The Expat Survival Guide: what to know before you go

Expats | BCBusiness
Two expatriate Western business people in the financial district of Raffles Place in Singapore.

Relocating to another country? What every business person needs to know beforehand

Living and working abroad can be rewarding, but uprooting yourself—especially with a family—isn’t easy. And according to Statistics Canada, more British Columbians move out of the country (for work and other reasons) than Canadians from any other province. Allan Nichols, president of the Canadian Expat Association; Linda Lachapelle, director of business development at Cartus Relocation Canada; and Christina Diles, a partner in Deloitte’s Global Employer Services Group and a member of the Canadian Employment Relocations Council’s Pacific Region committee, offer insights on navigating foreign waters.

Connect with Local Canadians

“If somebody’s being relocated, then the resources would often come from the organization that they’re working with here in Canada,” says Allan Nichols. For someone moving without corporate support, Canadian chambers of commerce, social clubs and diplomatic offices “are really key to success as an expat abroad. Being involved in those organizations gives you an instant network where you can ask for referrals, and that’s exceptionally important.”

Now back in B.C., where he is leisure sales manager at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, Nichols lived and worked in Japan for 10 years. As an expat, one of his biggest challenges was integrating into Japanese society and figuring out local business practices. He received support from his employer and joined a Canadian club. He also made friends with the Canadian consul in Nagoya, where he lived. “We became hiking buddies, and that was a fantastic opportunity to learn what was going on and learn about the business practices,” he says.

Don’t Forget Family

If you have a family, bear in mind that family adjustment is a leading reason why moves fail, according to the 2014 Trends in Global Relocation survey by Cartus, which specializes in corporate relocations around the world. “Often today both the husband and wife work. So if one of them gets transferred, the other one has to leave their job and potentially find employment in the new location,” says Linda Lachapelle. “The person working will have cultural training, but the family also needs to know how things work in that country: finding a school, helping the spouse find a job, orientation.” As for starting or adding to a family while abroad, “if somebody young is going abroad, and if they were themselves born abroad, they need to be aware that if they have a child [there], their children may not be Canadian,” says Allan Nichols.

Consult a Tax Expert

“A lot of times what we hear from individuals who relocate is, ‘I heard that I have to sell all my assets,’” says Christina Diles. “The answer to that is no.” Tax treaties between Canada and other nations and what sort of ties you retain with Canada will affect the taxes you pay as an expat. If you remain a resident of Canada while working abroad, you will need to file a Canadian tax return for worldwide income and claim a foreign tax credit on the income that is taxed by the foreign country. If you become a nonresident, there is a valuation of your capital assets when you leave Canada. If the gains are more than $100,000, you would have to pay a departure tax or post some kind of security with the Canadian government.