I have joined several expat groups on Facebook and about once a week it seems there will be a new member who posts something like “I have always wanted to live in the UK and am going to do it!” and then go on to ask questions like where should they move, how people found jobs, how they got pets over, etc. These posts are fresh meat in a tank full of sharks. Group members will respond with answers similar to “Exactly what visa are you coming over on?” or “Hate to dash your dreams but it’s not going to happen,” and so on… yes, people are actually that harsh in their responses; however, while I think there’s a more tasteful way to respond, I understand the responses. Many of these people went through hell to get here and when someone mentions that they’ve just decided to move here without any consideration to the actual reality of getting here I think it is a little annoying to those who did their own legwork. I get it, I do, it’s just a little sad to see these people’s “dream” get crushed in such a public way. It’s true though, it’s hard to get here, though not neccessarily impossible . What I will say is if you are joining expat groups to ask how to move here then this may not be a good move for you.
The second we even considered the possibility of moving here I went to work researching if it was even possible. I combed through the UK government’s website searching for any visas that might allow us to settle permanently. Then I looked at the logistics of the move (can we get the dogs over safely, how we ship our crap over, how do we find housing, get bank accounts, and so much more). When combing through visas we found one that my husband might possibly qualify for which would get us both over on a Tier 1, and because it was all still a little confusing we consulted an expert, not a FB group. Why? Because we wanted this badly and didn’t want to screw things up. I believe if you want something enough you will research the heck out of it to figure out how to make it happen and determine if it’s even a reality at the moment. That may sound harsh but honestly if you want to move to another country and aren’t doing similar research then I question how serious you are about the move and your ability to survive such a move (you really have to be ambitious in your endeavor and research savvy).
Another reason I wouldn’t recommend people consult FB expat groups about how to make your dream a reality is because very few of the people in the groups are experts. I think I’ve seen one immigration attorney in a group and have only seen her post once. A lot of people are over here on spousal visas and I’ve seen them respond to people with “you need to marry a Brit if you want to move.” WRONG! There are several other options. I haven’t encountered anyone posting in any of these groups that are here on the same visa type that we are (there are many people over here on the same visa, I just haven’t seen them posting in these groups), and I’ve encountered only one person who was very familiar with our visa. When I posted a housing question in a FB group once many of the people were more concerned with my visa type rather than actually answering my question (it was a little tacky in parts), they couldn’t fathom such a visa existed. I mention that to further emphasize that these people are not experts. These groups are extremely useful, I’m just saying don’t rely on them to get you here. Also, I have seen people post that there are groups on FB specifically for people hoping to become expats, so that might be really helpful to you compared to the groups where people have already completed the process.
Soooo what should you do? First, you must go research which visas are available to you, if any. One way to do that is by researching the government’s website for the country you want to move to and seeing what visas are available. We were only willing to move if we’d be eligible for permanent settlement eventually, all visas are not created equal so read the fine print. Second, you found a visa that you think might work, now really consider how serious you are about moving. Travelling somewhere and loving it is significantly different than moving there. If this is to be a permanent move you need to want this with all of your heart and soul. If you’re just looking to move for a year or two for the experience then go for it! Third, Google everything you can about other expat’s experiences to see what they wish they’d known before moving, things they’ve struggled with, etc. (this is where some expat groups might be useful, as well as Reddit, random blogs, and Quora). And lastly, mostly because I’m tired and this post is too damn long, consider consulting an attorney. Work overtime, take on an extra job, sell something if finances are preventing you from contacting an expert in immigration law. I absolutely know you can get through the process without an attorney, people do it all the time, but I can’t imagine going through our process without ours.
Alright then, I think that is all I have for the moment. It is a difficult journey once you decide you’re going to go for it and you may go through the whole process only to be denied but if you don’t at least try you’ll never know. And if it doesn’t work out now then maybe it will later. Believe that if it’s meant to be it will happen. Just a reminder, I am not an expert. Going through the process taught us a lot but going through it does not make us experts. Now get out there and start researching! 😉