A Guide to Moving Overseas
If you’re reading this then you and I have something in common: we both want to leave Old Blighty in search of somewhere new. This year I decided to take the plunge and move to New Zealand and now, with visas approved and most of my belongings on eBay, I’m counting down the days until I take that one-way flight.
As a working-visa graduate, here is my advice to anyone looking to move to another country:
Research where you want to go
This is the most important and time-consuming part of planning to move overseas. For the past three years I was convinced I wanted to move to Australia, but after growing fonder and fonder of mountains and hiking, I decided that New Zealand was a better choice for me. I mean, just look at Mount Cook!
After you’ve decided what country to move to, it’s time to determine where exactly you’ll be calling home. I had my heart set on Wellington, it’s small and easy to get about, there are hiking trails nearby, and orcas swim into the harbour. But, after some research, I decided on Auckland due to job prospects and other opportunities. Of course, this can always change once I’ve arrived.
Apply for the visa
Applying for a visa can be easy or difficult depending on where you’re going. After deciding that New Zealand was the place for me I looked at my options. To do this, search for the country’s immigration website – you may want to bookmark that – and, depending on the site's user-friendliness, you should soon find a section on visas. I was initially after a 12-month Working Holiday Visa, but I soon found out that being a UK citizen meant that I had access to a 23-month Working Holiday Visa, and although harder to obtain and a lot more expensive, I decided to go for it.
The actual application process for me was very straightforward, but fortunately I do not have a criminal record or any underlying illnesses which can cause difficulties when applying. My visa cost £94 and I would advise paying by credit card. Some visas only allow you to apply using a credit card. I found this out the hard way by having my debit card declined and then cancelled by my bank for fraud, as I was trying to pay in New Zealand dollars. Fun.
Once you've submitted your application, it can then take up to two weeks to find out if your visa has been approved. My partner and I applied on the same day and mine took a week to get approved, whereas his took a nerve-shredding two-and-a-bit weeks to come through.
Once you have your e-visa, don’t forget to print it off and take it to the airport with you.
Prepare for a medical
If you’re applying for a visa which is more than 12 months it’s likely that you’ll have to undergo a medical examination. All of the information is available on the immigration website – good job you bookmarked it, right? – but when researching the 23-month Working Holiday Visa I saw that not only did I have to do a general medical examination and chest x-ray, but that it could only be done privately at selected clinics. We chose the Bridge Clinic in Maidenhead, which was the cheapest at £290 – is that the blood test making me feel a bit faint, or the price?
The medical exam consists of a urine test, blood test, eye test, psychological examination, listening to your heart and chest, and finally a chest x-ray. All in all it takes around two hours. At least you get to find out if you’re in good health before you go!
It’s all done online so you only need to bring your passport and they’ll print off one e-medical for you to keep as well as sending one to the appropriate authorities. Make sure to keep your e-medical safe as this has your medical number on it – you’ll need this to give to whoever is processing your visa. In my case, this was the 'NZER' number.
You’ll need to provide your medical results shortly after you’ve applied for a visa. I would recommend booking the medical in advance and working your visa application around that date. For example, we did our visas on the Saturday before our medical on the Monday.
To enter the country you’re going to need funds, and you’ll need to print off a recent bank statement prove it.
Check the country’s immigration website to find out how much you’ll need to have in your account upon arrival.
Once you’ve arrived in the country, you need to get organised. In my case, I need to set up an IRD number (I can get a form for this at the Post Office in New Zealand) and a bank account, so I can transfer my money over from my UK bank.
Unfortunately, you’re going to lose some money by simply transferring money overseas but there are companies who can help reduce the cost. I’m transferring my money via TransferWise and although they charge £50 (which my bank does as well) the plus point is that they offer the best exchange rate. Some banks in New Zealand also allow you to set up an account before arrival.
HMRC and student finance
It turns out that you have to let more than your family and boss know that you’re leaving; you need to tell the government too.
I graduated from university a few years ago so I’m slowly paying off my student debt. However, as I’m going overseas and I don’t want to receive any nasty fees, I have to complete an overcomplicated overseas form to send to the student finance people. This needs to be accompanied by a travel itinerary and bank statements. Strange, I know.
Unfortunately, the overseas form doesn’t really fit my needs, so I’m including a letter explaining my situation.
Lastly, once I leave my current job I have to tell HM Revenue and Customs that I won’t be paying tax any more to see if I’m due a tax rebate. I’ll need to fill out a P85 (which you can get online) once I've received my P45 from my current employer and post that to HMRC. I can also choose to carry on paying National Insurance if I so wish.
Have somewhere to stay when you arrive
Be sure to have somewhere to stay for at least two weeks when you arrive. Upon doing research I found that many hostels let you use their address when setting up a bank account so we decided to stay in a hostel for two weeks initially. And by hostel, I mean a private room in what is essentially a B&B. You can of course email hotels to ask if they allow their address to be used if this is your preference.
In the two weeks we are at the hostel, we’re aiming to both find jobs and a place to live, and if we don’t manage all that in those two weeks then we’ll continue living in the hostel. The most important thing to remember is what will be will be, so don’t get stressed if some things don’t go exactly to plan. And most of all, enjoy it!
For more pre-travel guidance, see our Travel Advice section.