Moving Countries? Master the Admin (Part Two)

In this follow-on blog post we continue our dive into The Paperwork!  With three international moves together hubby and I can confirm that focusing on the admin is essential. In part one we looked at documentation, taxes, credit and tax registration. Now we take a mini-dive into health care registration and getting your driver’s license.

Healthcare: This is an absolute priority, especially if you have a young family. It is wise to ask for recommendations of healthcare service providers even before you need them.

In Canada, each province has its own health care registration process (in Ontario it’s called OHIP). You need to visit a Service Ontario office and provide valid ID like a passport and proof of permanent address (a hotel won’t cut it as we discovered). You also must be living in the location before they will accept a rental agreement. You can use a Canadian driver’s license as proof of address. You also must provide evidence of legal right to work such as a work permit.

In Canada, you will have to wait for a period of 3 months before you can access the services free of charge (this has been waived under Covid). However, if you have an emergency, you should go to the hospital as they cannot by law turn you away. The good thing is, no matter when you sign up, the three months start the day you land.

In the UK you sign up online to the National Health Service (NHS) using your national insurance number. You will receive your NHS number after a few weeks and can immediately access health care. You will have to register in person with a doctor in your borough – these are called surgeries. And take note – you must show proof of address such as a bank statement or utility bill, which is a bit tricky if you have just moved.

The USA uses private medical which means you will have to purchase medical insurance which is horrendously expensive for individuals and families. But it’s a must if you don’t want to be bankrupted with hospital bills in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in the event of a health emergency. Our two cents would be to take a health insurance policy with a high deductible to lower your monthly cost which may cost a small fortune… shop around online as there are many options but ensure you select a reputable provider. If you are relocating with an employer or already have a job, you would normally receive health insurance as a benefit and then you can pay the additional cost to add your family members.

5. Getting your Driver’s License: The first thing to consider is – do you need a car? If you move to London or to downtown Toronto, you may forego purchasing a vehicle. I’m all for using public transportation and happily took the bus, tube or train in London. But you might have a commute that necessitates having a car or just want to have one – there is no shame in being a creature of comfort. 

Countries have different policies on whether you can get a driver’s license without doing a practical test. Moving from Jamaica to the USA we had to do a written and practical test to get our US Driver’s Licence in Florida. The process was very straight-forward and we didn’t book any lessons.

In the UK you must get a driver’s license after one year of residence (you don’t establish residence until you’ve lived there 6 months, so technically you have up to18 months). You cannot exchange your US license for a UK license, so you must take the written test. Even if you are an experienced driver we would still recommend getting two to three lessons with an instructor, especially if you haven’t had experience driving on the left. It is not an easy test in the UK. You will need to pass a simulated test, a written test and a practical. The first two are done at the same time.

In Canada you can exchange your UK or USA driver’s license for a Canadian driving license. You literally hand it in and get a Canadian one. To do this you will need a history of your driving record (available online from your US state) along with your physical license and an established address. You will get a temporary license (paper document) until the real one is mailed out, usually within in a couple of weeks.

Hope this second mini-dive into The Paperwork was useful for you. Share your experience and comment. Look out for more posts in the series on Navigating Change and you can also check out Lessons from the Backseat.

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