first, into groups and communities that echo your values and integrity, says Roxanne. “The first thing I did when I moved to LA was find a place to continue my Muay Thai training. I went every day to get to know the people there. I allowed myself to be open enough for people to get to know me. That blossomed into a beautiful community and some wonderful friendships.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
“Every day will feel like the first day of school for a while,” says Roxane. “That’s okay. Make helping others a priority – no matter how small you might think [it] might be. If that becomes part of your daily rhythm, there’s no way you won’t end up meeting incredible people.”
The benefits of working abroad
“You’ll grow so much by living and working abroad,” says Roxane. “It will feel like the ground beneath you is constantly moving, like you’re learning to walk again. You will face situations you didn’t know were possible and meet people you couldn’t have dreamed existed.”
“[But] you will also be tested, pulled, and tugged,” she continues. “You will tread through unknown circumstances. How you respond to those circumstances is what will mould who you become. It is an opportunity for you to grow into the strongest, most empathetic, kind, resilient version of yourself,” she says.
How important is learning a company’s culture before moving?
Learning another company’s culture is an important gesture of respect, she says. “As long as you remain open to learning along the way, and remaining true to the culture that has moulded you.”
Okay, let’s talk visas and taxes…
“The visa process can be complicated and costly,” says Roxane. “Preparation is key. Take it one step at a time. The actual visa will differ depending on county, occupation and if you have a sponsor; [make sure you understand what the visa you’re applying for] allows you to do once you arrive in the country.”
The tax process can be similarly complicated and will also depend on which visa you have. Even if you’re used to filing taxes yourself in South Africa, Roxanne recommends hiring an accountant for your first round of taxes abroad.
“Visas and taxes are two areas I wouldn’t take lightly – if you play by the rules, you shouldn’t run into any issues. Therefore, learning what the rules are should be a priority in your plans to move abroad,” she says.
Lastly, how does your banking work in a new country?
“[Go] to a bank that has experience dealing with foreign clients – an international bank of some sort,” suggests Roxane. “They will understand that you might not have proof of address or a taxpayer identification number just yet. They may even be more lenient in granting you a credit card right away – something you will need in the US to establish a credit history.”
Then get to know your bank account manager – find out who they are and explain to them that you are new to the country and will be reaching out for guidance (and asking a lot of questions!). “Ensure you know how you are going to use your South African money in the US,” adds Roxanne. Will you be transferring it over, or using your South African credit card? “Each process will have a cost attached to it, so you’ll benefit from figuring that out before moving over.”
Happy travels! And… go hustle x