If I were an #Expat (4/10): Before you sign the Expat letter

The Expat Letter represents the formal acceptance of the international assignment. It is important to understand the key aspects of your contract before proceeding with the signature.

First, we must be clear on what kind of assignment we are being offered. The most common figure remains the Expatriate:
  • a temporary transfer with return engagement
  • maintaining the economic conditions of the home country
  • providing certain compensation and temporary benefits to the employees and their families during the assignment.
However, more and more employees are taking the initiative of working abroad in search of career opportunities or an international experience. In this context, International permanent transfers are gaining momentum:

  • a permanent transfer, which usually means resigning in the home country
  • with economic and labor conditions similar to a local employee in the country of destination (this is why it is also called "localization")
  • in some cases, companies offer some allowances for a limited period of time to encourage the  move.
All these topics must be clear in the Expat Agreement. Typically, the company  will provide you with the following information before you sign the letter:
  • Explanation of the Project 
  • Delivery of the Expat Manual 
  • Expat Agreement
Before signing the letter, make sure you understand the key aspects of your assignment: 

Duration: start date, end date, possibility of extension. It is normal to have a clause conditioning the effect of the assignment to the visa granting to ensure compliance with the immigration rules.

Location: not only the country but also the city where you will be working.

Social Security: It is important to know if the country of
 destination has an agreement with the home country, and where you will be making the social security contributions. If you are able to maintain the contributions in the home country, ask what the maximum period is.

Rental housing: at this point you will be informed if there are restrictions on certain areas for safety reasons. Some companies provide help to find an appropriate house and negotiate the rental contract.
Do not forget to clarify who bears the cost of the community fees, and other expenses such as electricity, garbage, property taxes, water, gas, etc.

School: many expats seek school first. A good school is usually an indicator of good areas to live. Remember to clarify whether school related expenses, such as transportation costs, uniform, books and meals are included in the allowance.

Health Insurance: It is important to know if you have any health insurance that covers you and your family.
Before traveling, find out if it is necessary to get vaccinated according to the recommendations of the country of destination.

Removals: It may be worth to contract a removal service for the furniture and other goods depending on various factors (length of the assignment, distance, family members, etc). Some companies may offer you the possibility to replace the removal for a monetary allowance to avoid the inconveniences and risks that any move entails. Make sure you have an insurance included in the Removal service.

Visas and Taxation: These issues are complex. The next post will be dedicated to immigration and I will deal with the tax related topics afterwards.

In short, make sure you understand the most important aspects of your
 Expat letter before you sign it. It is a perfect moment to raise any questions that you may have.