Traveling for a week or even a couple of months can be more straightforward than moving abroad. Oftentimes, all it takes is booking flights and accommodations, getting a tourist visa if needed, and possibly learning a few phrases in the local language. Well, not so much if you plan to live overseas. Travel paperwork can be time-consuming when you are not a tourist. No one tells you about the tedious and painstaking process of immigration paperwork until after you start experiencing them. So let me help you right now.
There are many ways to get to your new host country from a paperwork perspective (i.e., your immigration visa). Some people enter with a tourist visa, explore the new nation, and seek work with the hopes of settling down. Others may have a sponsored visa from an organization (company, government, non-profit) where the process of entry and getting settled can be a bit easier. Regardless of which immigration procedure you are using, it requires lots of documentation, time to collect it, and keeping abreast of your length of stay.
The semi-permanent move requires lots of paperwork, forms, pictures, official stamps, and who knows how many signatures from different offices. You will spend lots of time and energy and you can get frustrated with the process or nuances. Most countries require original copies of your documents. Sometimes a certified/notarized copy can suffice. Whether you are a new expat or a continuing one, there are paperwork challenges that can happen every step of the way.
Oh yes, let me not forget. Sometimes this paperwork process may require your documents to be translated into the local language. Such translations require a certified translator. This was my experience in the UAE 12 years ago. My US driver’s license had to be translated into Arabic before I could convert it to a UAE license. The time and process were worth having the ability to drive in the country.
Be in the Know
Do your research; know what type of visa you need to have, its requirements, and also its limitations. Keep track of your paperwork and length of stay in a country as the fines and penalties for over-stays can be harsh. Visa problems can be quite challenging to negotiate in many countries. You want to avoid any questions or concerns about your status or risk of deportation, which could cost you everything from your job to being tagged in international immigration databases.
You can find lots of useful and accurate information on the appropriate websites about visas. However, do realize it is all subject to the interpretation of the local immigration officials. Immigration rules may change any time; the rules you knew when you bought your ticket could have changed by the time the plane landed.
Make sure you do your research, call the embassies, immigration offices, confirm with your employer, and have accurate information before travel. I have always been diligent about all my immigrant documents and process. Thus far, I have not experienced any obstacles that challenged my stay in any country I have lived or visited. Now, being honest, some of it has to do with passport privilege.
It’s only a Paper Trail..
Having been an expat in four countries, needless to say, I have had my fair share of forms, pictures, and other paperwork to complete. It is common for expats to experience the bureaucracy of other systems. In some cases, the processes were not created for us in mind. Even with all the potential challenges of moving and settling overseas, the process is worth the experiences you will gain.
The opportunity of living and working overseas is a growth experience. Living outside your comfort zone is the reason expat life changes you. It is why I continue being an expat even with all the difficulties. If you have a desire to live abroad, don’t let lengthy paperwork processes overwhelm you. Start your journey and build treasured memories and experiences.
The original version of this article appeared on the RG Blog.