You’ve finished your TEFL certification course. Your passport has been renewed. You’ve got your eyes set on your dream destination. Now what?
Even seasoned travelers sometimes have problems when they move abroad. It’s a complicated process and every country does it differently. Years of experience with Thai immigration won’t help a bit when you’re working with Cambodian immigration.
It would be far too difficult to talk about the requirements for each type of visa in each country. Unless you can get your visa online like Electronic Travel Authority (eVisa) for New Zealand which has the latest updates of the requirements on this site, the information changes a lot too, so any article that gives definitive information about obtaining visas in any country is quickly outdated. Not to mention, in many countries, “coffee money” can help things along. Though in others it can make your situation a whole lot worse!
Basically, your best bet is to look for country-specific information for visas. And also for life! There’s more to moving abroad than obtaining your visa! Colombia sounds great now, but how do you know that you’ll really like the lifestyle there?
I’ve lived in five foreign countries. Here are my tips on where to look for information about the country you’ve got your eye on to make sure you don’t get off the plane and think “oh no, what have I done?!”
Check their websites. Who knows a country’s immigration laws better than their government? If you want to move to France, check the French embassy’s website in your country. There will be visa information there. This may not make everything crystal clear, but it’s a good starting point.
A lot of countries will also have an immigration website available in multiple languages. Your target country may not have that option, but it’s worth a look!
If you’re working with a recruiter to find a job in a country, they should be able to give you advice about visas and about the country and city. I’d be reluctant to trust a recruiter who couldn’t tell me about visas or help me to have realistic expectations about a place. They obviously like where they live, that’s why they’re helping to bring more people there to share the experience, but everywhere has downsides and it’s important to know what those are too.
This is somewhat similar to getting advice from a recruiter. It’s less personal because you won’t have a relationship with the blogger, and that comes with pros and cons. Someone writing into the void could be overly positive or negative and not really present a balanced view. You also won’t necessarily know their personality. They find your hopefully-future city to be charming and quaint. You might find it isolated and rural. So take what you see on blogs with a grain of salt and look for multiple blogs for a more balanced picture.
Search Facebook for your city/country/region + expat or your city/country/region + your nationality. It is hard to imagine a city that wouldn’t have an expat group for you to join. In my experience, this will show you the worst of what your future home has to offer. And that’s a good thing! Everyone in the group has (or will have) a connection to that place. They have no reason to make things look better than they are, everyone will see right through it. So join these groups and see what bad things are in store for you. If you see a lot of posts looking for Western food and you are not an adventurous eater, that might not be the place for you. If everyone is complaining about traffic but you lived in Asia for a year, you’ll probably feel confident and able to handle it.
You’ll also see a ton of posts about visas and teaching. This may not be true for every expat group, but it’s certainly true for every group I’ve joined or heard about. Many people there were in the same boat as you and can help you with any questions that come up.
Of course, as usual, Google is your friend. If you use the right search terms, you can find anything here.
Are you currently living abroad? What are your tips?
Looking to make a move? Any questions?