Any UK resident with a thirst for travel will have been hard-pressed not to notice the questions raised over the course of the last four years as a result of the EU referendum. The debate over freedom of movement has been long, confusing and at times unpleasant – and no small number of British people have looked into the possibility of securing Irish passports as a means of holding on to the wider travel benefits that EU citizens can claim.
For others, the question of whether they want to continue living in the UK at all has become prominent. With the first stage of Brexit set to be completed at the end of January, some UK citizens may well be considering emigration, while others will at least be keen to test the waters by trying out another country for a longer break than usual. The truth is that emigrating is a lot more complex than some people imagine, and it is not the kind of decision that should be made without a lot of research. However, if you are curious about broadening your horizons – because of Brexit or just to try something new – some of the tips below may be of use to you.
The first thing to do when you are grasped by the desire to up and leave the place you live right now is simple: wait. This is not a decision that should ever be made in haste. It involves a great deal of upheaval, changing everything from your address (obviously) to how you run your finances. Among the many changes are some that can cost a great deal of money, so before you embark on the process of moving anywhere, you must make sure it’s what you want to do.
Be Ready for What You Will Leave, and What Awaits You
As disillusioned as one can become with where they live right now, it’s worth flipping that old saying: “familiarity breeds contempt”. Although you may be bored where you are right now, remember that part of that boredom, that contempt, comes from the fact that it is everyday. If you’re dreaming of moving to another part of the world, bear in mind that one day, the new place will also be your everyday. Add to this the fact that you are familiar with the culture, the language and the laws of where you live right now; you’ll need to be prepared for all of that to change, and to make that adjustment – because emigrating isn’t a holiday; it’s a new life.
It is essential to take steps towards understanding life on the ground in your prospective new country – you should, as a bare minimum, have visited it before deciding to move there, ideally multiple times. You will need to research things like insurance, the healthcare system and, if you have kids, schooling. It will also help to have some contacts who live in your new country; they can give you a resident’s-eye view of the place much more comprehensive than what you can pick up from local papers (which you should also read online). Oh, and if you are moving somewhere that doesn’t have English as a first language, you’ll need to learn at least the basics of that country’s language.
Pick a Country That’s Practical for You
A lot of people who dream of emigrating think of it in terms of “Which country would I like to live in?”, but many fail to ask the more important question: “Which countries will allow me to live there?”. For UK residents, countries such as the USA and Australia are often popular choices – until the potential ex-pat comes into contact with the labyrinthine immigration policies of those countries. It’s a lot easier, by contrast, to go through the Canadian process.
If you would prefer to stay within the EU, then Ireland is an obvious choice, but may well be affected as much by the upheaval to come post-Brexit as the UK will be. An alternative may be Belgium; the country has a relaxed approach to welcoming new residents as long as you can prove your ability to support yourself, and you can apply to become a permanent resident after five years in the country. There may be something of a language barrier – the southern region, Wallonia, is mainly French-speaking, while the northern Flanders region speaks a dialect of Dutch known as Flemish.
Wherever you go, the need to prove your ability to support yourself is likely to be part of the process. For example, to move to Paraguay you will need to make a deposit of close to £4,000 in a Paraguayan bank account, after which the residency process is extremely simple and swift in comparison with a lot of other places. If you can’t lay your hands on that money in one go, it may be worth exploring options such as Buddy Loans to fund some of the deposit – as long as you can guarantee future income, you’ll be able to settle in a pleasant country with a very affordable cost of living.
It’s Never as Easy as It Seems
The final point to make about emigrating is that there is a gap between fantasy and reality. If you want to enjoy all of the benefits of moving to a new country, you’ll need to put in a lot of work and, crucially, overcome homesickness and second-guessing. As much as you may have been longing to say goodbye to your current place of residence, it gets much harder when the time comes to say goodbye to family, friends and familiar places.
This absolutely does not mean you shouldn’t do it. Emigration can deliver a new lease of life that is to be enjoyed, but you need to be ready for the doubts you’re going to have. Make plans to make the occasional trip back to see friends or – better yet – to receive visitors in your new home. Closing the door completely on the past is a tough thing to do, and it can be the single step that you find too hard to take, causing you to bail on the entire plan – so don’t do it. The more you see emigration as just another step in life (instead of a solution to all that is disappointing about your life right now), the better you will be at embracing the good and the bad that it brings, and acclimatising to your new surroundings.
If you’ve been considering a move abroad to give your life a kick-start, there may never be a better time – just as long as you’re ready for the challenge!