If there is one thing I’m certain of, it’s that moving to another country is a joyful, stress-free experience.
Another thing I’m certain of is it’s hard to detect sarcasm in print. I moved from Melbourne, Australia to Glasgow, Scotland at the end of 2019.It was incredibly difficult in a variety of ways.
Shipping personal belongings, finding an apartment and the visa application process made what little hair I had on my head either turn grey or fall out. That said, I learned a huge amount about what it takes to uproot your life half-way across the world.
These tips won’t just 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 abroad
The hardest part of moving abroad is knowing what to take with you and what to throw out.
The excess baggage fees you will be charged at the airport are extortionate. So in most cases it makes more sense to buy items once you have arrived at your new destination.
Being brutally honest with what you can live without will save you a lot of money. I found out the hard way about hidden fees with international shipping.
I told my kids to make a pile of toys they absolutely could not live without. I realised this was a stupid decision on my part as they put every one of their toys in the pile they could supposedly not live without.
I’m not proud to admit this but, when my kids went to sleep, a quarter of their toys mysteriously went ‘missing’ in action.
It cost $176 Australian dollars (around £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 a customs fee of another nearly £100 (€117) when I picked the boxes up. If I had ordered every single one of their toys off Amazon once I arrived in the UK I still would have had enough money left to buy groceries for the next 2 months.
How to find a place to stay in your new country
Finding an apartment in another country can be incredibly tough. All you can go on is photos on websites and real estate agents giving you a facetime tour.
Even if you do a virtual tour, there is no way to know if the apartment smells like rancid tuna and feet.
I was lucky enough to have a friend who lived close to the apartment I wanted to rent. He made an appointment with the real estate agent and confirmed with me that it was in a nice location, was on a quiet cul de sac, and smelled of neither tuna nor feet.
The process of applying for an apartment in the UK is a lot different than in Australia. The biggest difference is you need a guarantor.
In Australia, you only need a guarantor if you are buying a property. I was lucky enough that my friend who viewed the property was also able to vouch for me as a guarantor. At first, I wasn’t sure if I should use a real estate agent or go through a private landlord. The British gov.uk website was incredibly useful for information regarding renting a property in the UK.
In the end, I felt more comfortable going through a registered estate agent.
How difficult is it to get a visa?
They say there are two certainties in life – death and taxes. But the third should be understanding that a visa application is impossible for the average person. I cannot overstate this point.
A friend of mine suggested I make an appointment with an immigration lawyer to help clarify what visa application I would need to apply for. I’m a self-confessed know-it- all, so I disagreed.
How hard could it be? I said to myself. I would find out later that it would be extremely hard.
My partner at that time and my children were British citizens. So I naturally assumed I would apply for a spousal visa. I went on the UK visa site and applied online. It took over six months of my time to gather support documentation for this particular visa. It was incredibly intense.
I needed birth certificates of my family, payslips, rental property applications dating back five years, and so on. It was over 120 documents all up. The plan was to apply six months before we left Australia so hopefully, the visa would be approved once we arrived in the UK. This meant I could work pretty much straight away. As I mentioned, this was the plan – but the reality was quite different.
Two months after arriving in the UK I got a letter saying my visa application had been rejected on a technicality. It was now 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 received lots of 5-star reviews so I booked the next available appointment. It was called Southside Immigration.
The lawyer was super helpful and instantly put my mind at ease. He said there are different rules when applying for visas inside and outside the UK. Apparently, I should have applied for a parental visa as my children were British citizens. I incorrectly assumed I should have applied for a spousal visa. Keep in mind there are a huge amount of visa applications you can apply for, depending on your circumstance. Not only was the parental visa cheaper than the spousal visa, it also only required a quarter of the supporting documentation.
This would have saved me over £3,000 (€3,523) in total.
After following his advice, my visa was approved several months later. This allowed me to work and become a UK resident.
Although moving to another country can be daunting, I realised there were also many upsides. The freezing cold Scottish weather was a bonus (at it again with the 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 kids get to visit castles in real life as opposed to just seeing them in fairy tales.