If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to live and work in another country but have always hesitated when it comes to taking the next step, you’re not alone. Packing up your life and moving to a foreign country takes a lot of courage (I know, I’ve done it myself!), its never easier to forge a new path for yourself far away from your family and friends, despite the difficulties it can also be a rewarding and positive experience. We spoke to two women who took the giant leap and moved abroad about their move and how its changed their life.
Katie McIntosh is a 26-year-old full time blogger and Aussie expat currently living in the tropical paradise of Hawaii.
When did you first move abroad?
I first moved to Hawaii in October of 2013 after 10 months of petitioning for a visa. I had traveled around Australia, New Zealand and also around America twice, though this was my first time living overseas.
Why did you choose to move?
For love! I was in a long distance relationship with my American beau who was living in Hawaii. Long distance proved to be quite expensive for me (I may as well have bought shares in Hawaiian Airlines with all the flights back and forth!) and tiring with the travel and trying to communicate with each other while on different time zones. We wanted to build a life together so I made the one way trip to beautiful Hawaii and have never looked back.
Was it difficult obtaining visas and the necessary paperwork? And how much did the process cost you?
Yes – America is not the most welcoming place when it comes to visas. I applied for the fiancé visa and it took 10 months to be approved. The process included the application being processed in America by two departments before being sent to Australia for more processing and where I underwent a full medical screening and interview at the Consulate. In our case, we had a streak of bad luck as our file was lost twice, the processing times went beyond the standard and it was very hard to get accurate information. In the end, the 10 months of stress was worth it!
I lost count of how much this visa cost but it was in the thousands as there was an application fee with every piece of paperwork, ranging from $500 – $1000 per fee. Applicants also have to undergo a full medical screening with chest x-ray and blood tests which was another $500 + immunizations if you need any, as well as travel to Sydney for the interview with the Consulate.
What challenges have you faced living abroad?
Well, I finally arrived in America and my husband was deployed overseas one month later. So my biggest challenge was setting up and understanding the new life abroad alone. Two days after he left I got in the car and taught myself how to drive on the opposite side of the road, I explored the area to see what there was to see and do, set up a house, made some friends and I learnt by trial and error how I needed to talk so people understood me. Australians are notorious for slang/ shortening words and I had to adjust my lazy talking habits!
Also, the fiancé visa only allows you to come to America and get married. You then have to apply to be allowed to stay so there was another 8 month immigration process to navigate, though luckily this process was not as stressful as the petition phase.
Knowing what you now know, is there anything you wish you had done differently in preparation for your move abroad?
You know, I don’t think I would change anything in terms of my preparation to move here. I just sold everything I owned and moved here with an open mind and that has served me well. There’s nothing that I wish I knew before moving here because learning the new life is half the fun!
In your opinion, what are the benefits of living abroad?
Travel in general broadens the mind. It opens you up to new landscapes, new customs and new ways of living. You become a more cultured person and a person of character. You become a people person, realizing that we are all so different but so alike at the same time. You appreciate the beauty in the differences instead of fearing them. Travel is the best education one can receive.
Can you recommend any resources that have provided you with useful information?
Yes – http://www.visajourney.com/ The information in this website helped me immeasurably to get through the process and understand the requirements. I liked the community as well – it was nice to know that there were others trying to get through the same maze of red tape that I was.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone who is thinking of moving abroad?
Do your research so you can comply with all of the immigration laws and mostly just do it – it will be scary but it will probably be the greatest experience of your life and you will end up a better person because of it.
You can find Katie on her blog http://www.thekatieshowblog.com and follow her on Twitter @Katieshowblog.
Interview and copy by Karen Athwal
Feature image by Moretravel.com