expat etiquette

Preparing for expat life: documents

Sorting your documents

For expats preparing to head overseas, there’s a million things to do and so it’s very easy to forget about getting your personal, historical documents together. It’s an important step, because invariably, at some point soon after you land in your new ‘home country’, you’ll need them . . . whether it to apply for a driver’s license, open a bank account or for some other purpose, you’ll definitely need the originals. So, among the multitude of tasks that you need to attend to in preparing to make the big move overseas, take care not to overlook this.

It’s not just about passports and visas or your Australian tax returns. For expats intending to live overseas for any extended length of time, it’s very important that you keep all of your personal records and documents with you. This includes citizenship papers, birth certificate, marriage licence, divorce papers, police checks, child custody papers, and educational qualifications.

Keep all the originals with you, but be sure to also leave at least one set of copies with a trusted friend or family member. It’s also a good idea to have those officially certified as true copies of the originals be an authorised person (such as by a Justice of the Peace) because sometimes, plain photocopies of documents just won’t be acceptable. This will give you a backup just in case you happen to misplace them while overseas.

Also, it’s important to confirm you have all of your necessary work permits and visas for you and your family, before you leave. This is critical because immigration authorities in other countries could refuse entry if any documents you have indicate that you might violate local visa policies or conditions. If you have any doubt, check with the foreign mission of the country you’re planning to work in prior to your departure. Some countries will require that your original documentation be authenticated and/or translated.

Another thing you might face when living and working abroad is a requirement by law that you obtain an International Driving Permit. The importance of an IDP is that it proves you hold a valid licence in your country of origin. It’s not enough on its own, however, as it needs to be carried along with your valid Australian licence. To get an IDP in Australia, you need to contact your state or territory authorities. If you plan to reside overseas on an extended basis, you’ll generally also need to obtain a local driver’s license so you might want to check with the local authorities in your destination country to find out what the requirements are and what documents you’ll need for obtaining one.

When becoming an expat, there are many things you have to take into consideration, but your documentation is quite possibly one of the most important and easiest to overlook, of all. Be sure you have everything in order, and don’t leave anything to chance. With your paperwork all in place, you’ll be able to make your move and settle into your new life with no worries.

Questions? . . .


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Shane Macfarlane
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Shane Macfarlane

CEO & Founder at Expat Tax Services
Shane's an Australian Chartered Accountant and Australian expat tax specialist who's also an expat himself (based in Asia).Shane's passionate about tax and legitimate tax minimisation, particularly as it relates to Australian expats who are often subject to high rates of tax back home in Australia.Beyond tax and accounting, Shane's an entrepreneur, having devised, created and founded a successful accounting startup, Fifo Workpapers (acquired by accounting software giant, Intuit inc. in 2013)

In short Shane's a tax and software techno-geek, who recognised that Australian expats were unable to obtain the specialist advice and quality service, that they needed from their accountants. Accordingly, Shane founded Expat Tax Services to provide Australian expats with access to specialist, quality advice at fair and reasonable prices (no hourly rates, fees quoted upfront with unlimited support included) . . . receive the support and advice you need without having to take second-mortgage to pay your accountant's bill! Speak to Shane & the team today.
Shane Macfarlane
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