International Assignee Insights: Part II – Preparing for a Relocation
Posted by: David Sabey, Director, Account Management
In my previous blog post, The Decision to Relocate, I shared some insights into the aspects that influenced my family’s decision to relocate. Now that the decision was made, some of the logistics came into play, and we learnt surprising, and sometimes hard, lessons.
The amount of paperwork is unbelievable!
I think the phrase ‘death by a thousand cuts’ might have been referring to paper cuts! In the course of preparing to relocate, I lost track of the sheer number of documents we had to complete, provide, share, duplicate, submit, verify, etc. And it wasn’t just visa related. In leaving the UK, I had to complete paperwork to stop being billed for our TV license, inform the UK Government that I was leaving for tax purposes, close out subscriptions and loyalty schemes, and that was all before we put our house on the market. As we had to keep our UK bank account open, we had to fill out more paperwork to allow my mother to access our accounts for us if required. I could go on. Even as an experienced relocation professional, it was very difficult to keep track of every piece of administration that we had to complete and when it was due.
We had a lot more stuff than we thought
Raina and I are by no means hoarders, but after we made the decision to relocate, suddenly walking around the house, you look at everything from the perspective of ‘do we want to take that with us?’ We looked at all of our furniture and had to decide if we wanted to ship it or sell it. We rediscovered items in our loft that, had we stayed in the UK, would have realistically moved from loft to loft gathering dust. Why did I think I would ever use the old rowing machine again?! We found items in our wardrobes that we hadn’t worn in years, and the sheer number of toys our daughter had, which we were previously OK with, became quite overwhelming. All in all, it took us almost 10 months to get rid of all the items we decided we didn’t want to take with us.
Clearing out can be trying, both emotionally and physically
Almost immediately after filing the initial visa petition, we started selling or giving away anything that wasn’t coming with us. With the prevalence of sites such as Gumtree, Ebay, and Craigslist, we were not lacking avenues to sell our unwanted items, but the process of sorting, then posting them on the sites, negotiating (in some cases) the price, and being let down by unreliable purchasers started consuming a remarkable amount of our time, with little financial reward.
Even giving items away took a lot of energy. I had a difficult conversation with a man who lived 30 minutes away who was unhappy that I would not deliver the cot bed, mattress, and sheets that I was giving away for free to his house at 10 p.m.! From an emotional standpoint, we had to make tough decisions on items that held sentimental value, such as my daughter’s baby clothes. I remember bringing down a storage container from the loft to find Raina in floods of tears over a baby onesie that we were going to give away. To this day, there are items that we regret giving away, even though the logical side of our brains knows we had to.
Relocation is complicated, plan to re-plan the plan
This will come as no great surprise, relocation is immensely complicated with a plethora of moving parts, most of which have an influence on one another. It’s important to say that at no point in the process were we without a plan, it was just a slightly different plan than the last one. We went through plans A-F, then back to A-2.0 before settling on C-22.214.171.124. As an example, my immigration compliance date, which wasn’t confirmed until a month before we left, impacted when we could pack and load our shipment, the delivery date of which influenced if we rented an unfurnished property in the U.S. or went into serviced accommodation, which fundamentally changed if we shipped our cat, Angus, at the same time as we flew, or a later date, which was limited by how long we were willing to leave him in a cattery in the UK, the costs of which would have had an impact on our ability to pay for other items…confused yet?
Our recommendations to improve the success of your relocation
- As far as is possible, start the process of organizing early. Had we left decisions on what to keep and what to get rid of until after I was immigration compliant, we would have probably struggled to achieve our relocation date at all, or would have had to dispose of a lot of things we wanted to keep.
- Prepare for it to be an emotionally difficult process. Whether relocating on your own, or as a family, there will be tough times. Find a suitable outlet to discuss them and be honest and open, with yourself and your family.
- With administration/paperwork, write a list or create a spreadsheet of all the subscriptions and memberships you have so that everyone is duly informed. For us, we based our list on the mail we received on a daily/weekly/monthly/annual basis as well as recurring payments out of our accounts. If companies are contacting you, or you are paying them, then realistically you will need to do something about it when you leave.
- Consider all of the elements that could be arranged in advance. The more you have arranged before you move, the less you have to arrange after the move. Critical focus needs to be given to those elements that take a long time to arrange, such as schooling.
- Keep your eyes on the prize. There will be items outside of your, and anyone else’s, control that will mean you need to change your plan. With each change, assess if the overall relocation is ‘directionally correct’ and address the items that you CAN control. Otherwise, you can spend countless hours trying to battle something that will not change.
Watch for my next blog post, Arriving in a New Country,where I discuss all the the logistics of setting up your life in a new country.