Ask LH: How Can I Plan A Move Overseas?

Ask LH: How Can I Plan A Move Overseas?

Hey Lifehacker, I work in IT with a core skill set as a .Net Developer. I have noticed a slowdown in work and there has generally not been many jobs advertised. I started looking for work overseas in New Zealand and south-east Asia — but how does anyone get a job overseas, let alone uproot themselves and move? Especially when we have commitments here such as mortgage/car/other half. Any suggestions? Thanks, Net Migration

Dear NM,

Uprooting your life and beginning afresh in a new country is obviously going to be a massive undertaking — especially when you have an existing mortgage and partner to consider. It’s not going to be easy and will obviously require a significant chunk of money.

The first step is to research the rules surrounding foreign employees in the country you want to work in. Your best bet is to find an employer who is willing to sponsor you for a role that can’t be filled by a local. Obviously that depends on your level of qualification and experience. Alternatively you can apply for the relevant working visa, but these aren’t always easy to obtain. Work visa laws vary from nation to nation, so you probably need to pick a target country before proceeding.

If you and your partner are English speaking Anglo-Australians, you’re probably better off moving to New Zealand than south-east Asia. In addition to having no language barrier, it’s a better cultural fit and there are far fewer visa hurdles to cross. Applying for jobs will also be much easier — most of Australia’s top job search sites have New Zealand equivalents that look and behave identically.

Once you’ve secured a job, that’s when the real challenge begins: preparing the move. Our night editor Elly Hart offers some great advice in her How To Move Overseas series. Elly, an Australian expat based in Canada, covers everything from opening an overseas bank account to dealing with consulate paperwork. If you’re serious about working overseas, her series is definitely worth a read.

As to your worldly possessions, it makes economic sense to sell rather than ship: especially when it comes to large items like cars and white goods. You’ll save a lot of time, money and frustration if you just stick to the essentials. Be brutal about it — if something is replaceable, sell it and put the money towards your travelling costs.

Unfortunately, you might have to consider selling your property if there’s a huge amount left on the mortgage. Juggling mortgage payments, property upkeep and tenant issues while living abroad is probably more hassle than it’s worth.

With all that said, are you sure you’re not be jumping the gun here? It’s not uncommon for industries to suffer from cyclical dry spells — this doesn’t necessarily mean that the profession is in decline. While IT managers might not be hiring today, things are bound to bounce back sooner or later.

According to the latest industry stats and figures, the pool of IT graduates in Australia has dropped by about 36 percent. Last month, Shadow communications minister Jason Clare highlighted the dwindling number in a speech at the Tech Leaders conference in Queensland:

In the last 10 years there have been 100,000 new jobs created in the technology sector, but in the same time only 49,500 students have graduated with technology degrees.

If the above figures are accurate, your job prospects should begin to improve year-on-year as the old guard gradually retires. In other words, you might be better off biding your time and waiting for things to improve (unless you really feel like a drastic life change). Plus, as Elly points out, there are some things in Australia that you’re sure to miss beyond sunshine and Vegemite.

We’re also going to throw this one over to our readers — if any expats are reading, how did you secure employment? How hard was the physical move? If you have any specific tips to share, let NM know in the comments section below.


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  • I moved with my wife to Hong Kong about 18 months ago as she had got a new job with the HK office of her existing company. Fortuntately for me I can still work remotely for my Sydney office although my visa does allow me to work in HK too if I desire.
    Getting sponsored over would definitely be the easiest way for sure, they even paid to move and fly us. Trying to do that without assistance while doable would be a pain in the butt.
    Selling as much stuff as you can is a good idea, but don’t necessarily agree with having to sell property. As long as you have a good real estate agent it pretty much looks after itself (at least its been pretty hassle free for us so far).
    Speaking to a tax accountant is important too so you know what your tax situation is going to be.
    Lastly, if you get the chance to do it, take it, it’s a good life experience!

  • Any upward pressure on IT salaries in Australia will just be dealt with by importing more 457 visa migrants. An IT career is not a bed of roses.

  • I moved from the UK to New Zealand six years ago. The whole process took two years.
    A few tips;
    1. Talk it through , serious and often with your loved ones , AND your family AND friends.
    2. When you have decided to go for it, pick a place of which you speak the language fluently, as if you were born there.
    3. Whatever you do and where ever you go, make sure you have a job , not a “job-offer” but a real salary paying job, and make sure you have a place to stay.
    4. Make friends with people from your home country who have moved to the place you want to move to, and ask their advise and FOLLOW it. They know the deal and will be able to tell you what the recruiters will not tell you.
    5. If at all possible , “try before you move”.
    6. Take your time to prepare , and do not ignore any details, get everything sorted, down to the smallest details before you pack and go. It may seem a lot of work, and it is, but you will be very, very happy you did it once you are at the other side of the world.
    7. Emigrating can be the best thing you did for yourself and your family. Preparation, down top the smallest detail really is the key to success. Take your time … seriously .. and good-luck.

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