When we made the decision this summer to become expats in the UK, the process seemed easy enough (we live in a global world, millions of people have done this before us, any potential difficulties would have been ironed out years earlier, we’re just moving to the UK…practically not a move at all, etc.).  My company outsources much of the expat tasks to a third party company, but I was provided a dedicated ‘agent’ who would work with me to ensure the process was smooth and painless.  I should have known when that initial agreement required multiple reviewers, signatures, scannings and emailings that things were about to get complicated.  I had no idea.

Over the next 7 weeks as we prepared to leave the US, I personally spent 10-15 hours per week on the ‘expat project’ and Drew spent up to 10 hours per week on related work.  I just checked my pile of files and there are 50 unique forms and documents that were signed, notarized, triple-copied, packaged, mailed, emailed, faxed and FedExed around the world in order to make this move possible.

I’m not saying that the process is not worth it.  It definitely is.  But I think it is very, VERY important to understand that making this move happen is up to you.  There may be a company that is officially responsible for coordinating all of the movers and visas and expenses and real estate agents, but if you don’t fill out this form or supply that jointly signed agreement, they can’t do their job either.  No one can fill out the multi-page visa application but you, no one can schedule the movers but you, and no one can choose what gets moved and stored (and fill out those forms!) but you.

It’s helpful in this case to be a neurotically organized person, but if you’re not, it would be great if your spouse or partner is.  Or your assistant at work.  Or your third party agent who may be able to help serve as a reminder for you.    And it’s worth thinking about it ahead of time, before the crunch hits and you realize with a sinking feeling that the customs documents need to be with the moving company 7-10 days before the move and the movers are knocking on the door.  Don’t let that be you.

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