Foreign Assignments

Foreign Assignments Considerations

Foreign Assignments – Taking an overseas assignment can be a great career boost. There are some major issues that you need to consider.

Taxes

Many career opportunities can be unlocked when you accept a foreign assignment. Here is a list of things that you need to consider

The US is the only country in the world that taxes their citizens on their WORLDWIDE income. So even though you may earn every penny in other country on your local contract, the US wants to tax you for it. Fortunately there is a “foreign earned income tax” exclusion that you can apply for that will prevent the US from taxing you for the first $80,000 but above that value you will be taxed by both countries.

Download Selected PagesKeep a US address – find someone in your family who you can have all of your mail forwarded to and whose address you can use on your US tax forms.

Foreign Banking

The US requires that if you have a foreign bank account every year you must file a form with the Treasury Department to list all the foreign bank account numbers you own. Foreign branches of banks do not talk to their branches in the US. For all intents and purposes, they are totally different banks. You can wire money back and forth between your accounts (with associated fees), however it is easier to live with the separate accounts.

Moving

Have your movers come and estimate the volume of your household goods and then you get a feel for how much will fit in a new “smaller” place.

If you plan on coming back to the US, might leave any valuable goods (antiques, paintings, etc) with your family. Boats have been known to sink; containers have fallen off ships in bad weather, and while these items are insured, they could be lost forever.

Leave most of your electronics in the US. Your TV, stereo, microwave, washer/dryer, blender, even alarm clock, hair dryers, and telephones will not work on the power in many foreign countries.  The one exception is a DVD player – note your US DVDs will not work on an foreign DVD player as your DVDs are coded for the US.

Your goods will take 6-8 weeks to come from the US by boat – so be sure to negotiate into your contract that they put you into temporary housing or a hotel until your goods arrive and provide you with a car. I

Car and Driving

It is not cost effective to ship a car. Sell your car and buy a new one in your new country.

The US does not use the “international road signs” so you can find these on the Internet and study them before you arrive. Try to get your hands on an foreign countries’ driving manual before you arrive as the rules of the road are different in almost every country.

Bureaucracy

Getting a work permit, temporary resident’s visa, your driver’s license, and local ID in foreign country is a paperwork frenzy. Get as many of your personal documents together and organized up front (birth certificate, passport, immunizations, etc).

Networking

When you arrive in the foreign country typically you know virtually nobody. It is critical that you find a group of people soon after arriving. Type “Americans (country name)” into Goggle and find some local groups. These groups help you to meet other Americans who are in my exact same situation and who have already crossed the hurdles that you are just going over. These clubs often have “Newcomer” events that will welcome you to the area or subgroups (e.g. American Rotary, Mothers of Young Children, Retirees, Working Women’s Group, etc) that will help you almost immediately find other Americans in similar situations to yours.

Paperwork

Have a power of attorney and a will before you leave the US. Have an the attorney look into what could be done to make these documents legally recognizable in the foreign country.

Renting your Home in the US

You should find a fantastic property management company that does background checks (criminal) and credit checks on potential renters. Also, get the highest end rental insurance and fire insurance you can buy with replacement cost adjusted for inflation.

For a more complete presentation of these considerations go to http://goo.gl/8L4ICw.

Author: Victor Janulaitis

M. Victor Janulaitis is the CEO of Janco Associates. He has taught at the USC Graduate School of Business, been a guest lecturer at the UCLA's Anderson School of Business, a Graduate School at Harvard University, and several other universities in various programs.