The Hidden Costs of Moving Abroad

Aug 25, 2022

Sometimes, the idea of packing up and moving abroad is incredibly appealing. While it’s possible to start your life as an ex-pat, it’s critical to understand that there are some hidden costs to moving abroad. By being aware of the potential disadvantages of moving abroad, you can answer a crucial question: is moving abroad worth it?

Typically, you’ll want to review a guide to moving abroad that discusses the expenses you might encounter. If you’re thinking about making another country your home, here are some things to consider when moving overseas.

moving abroad

The Hidden Costs of Moving Abroad

Securing the Correct Visa

Researching visa requirements is essential if you’re trying to figure out what to do before moving to another country. Most nations have several visa programs, and they all work differently. For instance, some aren’t designed for people who intend to move to the country. Others may be highly restrictive.

Before worrying about the cost of moving abroad, you need to make sure to review visa requirements. Additionally, securing your visa can come with a high price tag. Often, paying for visa applications is one of the hidden costs of moving abroad that Americans overlook, so it’s important to research the amounts to ensure you can cover the related expenses.

Health and Vehicle Insurance

Many people make assumptions regarding insurance in a new country. Some may believe that they’ll immediately gain access to local free healthcare. However, that typically isn’t the case if you aren’t a citizen or permanent resident. As a result, you’ll need to procure insurance through other means, which can increase the cost of moving overseas.

Similarly, vehicle insurance in the US is less expensive than what you find in many nations. If you aren’t prepared to pay the higher price, securing the coverage you’re legally required to have is challenging. Since that’s the case, you’ll want to research local rates in advance.

Moving Household Items and Vehicles

shipping your car

While bringing your household items overseas is reasonably straightforward, it’s expensive. When you’re moving abroad, shipping costs can range from a few thousand dollars to $10,000+ depending on how much stuff you have and how far it’s traveling.

Additionally, if you plan on bringing your vehicle with you, it’s important to note that the cost is often high. The exact price depends on the destination and certain factors about the vehicle, but what you owe can often total in the thousands.

Further, your vehicle may need to undergo some changes upon arrival. One prime example is shifting your headlight direction if you move to a country that drives on the left-hand side of the road. American headlights point to the right based on the side of the road the vehicle travels. In countries where driving on the left is the norm, you must get your headlights reangled.

In some cases, you might need to install fog lights based on laws at your destination. Countries may also have rules about other vehicle systems, which could make adding or removing a feature mandatory. In any case, you have to make those changes at your expense. Otherwise, your vehicle isn’t road-legal at your destination.

Import Taxes

Paying to ship your belongings comes with a high price tag, but it isn’t all you’ll need to pay. In some cases, you may also owe import taxes, regardless of how long you’ve owned the items. Since that’s the case, you’ll want to research local importing laws and regulations in advance, allowing you to estimate what you’ll need to pay.

Pet Relocation

When households are choosing things to take when moving abroad, their pet is almost certainly on the list. However, many underestimate the cost. Along with securing proper documentation, health certificates, and vaccinations, you may have to pay to quarantine your pet for weeks or months.

In many cases, hiring a pet relocation service can simplify the process. While it’s expensive, it can ensure that everything is in order, allowing you to avoid issues that may increase other costs.

Hiring a Lawyer

hiring a lawyer

One cost of moving to another country that many Americans overlook is paying for an attorney. Immigration processes are different in every country. In some cases, you might benefit from a lawyer to help you navigate the landscape. In others, having an attorney might be a requirement. Since legal costs are often high, it’s important to factor this into the financial equation.

Exchange Rates and Transfer Fees

Whether you’re working for an American company (receiving pay in US dollars) or tapping into US-based savings or retirement funds, exchange rates can work against you. Plus, you’ll have to pay fees every time you turn dollars into the local currency, and that can add up fast as the days, weeks, months, and years go by.

Additionally, if you need to transfer money from a US bank account into a local one in another country, you may encounter fees for that, too. The amount can vary, but it can cost a bundle if you initiate transfers frequently.

Driver’s Licenses

Rules and regulations regarding driver’s licenses in other countries vary. Sometimes, you can simply transition your US driver’s license into one for your chosen country. However, many nations require ex-pats to do more to secure a local permit.

For example, you may need to pay for a written exam to show that you understand the nuances of local driving laws. Some countries may even require you to take a driver’s education course and start with a learner’s permit, an approach that can mean restricted driving for quite some time.

While the cost of exams and courses is easy to predict, one of the hidden costs of moving abroad that can come with this involves your auto insurance rates. Often, restricted licenses mean paying far more than you did in the US, so it’s wise to discuss this with your insurer in advance when possible.

Water and Garbage

While Americans are used to paying water and garbage bills in many cases, it’s a housing expense that many ex-pats accidentally overlook. Additionally, pricing can vary dramatically from what you see in the US, which can cause some households moving abroad to underestimate what they’ll owe.

Failing to pay does mean that any related services are canceled. Since that’s the case, planning for this expense is crucial.

Road Taxes, Congestion Charges, and Other Fees

road tax

Many European nations have taxes that all vehicle owners must pay, which can be incredibly high. It’s not entirely unlike annual vehicle registrations in the US, as you have to pay the cost and display a sticker on your vehicle showing that you’re current. If you fail to cover the cost, heavy fines, loss of a driver’s license, and vehicle impounding can all occur, making what’s normally a steep price even harder to shoulder.

Some ex-pats may also encounter other driving fees in specific areas. The congestion charge in London is a prime example, which can cost £15 a day if you drive through certain areas.

In some areas, you can also face penalties for certain actions as a driver beyond traditional infractions or law violations that most Americans expect. For instance, running out of gas while traveling on the German autobahn is illegal and can result in significant fines or other penalties.

Energy and Fuel Costs

Comparatively speaking, energy and fuel costs in the US are low. Unless you’re heading to another OPEC state, you’ll face higher electricity and natural gas prices. Plus, gasoline prices can cause a bit of culture shock, as even other well-developed nations may be startlingly expensive.

In many cases, this is one of the most important things to consider when moving to another country. It dramatically alters your cost of living, so it’s wise to research pricing at your destination in advance so you can prepare.

Emergency Escape Fund

emergency escape fund

While you may head overseas with the intention to make the country your permanent home, one of the things to think about when moving abroad is that conditions can change. Political instability, economic challenges, shifts in living conditions, and much more can be part of the equation.

As a result, it’s wise to have an emergency escape fund available. That way, should your new home not meet your long-term needs, you can head to the US (or elsewhere) quickly and efficiently.


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