Moving abroad: things to consider when preparing for the big move

Leaving the Philippines can be challenging and also exciting. It is difficult and painful to say goodbye to loved ones and families at the airport. At the same time, there can be a feeling of anticipation for whatever lies ahead.

For many Filipinos, they have to leave in order to provide for their families and loved ones. We know these stories, we know them in our own families, and we all know them as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). I often hear “may Pilipino sa bawat sulok ng mundo“, and this is not surprising!

For others, they leave the country for love. It is a pretty common story of meeting someone, falling in love, and deciding to move across the ocean for this person.

For people like me, who wanted to pursue higher education abroad, it’s a slightly different story. My decision to leave was not driven by the need to provide for my family. It was more motivated by the need for professional growth and success, along with an itch to explore the world.

Germany is the first country I ever moved to. I knew nobody except for my partner and the people at the university. More importantly, I knew nothing about the German language. Everything I know now, I learned through navigating life as an immigrant / expat in this country.

The tips we mentioned in the podcast episode are focused on what you need to consider before leaving the country. Listen to the episode if you haven’t yet!

So you want to move abroad? Here are some things to consider as you are planning your move:

a. Research and understand what kind of visa you need

There are so many visa types depending on the country you’re going to and the purpose of your move. Some of the common ones are: work visa, student visa, marriage visa, au pair visa, family reunion visa, fiancĂ© visa, or employment as nurse visa. You can always ask your local consulates and embassies if you’re confused.

The documents you need to prepare are completely based on the visa type you’re applying for, so it is critical that you know which is the right one for you.

Also, take into consideration the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) requirements if you are going for employment. We’ve all heard stories of people already at the airport not being allowed to exit and board the airplane because they did not obtain an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) beforehand. You need this! You should also investigate what the current regulations in the PH are so that you can let your employer know. Direct hiring is not usually allowed unless there is an agency involved (except for certain cases), and they even suspend the processing of certain employment types from time to time đŸ€Ż

For students, check the university requirements and make sure your qualifications match. There are some countries that do not recognise our college degrees in the Philippines – for reasons I can’t explain – and you need to ask your prospective university directly for advise. Check also if there are processes to get your degree certified in the country you are moving to. For example, in Germany, there is the ZAB (Zentralstelle fĂŒr auslĂ€ndisches Bildungswesen or Central Office for Foreign Education) that handles the recognition of degree equivalency.

b. Prepare your finances!

There are so many expenses at this preparation stage. There are big chunks of expenses that are expected: visa application, flight ticket, travel insurance, and Philippine airport tax.

The simplest and cheapest costs can accumulate, no joke!

  • jeep, taxi, or UV express fares going to your personal appearance at the embassy
  • getting a passport
  • getting official copies of birth certificate, marriage certificate, certificate of no marriage, school transcripts, NBI clearance, etc.
  • photocopying documents and certificates 3 or 5 times
  • bank transfer fees or foreign exchange loss
  • sending documents by post (ex. DHL or FedEx)

Due to COVID-19, if you are allowed to travel, anticipate that you need to shell out money for COVID tests and a travel insurance that covers flight delays, changes, and cancellations.

It is also worth finding out if someone else can cover part of these expenses for you (ie. employer or scholarship).

It’s really difficult to say how much your budget should be. It really depends on the purpose of your move. For example, when I was applying for a student visa without any scholarship, I had to open a Blocked Account or Sperrkonto in Germany (I did it with Deutsche Bank) and deposit money there. This is a requirement, there’s no way around it unless you have a scholarship that covers not only tuition fees, but also the living expenses. Even if you get a guarantor, or have sponsors, they will still have to transfer the amount to the blocked account. The purpose is to cover a student’s cost of living and make sure they can live sufficiently in the country for the period of their study. With a blocked account, withdrawing money is allowed but limited to a certain amount per month. You can find other banks which offer blocked accounts here.

c. Make sure all your affairs in the Philippines are in order

If you’re like me who had liabilities in the Philippines (I was paying for a car), make sure you prepare a notarized Special Power of Attorney with someone you trust who can deal with banks and companies on your behalf. It will cost you more money if you have already left and need it.

Another thing to consider if you want to keep your Philippine bank accounts is to set up your mobile banking, SMS verifications (e.g. OTP), and making sure international payments are allowed. If you do this, you will also likely need to keep a Philippine mobile number alive, because some Philippine banks do not support international phone numbers. Check this with your telco provider. It’s really a pain in the butt to have to sort this out when you’re outside the Philippines.

d. If going to a non-English speaking country, learn the language

Learning the language is essential. This is something I can attest to! Coming to Germany with zero skill made life so difficult, even the most mundane things like going to the supermarket and taking the public transportation. There are so many apps out there as well as formal online classes to help you learn at least the basics.

e. Manage your expectations and make back-up plans

COVID-19 has disrupted our lives in a massive way, particularly travel and immigration. I know of some people who were still able to move abroad during this time — it’s difficult but not impossible. You need to be on top of everything and follow the announcements about regulations both in the Philippines and where you’re going.

Be proactive and don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Most of all, get COVID-tested for your and other people’s safety.

Do you have other tips about moving abroad? It would be great to hear from those who made it successfully in other European countries, Asian countries, Australia, New Zealand and everywhere else! Drop us a comment below or send us a DM on Instagram.

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