Last updated on December 26th, 2020 at 10:07 pm

Disclaimer: You asked for advice. We’re providing it. But as with anything else, make sure you check with the actual professionals to make the right decision, especially when it comes to immigration.

This week, Amanda Bates and Karla Fraser each take on a question.  Need advice? Ask away. Questions may be edited for length and clarity.

Q: Let’s be honest, I’m over these student loans payments. If I head abroad, do I still have to pay them back? 

A (Amanda): There comes a time in every student loan borrower’s life, where you ask yourself, “How can I get out of these insane loan payments?” Even the most honorable amongst us can get hella frustrated with having to pay Sallie Mae for that degree, that you sometimes question if it was even worth it.

And now you’re older, arguably wiser and trying to make some decisions in your life… Including bailing on these loans. Here’s the bad news though. You can go to Japan, Namibia or Belize but you still owe that money. Just because you metaphorically disappear, doesn’t mean those payments will. 

The good news is that you won’t be arrested. The US thankfully doesn’t have debtor’s prison, so at least you don’t have to worry about jail. (Seriously. It’s still a thing in a few countries around the world).

But there are still other problems. If they are federal loans (aka owned by the US government), they are notoriously hard to discharge. Unless you die, become permanently disabled or meet really stringent bankruptcy requirements, they are going to be around until the debt is paid in full. You can expect that the amount owed will increase (here’s looking at you, compound interest!). These loans will definitely impact your credit score because they will show as unpaid debt, which could be problematic if you repatriate to the US. In some cases, you could lose some of your financial privileges. You might see a reduction in your tax refund, Social Security benefits or even experience wage garnishment. Plus, there’s no statute of limitations when it comes to federal loans. In other words, the federal government could take you to court at any time. 

If you owe private student loans, the consequences might be a little different and you will need to check with both your lender and state laws. However, you can expect nonpayment to still impact your credit score. You should also anticipate that if your debt is turned over to collections, you’ll be on the receiving end of those calls – or at least whoever has your last contact phone number will. Finally, if you have a cosigner, they will be on the hook, in case you don’t pay.

Instead of completely ghosting, you may want to speak to your lender to understand what the payment options are. If you decide to skip out anyway, just be aware of the issues you may face down the road if you decide to return to the US to live. 

Q: I do not care to get a vaccination unless it is necessary. I plan to relocate to an African country and read that many countries require vaccinations like yellow fever. Is this mandatory? (Karla)

A (Karla): I understand your concern, as many people view vaccinations as a personal choice. While your personal preference is essential, various countries require vaccinations when entering their borders, whether for vacation or a permanent move. The yellow fever vaccination is one of the most commonly required. 

If you are entirely opposed to vaccinations, I suggest you do some research. Find countries to visit, or relocate to, that do not have such requirements. I can’t say I know of any off the top of my head, but with 200+ countries and territories, there might be a chance you will find one.

As the world has changed due to our on-going virus situation, so have boarding flights and entering countries. I now consider the vaccination – a requirement at borders – to have been a precursor. So let me help you prepare further if you opt to visit or move to a country that requires vaccinations. Most verifications will occur at points of entry: land, seaport or airport. Failure to provide satisfactory evidential proof can result in denial of entry. However, at the point of boarding your flight, you could also be asked. Having your documents at hand will make for a smooth travel experience.

Also, let me provide you with some resources to learn more about which vaccinations are required or recommended for specific countries or regions. If you have a multi-country itinerary, it is advisable to check each country’s requirement as it can vary from nation to nation. Please review the CDC Traveler’s Health or the immigration requirement on the government website of the country to which you are seeking entry. A visit to a travel clinic or your primary care physician can help you get started on the process of receiving the required vaccinations. Stay safe, healthy and travel happily. 

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