American expatriates in Europe, Israel, Australia and Canada: Tell me your stories.

After having witnessed and/or participated in a number of this nation’s valued social institutions, taken money (legally) from its venerable tax-paying citizens, watched people live and die here, etc., I feel that I wasn’t made for this place. I feel a much greater connection to, specifically, the mores and lifestyle of Israel (which I have toured) and Spain (which I have not, but I speak the language well enough to survive) than to those of my home country. Now, emigrating to Israel is no problem for me because I was born Jewish (although I would like to be in better physical shape before I do it–given that I will serve in its military if I do emigrate there–and already know Hebrew, plus have some college degrees under my belt). But I’m not too familiar with the process of immigrating to Spain and other European nations, or to Australia or Canada. From a thread I started on a similar topic a couple of years ago I know that there’s a work permit process, and I must assume that having at least one college degree, speaking the language, and having a professional certification and/or job make a much stronger case.

I have two requests and three other questions.

Request 1: Please challenge any of the facts I guessed at above if they are wrong.

Request 2: If you’ve done this, tell me your story, please! When and how did you learn the language? Did you have professional qualifications before you moved? What was the process of getting a work permit like? Easy? Hard? Slow? Fast? Why? What was it like getting a job/going to school there? What other general advice and relevant stories do you have?

Question 1: What exactly do you have to do to emigrate to Canada, Australia or Europe (particularly Spain)?

Question 2: Other than speaking the language, what are the best things I can do to prepare for a move in the future (after a degree or three)?

Question 3: What are the biggest changes I should prepare for in such a move?

As I’m not an American expatriate I can’t comment on most of your questions. However this site of the Australian Department of Immigration may help with some of the practical requirements.

I didn’t have a problem with the US, just was out for adventure. Went looking around, found it hard to deal with the language barriers in Europe, so I lodged in Scotland.

You had language problems and solved them by going to Scotland??

Not an American expat, but a British repat. Even though I’m at a considerable advantage to you, having right of work and residency, I’ve had a bit of a nightmare. British institutions seem of late to have become an enclosed system that has forgotten that foreigners exist. This is advice that is predicated on you actually getting a job that entitles you to a work permit.

National Insurance number: you need an NI number for tax purposes. Unlike the US, where you can just walk in and get a Social Security card issued, in the UK you need a job first. But your employer needs an NI number to pay you. My wife went to the local Job Centre to get a number, and they demanded payslips from the employer. Catch 22. I think she has to persuade her employer to issue a temporary one.

Banks: now overwhelmingly fixated on selling you credit, when they find they can’t even fill in the forms on their computer because you don’t have a post code that covers the last three years, they become very uninterested in getting you a bank account. I finally got one, but it doesn’t even come with a checkbook debit card, and getting a credit card is totally unlikely in the next few years. Apparently other European countries are even worse.

Other accounts: You can’t do anything until you have a (paid) utility bill in your name, issued to your address. But it’s going to be problematic renting somewhere because you will have no UK-based references. We had to pay 6 months’ rent up front to live in our current abode. The bills came in a few weeks later and I was finally able to try for other stuff like a cellphone. I was then rejected by five different cellphone companies due to my lack of credit history. I finally got one last weekend, but had to lay down £150 as a deposit.

Driving: you will probably have to retake your test to get another driver’s license (this is reciprocal).

Advice: do not get rid of your American banking facilities! Get online banking and leave money in your American bank, to make sure you can continue to pay your US credit card bills. It will be invaluable. And be prepared to have a long bureaucratic wait to get things done.

This message board is primarily for American expats living in the UK . It has lots of information about living over here , from the major issues such as work permits and banking,to the mundane such as food and the weather.

Can you tell us your story as to how it went down?

Thanks jjimm and others for the links and such–can anyone else lay out the details of their moves?

Not an expat either, but want to mention this site which caters to English-language expatriates in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium and Spain.