If you have lived your entire life in the United States and are planning to move abroad, now is undoubtedly a very exciting time in your life. Regardless of where you are going and your motive for relocating, moving to another country is a huge change that only a very small percentage of US residents experience during their lifetime.
10 Things to Know Before Moving Abroad
Amidst your planning and preparations, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that there are a number of legal considerations involved in moving out of the United States. Here is a list of 10 things you should know before moving abroad:
1. Passports Expire
Is your passport still valid? Passports issued by the US Department of State expire after 10 years (or after five years if you got your passport when you were under age 16). If your passport is expired; or, if you are planning to relocate to certain countries like China, if your passport is within six months of expiration, you may be denied access at Customs. India requires your passport to have at least six months of validity when you apply for your visa, meaning that you may need to renew even earlier in order to ensure that your plans will not be delayed.
2. You Will Need a Visa
Speaking of visas, you will need one. Whether you are planning a permanent move or you expect to eventually return to the US, you will generally need a visa in order to gain entry into a foreign country. If your goal is to eventually apply for citizenship in your new home, obtaining a visa is often the first step in that process as well. There are all different types of visas for both personal and business travel, and each country has its own unique requirements. Obtaining a visa also takes time, so you will want to research your destination’s visa requirements and make sure you complete the application process accordingly.
3. You May Need to Be Cautious About Investing in Real Estate
If you are planning a long-term or permanent move, you may be thinking about buying a house or condo in your new home country. Investing in international real estate is a great way to diversify your assets (and to help shield your assets from domestic liabilities), but it comes with certain risks as well. Real estate scams are common in many countries that are popular with expatriates, and before you buy you need to make sure that the person offering a parcel for sale is truly the property’s owner. A reputable local agent or broker should be able to help you make a confident purchase.
4. Uncle Sam Doesn’t Forget
You will need to pay US income taxes for the part of the year that you lived in the United States; and, if you own or operate a business that has a presence or maintains certain contacts in the US, you may have ongoing US income tax obligations as well. Are you renting out your prior residence? Your rental income will generally need to be reported to the IRS.
5. Visas Expire
Like passports, visas expire. If you stay in your new country of residence beyond the expiration date of your visa, you could face removal (i.e., deportation), and this could have consequences for your ability to live and work there in the future. Know your visa’s expiration date, know the conditions on your presence (many work visas only allow for employment in certain occupations), and know what you need to do in order to renew your visa on time.
6. Liabilities Do Not Disappear When You Do
Your liabilities do not go away when you die, and they do not go away when you move overseas. If you have credit card debt, student loan debt, a mortgage, or a civil judgment that you are hoping to avoid by moving overseas, be aware that your move is not going to serve its intended purpose. There are ways to protect your assets legally (though you generally need to take appropriate measures in advance), and implementing a sound asset protection strategy is certainly something you should consider before moving abroad.
7. Some Countries’ Bureaucracies are Worse than You are Used to in the United States
From applying for a driver’s license to opening up a new business, in some countries, dealing with the bureaucracy can seem like a bad dream that never ends. You will need to be patient, respect local authorities and customs, and avoid getting so anxious and frustrated that you jump the gun. You do not want to run afoul of the legal system in your new home country, especially while you are present on a revocable visa.
8. You Will (Likely) Need to Pay Taxes in Your New Home Country
We mentioned your obligations to Uncle Sam earlier, but you need to remember that you will likely have income, property, and potentially other tax obligations in your new country of residence as well. If you think the Internal Revenue Code is confusing, just wait until you try to pay taxes overseas. Many countries have legal systems that are wholly unlike what we have in the US; and, from language barriers to just flat-out unclear requirements, knowing what you owe will typically require the help of an experienced local accountant or tax advisor.
9. Laws Differ Between Countries, Often in Surprising Ways
Visa, tax, and business laws are really just the tipping point. Depending upon where you go, you may need to adjust to life under a legal regime that is entirely different from that to which you have grown accustomed in the United States. In many countries, conduct and practices that are socially acceptable in the US carry harsh criminal penalties; and, if you are not familiar with local laws and customs, you may suddenly find yourself in a precarious situation where your freedom and your ability to travel are both at risk.
Researching online is a good place to start, but you should not rely solely on information you find online. Before you go, consider speaking with a local resident you trust, or consult an attorney who can advise you of any potential concerns.
10. Estate Plans Do Not Extend Cross-Border
Hopefully you have an estate plan in place that covers your US assets. If not, you should create one before you go. In either case, it is important to be aware that your US estate plan likely will not cover any assets you take or acquire abroad. Once again, you should speak with an attorney about local requirements, and consider putting a plan in place now that will serve you as you accumulate wealth over time.
For More Tips and Information on Moving Abroad
If you are planning to move out of the United States and would like more tips and information on what you need to do to prepare, we encourage you to review: Checklist Before Moving to a Foreign Country. For help planning your relocation and to make sure your assets are secure, contact Jiah Kim & Associates for a confidential consultation today.
Contact Jiah Kim & Associates
At Jiah Kim & Associates, we provide experienced legal representation and sound advice for US citizens seeking to move overseas. If you would like to discuss applying for a visa, protecting your assets, starting a foreign business, or putting together an estate plan, call (646) 389-5065 or schedule an appointment online today.
This blog post is written for educational and general information purposes only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. You understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the blog publisher. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.