With three international moves together (USA, UK, Canada) hubby and I have discovered that the one thing you can’t escape each time you move to a new country is The Paperwork! In this two-part post we share a few of the admin matters that were top of the list for us. Whether you are contemplating a move soon (Covid-permitting) or it’s just a distant idea, this will give you a sense of the admin involved in relocating. Dive in.

1. Documentation: Collect all your passport photos, marriage certificate, birth certificate, current passports (you may have from multiple countries), old passports, educational certificates, police records, school report cards for your children, medical history and immunization records. Get certified copies of everything! Scan all your important documentation and store it on an encrypted hard drive.

2. Tax registration: Sort this out as soon you land. In the USA this is your Social Security Number (SSN). In the UK and Canada, it’s your Social/National Insurance Number (SIN or NIN). It’s basically to ensure that you pay your taxes – you can’t get paid without this, neither can you register for healthcare in the system especially if it’s public as in Canada and the UK. Canada was especially easy, upon landing you can sign up for your Social Insurance number at the airport using your work permit or you can apply online afterwards. Every country has their version of this so check the relevant government websites before you arrive to save valuable time.

3. Build up Credit:  If I had a dollar for every time I heard the words, “You have no credit history”, I wouldn’t need credit. It’s quite demoralizing at the start being granted the highest interest rates or denied a credit card. You want to ask, “but how can I build up a credit history if you won’t give me credit?” Here are a few things that worked for us in various places:

  • a friend recommended us to a small dealership where we paid half down on an affordable second-hand car with six months to pay the rest;
  • we made a deposit in the bank and got a credit card albeit with a very low starting limit;
  • we bought an item of furniture on a six-month payment plan.

Each time that you pay off something you get a bump up in your credit. So, get in there early, start small, spend on your credit card and pay it every month. NEVER miss a payment or pay late. And just be patient. A year goes by quickly and your credit will keep building.

4. Taxes. Huge sigh. Taxes: We are not tax experts and boy do we ever wish we were. We will also be careful of what we say here as we can’t give much advice beyond the following: Get advice from a tax expert!

If you are relocating with a company, negotiate this as part of your package. If it’s not included ask for recommendations of a tax consultant that you can use locally and engage them early.

Note all the tax cycles – in the country you are leaving and the country that you are moving to and any other country where you may have assets. Countries have different tax years. Depending on when you move you might have to file taxes in two countries in the same year and you don’t want to pay late filing penalties.

Learn about the different terms – where and under what circumstances you will be required to pay capital gains tax, how are charitable deductions handled, are there deductions for children’s education, are there tax-free savings accounts that you can benefit from, are you required to file separately as a couple or jointly? It is critical to get this right.

Hope this mini-dive into ‘mastering the admin’ was useful for you. Share your experiences and comment. In the series Navigating Change, Part Two will explore Healthcare and Driving.

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