Moving across halfway across the world takes time. While moving from the United States confers several advantages, we had it nowhere near as easy as Ryan's colleagues who came to Delft from inside the EU.
Ideally, you'll have lots of time to plan. Our timeline looked like this:
late February 2015: six-day trip (interview + exploring)
early March 2015: Ryan accepts job offer
late June 2015: three-day trip (househunting)
late July 2015: one-way trip to Schiphol
April, May, and June flew by. There was a flurry of appointments to take care of legal and final matters, afternoons and evenings spent shopping for a new life abroad and rummaging through old belongings deciding what was going to make the trip with us. And then there were lots of coffees, drinks, and dinners with friends and family. July felt like an endless goodbye.
legal and financial matters
The legal and financial loose ends are the most unpleasant to take care of, take the longest to get done, and have the highest potential for error and frustration. If you start your moving process early solely to spread out the angst of dealing with government and corporate bureaucracy over several months, you'll have done well.
An incomplete summary of the government hoops we jumped through to prepare includes:
- obtaining certified and notarized long-form birth certificates and letters of exemplification from Pennsylvania and New York, along with a letter of exemplification. (Leave three weeks for this; expect to pay about $20 per copy.)
- obtaining notarized letters certifying our marital status as single. (This was tricky. The Netherlands needs to be certain whether you are eligible to be married upon arrival in the country, but many local governments don't issue forms attesting that you are *not* in the marriage rolls. If that is the case, find a template for a letter of certification of single status online, complete it with your details, and have your county clerk notarize it. This should suffice.)
- obtaining apostilles for birth certificates and letters of single status. (This took the longest of everything on the list. New York rejected Ryan's initial request for an apostille because he did not include a letter of exemplification with his application. The two requests combined took five weeks. New York charged $10 per apostille.)
- applying for/renewing passports. (The government was remarkably helpful and efficient here. Matt needed a hyper-expedited request, and went in person to an office with proof of travel before our February trip. Ryan opted for an expedited request in between trips abroad, and added extra pages to his booklet due to the potential for frequent travel for work. This, surprisingly, cost nothing extra. But all told we were out close to $400 for our two passports.)
The Netherlands accepts government documentation in English without a translation. Our application for residency on the Dutch side was handled largely by an agency contracted by Ryan's employer. This is by and far the easiest way to do things; the burden on our end was limited to supplying scans of passports, work contracts, and the occasional signature. If you have to do it yourself, the application isn't overly long, but the text is entirely in Dutch legalese. You should, then, reach out early and often to your employer, and see if they can't put you in touch with recent hires who have gone through the process themselves.
The ScannerPro app for iPhone made it a breeze to create quick .pdfs from pictures, to export all of our documentation to a Dropbox folder. It was (an continues to be) a lifesaver here.
Your financial obligations likely won't cause you the frustration that dealing with government offices does, but you may find yourself running lots of errands or spending lots of time on automated phone menus to make sure things are taken care of. Some things that we took care of:
- canceling cell phone contracts. (Damn you, termination fees.)
- resigning from positions. (You may be entitled to be paid for leftover vacation days at your job.)
- setting up autopayments for credit cards, student loans, and other debits from our American accounts. (This also includes taking very careful stock of everything that comes out of your account to know how much money is passively leaving your account each month. For us, we canceled everything but transfers to a retirement fund, an online subscription to the New York Times, our iTunes account, and student loan payments. Credit cards we manage manually from here.)
- forwarding important financial communications to a "safe" address. (For us, this is Ryan's parents in New York.)
e imagine most expats love online banking as much as we do. A small caveat -- some American banking apps won't run on mobile phones whose international regions and application stores are set to a place other than the United States; similarly, Dutch banks don't all have their apps available in the American iTunes store. This can take creativity and patience to solve.
Our best tip, though, is to get a binder, lots of dividers, and keep copies of EVERYTHING you think might be relevant to your immigration application, old and new jobs, and your financial responsibilities. These days, the binder sits mostly unused inside our media console, but from March to September you could spot it (ever expanding) on our kitchen table.
THE FIRST FEW DAYS
LIFE AS A MIGRANT