I moved from a small city in the south of New Zealand to Europe in July 2016. I’m now well settled in London with a great job, amazing flat, supportive friends and a 5-year visa under my belt. But it wasn’t always plain sailing. These are the things I wish I knew before crossing the ditch (or in English; moving overseas).
- DO YOUR RESEARCH!
It may seem obvious, but visas can take anywhere from a few days to three months to process. Make sure you do your research and know when to apply and how long it may take and what country you should be in, or not be in. If you want to apply for a visa for the country your currently in, often you have to leave that country and apply from elsewhere, or even your home country.
How I figured this out the hard way: When applying for a French working visa, I could only go to the French embassy in NZ. I couldn’t do it anywhere else. When applying for my UK visa, I could apply anywhere in the world except the UK itself!?
- Create and carry certified copies of all documents
You never know what you’re going to lose or have to send away. Losing your passport can be one of the most stressful drama’s you go through, along with applying for visas. Certified copies are often regarded as legitimate as the original and seriously help in your effort to get new copies. Have your passport, birth certificate, tertiary education certificates, anything you may need for a visa, job or bank account. You generally have to take your documents to an Upstanding Member of Society in the UK or in NZ they’re called a Justice of the Peace to get them copied, signed and certified.
How I figured this out the hard way: When I applied for a UK Ancestral visa I had to send away my original passport along with certified copies of my birth certificate, my mum’s birth and marriage certificate AND grandmothers birth and marriage certificates...! My mum (angel) had to run around NZ getting certified copies and fast posting them to Germany because I hadn’t done my research.
- If in doubt – ring your or their embassy
Even if it costs money to call– JUST DO IT. Write down all your questions and prepare to spend £20 just rattling them off. They do have answers. Repeat all their answers back to them so you can be super sure. Ask for a reference number for the call or even a direct dial or email for future questions to avoid more fees.
How I figured this out: I spent £40 talking to a rather bland, yet very helpful woman at the British embassy who clarified answers to my questions that could’ve resulted in me losing $3000NZD in fees…yikes!
- Have some backup money
Seriously, emergency money is no joke. Having a solid savings account is a given. You’re embarking a long-term/no income/high spent opportunities journey. But leaving some money at home, with your mum, under your bed, in a secret account, wherever, will be a lifesaver.
Tip: Go to your usual bank before you leave and see if you can get a credit card with a few grand limit. Put the card in a safe place in the bottom of your suitcase and know it’s there if worse comes to worse.
2nd tip: DON’T SPEND EMERGENCY MONEY ON “EMERGENCY” TEQUILA SHOTS!
- Tell the important people
While you’re at the bank, tell them you’re going overseas. They’ll note it down on your account so when you go to use your usual cards or credit card it doesn’t lock you out. No point in having emergency money if your bank thinks you’re a cyber thief.
How I figured this out the hard way: If you’ve ever felt the shame of being in a restaurant and your card declines, then try paying for a visa in the UK embassy in Berlin and your card declining…
Tip: I made my mum executer of my bank accounts, so if anything major happened (aka spending all my emergency money on “emergency tequila”) she could move money around, take money out or extend my overdraft without me being there.
Tell your own government too, student loans and business accounts acquire serious tax while your away. You might even qualify for a repayment holiday, and they usually have a way to pay into your accounts without paying international fees. You don’t want to come home after two years and be stopped at the border because your loan and doubled in size.
- Have your CV prepped and ready
You might not get a job straight away, or have access to a computer and printer. So, make sure your CV is up to date and a few copies printed off on nice paper.
Having multiple versions that accentuate different skill sets can be good. Also include relevant visa status, what that status entitles you to and a local address if you can. Recruiters and companies could disregard your CV if they think you’re transient or don’t recognise the visa.
- It’s not all scary applications and being poor
Lastly, a lot of people talk about being prepared to be lonely, homesick, lost, scared. But also be prepared to love it so much you never go back! Missing your family is a given, but technology is so good these days, you’ll probably speak to your family and friends more than when you were at home...! There’s no reason why you won’t find another country that you feel just as at home in or friends you feel like you’ve known forever.
Moral of the story is, moving country can be daunting. Leaving home can be daunting. But by doing some research and prep (and learning from others mistakes) can go a long way in ensuring you get more time on holiday and less time doing life admin.
I joined the Mattinson Partnership dream team in Spring 2017. Originally from New Zealand, I have a background in hospitality and administration. After graduating with BSc in Psychology and Criminology I settled in London following six months exploring Europe. I now manage MP's brand development, social marketing and business support alongside Amy. Outside of work you'll usually find me avoiding the gym and spending too much money!