If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that moving to another country is a joyful and stress-free experience.
Another thing I’m sure of is that it’s hard to detect sarcasm in the print media. I moved from Melbourne, Australia to Glasgow, Scotland at the end of 2019. It was incredibly difficult in many ways.
Shipping personal effects, finding an apartment, and the visa application process caused what little hair I had on my head to turn gray or fall out. That said, I learned a lot about what it takes to uproot your life on the other side of the world.
These tips will not only save you money, but also an incredible amount of frustration.
So here’s how I did it.
What to bring and how to ship your stuff overseas
The hardest part of moving abroad is knowing what to pack and what to throw away.
The excess baggage charges you will be charged at the airport are exorbitant. So, in most cases, it makes more sense to purchase items once you’ve arrived at your new destination.
Being brutally honest about what you can do without will save you a lot of money. I found out the hard way about the hidden charges with international shipping.
I told my children to make a bunch of toys they absolutely couldn’t live without. I realized it was a stupid decision on my part because they put every one of their toys in the pile they supposedly couldn’t live without.
I’m not proud to admit it, but when my kids fell asleep, a quarter of their toys mysteriously disappeared in the process.
It cost 176 Australian dollars (about £100 or €117) to send two very large boxes of toys from Australia to the UK.
But what I didn’t know was that I had to pay almost £100 (€117) extra customs charges when I collected the boxes. If I had ordered each of their toys from Amazon once they arrived in the UK, I would still have enough money left to buy groceries for the next 2 months.
How to find accommodation in your new country
Find an apartment in another country can be incredibly difficult. All you can do is post photos on websites and real estate agents giving you a face-to-face visit.
Even if you take a virtual tour, there’s no way to tell if the apartment smells like tuna and rancid feet.
I was lucky to have a friend who lived next to the apartment I wanted to rent. He made an appointment with the real estate agent and confirmed that it was in a nice location, in a quiet cul-de-sac and didn’t smell of tuna or feet.
The process of applying for a flat in the UK is very different from that in Australia. The biggest difference is that you need a guarantor.
In Australia you only need a guarantor if you are buying a property. I was lucky that my friend who visited the property was also able to vouch for me. At first, I didn’t know if I should go through a real estate agent or go through a private landlord. English gov.uk The website was incredibly helpful for information on renting a property in the UK.
In the end, I felt more comfortable going through a registered real estate agent.
Is it difficult to get a visa?
They say there are two certainties in life – death and taxes. But the third should understand that a visa application is not possible for the average person. I cannot overstate this point.
A friend of mine suggested that I make an appointment with an immigration lawyer to help me clarify the visa application that I should apply for. I’m a so-called know-it-all, so I disagreed.
How hard could that be? I said to myself. I would find out later that it would be extremely difficult.
My partner at the time and my children were British citizens. So I naturally assumed that I would apply for a spouse visa. I went to the UK visa site and applied online. It took over six months of my time to gather the supporting documents for this particular visa. It was incredibly intense.
I needed my family’s birth certificates, payslips, five-year-old rental applications, and so on. It was over 120 documents in all. The plan was to apply six months before we left Australia, so hopefully the visa would be approved once we got to the UK. This meant that I could work practically straight away. As I mentioned, that was the plan – but the reality was quite different.
Two months after my arrival in the UK, I received a letter saying that my visa application had been rejected for a technicality. Now was the time to see an immigration lawyer.
Like most people, I look at customer reviews before booking a service. There was an immigration law firm in Glasgow that had many 5 star reviews so I booked the next available appointment. It was called Southside Immigration.
The lawyer was super helpful and immediately reassured me. He said there are different rules when applying for a visa inside and outside the UK. Apparently I should have applied for a parental visa as my children were British citizens. I wrongly assumed that I should have applied for a spousal visa. Keep in mind that there is a huge amount of visa applications you can apply for, depending on your situation. Not only was the parental visa cheaper than the spouse visa, but it also required only a quarter of the supporting documents.
This would have saved me over £3,000 (€3,523) in total.
After following his advice, my visa was approved several months later. It enabled me to work and become a UK resident.
Although moving to another country can be daunting, I realized there were many benefits too. Freezing Scottish weather was a bonus (again with sarcasm). But I’m glad I made this life-changing decision. I now have a great quality of life, where people are friendly and my children can visit castles in real life instead of seeing them in fairy tales.