How To Move Overseas

My story is part luck and part really really wanting something. One of my life goals was to live overseas (Europe, NZ, or Australia preferably, or maybe Canada) but I wasn’t sure how I would get there.

To all those who think it’s impossible to move to a different country or overseas, or even to a different state: it’s really possible if it’s something you want. You don’t have to make a ton of money; you just have to be willing to leave everything and everyone you know. Of course, it’s much more difficult if you have a family, so doing it while you’re young is optimal. But it’s still possible even with a family! The hardest parts of the process are getting the money and the visa. Money is easier than you may think for most people – if you have a decent full-time job, prioritize your budget around saving up money for a couple years.

So the trickiest part is the visa. If you are from the European Union, you have an advantage because you can move to any other country within it without a visa. But for an American who wants to move overseas, most other desirable countries have very strict immigration laws. More than I realized; basically you have to be married to a citizen of their country, or already have a job there. And how does one get a job from thousands of miles and multiple time zones away? Yeah, not easily.

Step 0: Save.

I’ve been saving money ever since I graduated and got this job for travel purposes and so I could move. I’ve thought about a trip around the world, but generally that would require quitting my job (and saving even more money) and that has some decent risks in it. I’ve thought about going on a work-holiday visa to Australia for a year. When you save money, the possibilities are much less limited.

I wasn’t sure quite what I was saving for, but I just put aside a bit of money each month – the key is to make a separate savings account and have an auto-transfer set up. $100/month over the course of a year, and you’ll have saved $1200! You don’t have to make a ton of money, but if you do this over the course of a few years, it will add up, and you can make your big move. Of course, you can save for a wedding, or a kid, or whatever your heart desires; it’s all about priorities! My priority is to experience new places.

Step 1: Work for a company hiring people in an overseas office.

The announcement came at work: “We are opening a new UK office and hiring three new people to start it up.”

Cool. But there’s no way they’d let me go – they rarely send me anywhere outside the office, and that would be a huge deal to send me that they wouldn’t want to deal with. Forget it, Bethany.

Two months pass. I get increasingly restless and am seriously thinking about moving to Portland, Oregon, an ideal living city in my mind since college. But I like my job too much.

Step 2: Don’t be a wimp. Apply for a position in said overseas office.

I hear they are still looking for people for the new office. One day, I get the sudden urge to try for it, but it still seems like a crazy, futile idea. So I put out my feelers by asking my immediate manager what she thinks, because she’s a good one for crazy ideas who won’t judge me too much. And she says, “Yes, I think you should go for it! That would be so exciting!” and gives me some tips on how to go about it.

So I go to the director of my department with my proposal.

I would be the best person because I’m already familiar with our software and processes, so I wouldn’t need to be trained. I can go for one year or two or indefinitely, whatever works best. I’ll take either of the two positions I’m most qualified for, whoever you need. I think I would be really great for this!

She seems confused because it seems like this came out of nowhere and isn’t completely sure I’m serious.

Step 3: Be flexible but serious about it, and plan.

I spent hours and hours looking into what it takes to move overseas. I thought about how much it might cost. Whether I could bring my cat, and if so what that would entail. How all aspects of my life would be turned upside down. I’d have to change phone companies, probably get a flatmate, and have a significantly higher cost of living. Leave everyone.

But there was never a doubt that this is what needed to happen. This is what I want to do, what I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I had to reassure the higher-ups several times that I was committed and would not change my mind. This was not a random idea. I wouldn’t beg to come home after a few months. Once they were convinced, the plans commenced.

My company is being super helpful with the visa process and making sure I’ll be happy, but I’m going to have to move to a different role than the one I have now. My living situation won’t be quite so comfortable. I will be relatively poor. I figured out that I can’t afford to move my beloved cat back and forth. I STILL don’t know when I’m leaving, so I have to keep my summer plans open.

Yep, I really want this!

Step 4: Wait.

It takes a long time to get a visa. This process started back in March, and I still haven’t gotten mine. We’re just guessing that I’ll be moving in July, but it’s hard to tell. Originally I was going to go for two years, but that one would’ve been more complicated and taken even longer, so it switched to one year.

Stay tuned for part 2 once I move, starting with Step 5: Move!

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