Departing for an international assignment can be an exciting – and nerve-wracking – experience. There are many things to prepare for, especially taking into consideration the linguistic and cultural differences in the host country.
However, there are practicalities to take into account too. The below list addresses the practical matters you will need to take care of before your trip:
• Make sure that the passports of all family members who will be going are valid for the duration of your visit or longer (some countries will issue visas only if your passport is valid for a minimum of one year after the date the visa is to be issued).
• Contact the embassy of the country(ies) you will be visiting to determine visa and customs requirements and request visa applications if needed. Don’t overlook the fact that some countries require transit visas, even if you do not disembark. Most countries’ Interior Ministries or State Departments issue Foreign Visa Requirements, which list visa requirements for individual countries.
• Contact your Interior Ministry or State Department to find out if any travel advisories are in effect for the country(ies) you will be moving to or visiting.
• Get all recommended inoculations and an International Certificate of Vaccination.
• If you take any prescription medication, especially those containing narcotics, obtain a letter of certification from your physician, as well as a list of the Latin names of any medication (brand names may not be the same in other languages, and drug laws are very severe in many countries).
• Check with hotels and airlines to be sure that any special needs, such as a physical disability or medication that requires special storage (insulin, for example) can be met.
• Make sure your personal affairs (wills, guardianship arrangements, etc.) are in order. Your family or office should have access to personal documents in case of an emergency.
• Make two copies of important documents. Take one copy with you and leave one with your family or office.
• Prepare a list which includes the names, addresses and telephone numbers of your personal physician, insurance company, family and business contact, as well as your passport number and place of issuance, and frequent flyer numbers. Keep this information with you at all times.
• Be sure to have a clear understanding of the destination or settling services your company will provide once in the new location. They should provide you with information on schools, medical facilities, doctors, churches, shopping options and social activities.
• Check the international capabilities of your cell phone plan and make any needed adjustments. If you will be driving, obtain an international driver’s license and, if necessary, international insurance.
• Check to see that your regular driver’s license will be valid for the duration of your trip. In some countries you may have to take either a theoretical or a practical exam before being allowed to drive.
By checking off the above details before your trip, you can be sure that the most pressing matters are taken care of while you prepare for the linguistic and cultural changes ahead.Back to Navigating Culture Blog