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IS THERE NO GOING BACK?

Before you leave the country that you have been living in, for whatever reason, there are a number of things you should remember to do before you depart:

  1. You may come back! Work on the assumption that you may return. Too many people burn their bridges - make sure that you pay your tax, parking fines and everything else that you are liable for. Just because you are leaving, doesn't necessarily means that you won't be coming back. Turn up at any expat function and you will find many second-timers who have done stints in other countries before returning back to their host country. Even if you don't return with your original employer. The skills that you have gathered and your familiarity with this country will make you an easier re-employ. If you leave badly, you may not be welcome back and that lucrative job may not be offered to you. Additionally, leaving badly can effect adversely on your employer and your future prospects within your company

  2. Go to the tax office. As much as it hurts, it is far easier doing things face to face and often there are set lists or formats that are supplied that make it easier to wind up your affairs whilst you are there in person. Think about superannuation, pension funds, business registrations, business and personal taxation.

  3. Wills. Amend your will to reflect your change of location. When you have assets in different countries you may also need to have wills in these countries. As an example, as Australians we were advised to have a will in Hong Kong stating that our will in Australia took precedence over all other wills. Get the necessary legal advice on this particularly if you have children. Having a complicated international mess can be a nightmare to sort out for your executors and can delay the execution of your will. Remember also to appoint legal guardians for your children if you are out of the country for any period of time.

  4. Documents. Get copies of any relevant documents. If any of your children were born overseas make sure you get notarised or approved copies of birth certificates. Far easier to do this in person that attempt to manage time zones, language problems and burdens of proof and identity over the telephone or internet.

  5. Transport. Advise the transport department that you will no longer have a car as well as providing them with a new change of address. You don't want to be liable for any damage caused by the new owner of your car. Make sure that you address all change of ownership details correctly.

  6. Bonds and deposits. Get your bonds back from your accommodation if you have paid them -don't forget your deposits for cable television, water, oil, gas, electricity, telephone and so on.

  7. Clubs. If you are a member of a club consider taking out lifetime membership. Many clubs will offer you a one up payment (which is usually not too onerous) which will allow you to place your club memberships on hold indefinitely. This will mean that if you do return you will be able to reactivate your memberships without having to wait until a membership is available. Alternatively, you may find that your new country has reciprocal club benefits that will enable you to join easily. Get letters of introduction if you need them. Additionally, just because your club may not have certain facilities in your host country, other countries may have better facilities and may be more attractive. Check out what you will need before you depart.

  8. Schooling. Make sure you give your children's school plenty of notice. Many schools will prepare an exit folder for you to take with you. This folder contains comprehensive descriptions of the school curriculum as well as copies of all academic records and detailed assessments of your children's performance. Explanations of local initiatives or differences may also be included and this information will help ease the transition for your children. If you anticipate moving regularly, get it updated at each school.

  9. Medical. If you have any medical issues it is worth contacting your doctor for an up to date list of all immunisations and medical records. Keeping track of this data can be difficult. Get a family table prepared which details all booster renewal dates, vaccinations and due date for future immunisations. And take with you any medications that you may need in the short term (along with a prescription or letter from your doctor explaining your need for the medication). Remember too that if you will be travelling regularly, you may need to adhere to a number of different immunisation schedules. Make sure that you consider these differences and that you advise a doctor of your needs so that they are fully integrated.

  10. Sightseeing. Run around and take tourist shots of the place before you leave. When you arrive, you are often too busy to take these type of pictures. When you are living there, it seems pointless. When you leave, you have missed your chance. We have compiled a wall of photos from expat postings - friends, places, images that remind the family where we have been and the people that we have met over the years. It also helps the children to explain to friends where they came from in a concrete manner.

  11. Banking. Attend to your banking needs. Some banks offer you the ability to transfer your banking history. You may need to determine what your company have organised as far as your finances are concerned. Will you be retaining assets after you leave? Will you have to do tax returns in your home or local country or both after you have left? How will you minimise any tax that you may have to pay in either or both jurisdictions? Your company may not always be putting your best interests forward and may instead be focussing on what suits them financially. Make sure that you obtain financial advice prior to your departure.

Amanda O has been an expatriate most of her life and can't imagine living any other way.

HSBC Bank International has a range of tools on their web-site (www.offshore.hsbc.com) that are worth checking out. These range from country guides (www.offshore.hsbc.com/hsbc/main/living-working-abroad/country-guides) which can help with background information on a variety of destinations to an expenses calculator www.offshore.hsbc.com/hsbc/main/living-working-abroad for you to calculate your monthly living expenses

Posted 06Apr05