The past, say, 16 months Sarah and I have been working on my emigration to the U.S. Hundreds if not thousands of euros were spent and a Brazilian rain forest had to be cut for all the forms we needed to fill out. Most of the process is just a seemingly unending string of tiresome and repetitive activities. It’s not difficult necessarily, it’s just a lot of work.
But at some points along the way you are caught unaware, and jumped by problems that cannot be solved that easily. My (current) top 4 in this post.
1. Temporary Health Insurance
When you are a Dutch national you must take out national health insurance – it’s obligatory. This is tied to your registration at a local municipality. When I leave the Netherlands I need to withdraw my registration, which means I lose health insurance coverage at the day of moving out. I can, however, not yet take out insurance in the U.S. because I do not yet have, for instance, a social security number or an income. Moreover, it would be weeks if not months before I would have them.
Asking authorities on both sides of the Atlantic about it, they threw up their hands in ignorance. In the end and after some help from my previous insurer, we found a firm that seems to have jumped into this gap.
2. Driver’s License
I have driven for over 8 years in the Netherlands. Moreover, I have driven (and am specifically licensed to drive) stick shift cars, and I have a license to drive big trailers. Tourists may use their foreign license, but for non-U.S. residents (like I am) things are different. It then all depends on the state you live in.
Anyone from France, Germany, or Canada could just exchange their current driver’s license. Unfortunately, as I am not from one of the mentioned countries, the state of Virginia makes me do it all over again: A Vision Screening, a Two-Part Knowledge Exam, and a Road Skills Test.
Don’t skip getting this new driver’s license though – you’d be driving around uninsured!
3. Exchange Rates
Whatever I have built up in savings, I have it in euros. In future years, however, my expenditures will be in U.S. dollars. The worth of whatever I built up therefore fluctuates with the exchange rate. The exchange rate at the moment of transfer to the U.S. is therefore really important. So, when is the right time to wire the money across the Atlantic?
This week we had to pay a credit card bill, so I needed to transfer some money over. Sadly for us, the dollar has appreciated versus the euro. Had we got the same bill a year ago, it would have cost us quite a bit less:
4. Terminating Contracts and Services in the Home Country (and how Leaseplan screws you over)
When you leave one country for another, many services and contracts have to be changed and/or closed. I tried to deal with these things as much as I could before I left for the U.S., but sometimes I failed to do so. Sometimes it then worked out perfectly fine (my landlord for instance sold off most of my remaining furniture after I had left), but in some examples companies recognise that you have lost leverage and try to maximally exploit it. The worst example was Leaseplan. I had a lease car from them through the company I worked for, and I had to return it.
I told Leaseplan about 2 months in advance that I would move to the U.S. and that I would be in favour of dealing with everything very early on. They told me I would be contacted in due time. As nothing happened for weeks, I called them several times to check on the status. Each time I was told: “You’ll be contacted, don’t worry.” About 1 week before I would actually move to the U.S., I pressed on. All of a sudden they told me that I needed to arrange an appointment with a Leaseplan affiliated dealer to hand in the car.
A bit surprised, I did so in the next minutes. Even more surprising was that the only option to hand it in would be the other day. This prevented me from duly cleaning the interior and the exterior of the car. It wasn’t that dirty, but still. When I asked about it, they told me it would be fine. When I brought the car over, they checked it. No damages, everything was fine (I have a copy of the report stating this).
Now, in the U.S. for over a week, I got an e-mail stating that they conducted an additional check and found 11 (!) places where the paintwork was damaged. Moreover, the costs would be for me – it would automatically be withheld from my final salary from Deloitte (which I already got). This is outrageous for a number of reasons:
- I had no idea what they were talking about – what 11 damages? I never hit anything, for all I know the car was fine. And if I had caused any damage, I would have reported it – the lease contract covers such damages!
- The dealer where I brought the car confirmed that there was no visible damage. Yet now, Leaseplan claims that the car had been too dirty to check.
- I handed the car over to a dealer, who then drove it to Leaseplan, who (apparently) in turn drove it to a place to do the second check. I don’t recall any damages to the car – who knows those driving it after I handed it in caused them?
- It is not the case that I can refuse to pay and fight it. They already withheld it from my salary. Any kind of protest would have to come from me entirely. This would prove to be super costly, in terms of time, effort, and money.
This is one example, but depending on your specific situation there might be others. My advises:
- Try to avoid Leaseplan at all costs (!)
- Whenever you are moving, try to settle, close, and finalise any contracts and so on you may have while you are still around