Preparing for a Long-Term Work Abroad Trip

Even if you plan to wait until your arrival in Asia to look for work, leaving home for an extended period requires more than just a passport and a plan ticket.

Try to tie up as many loose ends as possible. Student loans and credit card debts don’t disappear just because you do.

Forward your mail to a friend or relative until you have an address overseas, cancel or let your memberships and subscriptions run out, and either pay off your debts or set up some sort of independent system for making payments while you are away.

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Take your checkbook with you. Having access to your account will allow you to keep up with your banking and write checks for cash against your account at the nearest American Express office (assuming you’re a cardholder). This can be very handy, particularly in case of an emergency or unforeseen event.

You can also entrust your financial matters to a responsible friend or relative at home. It is possible to set up an account with another person’s name so that he or she can sign checks as well. This would enable you to get cash advances and make credit card purchases, knowing they would be paid off promptly by whomever is managing your affairs.

Remember that credit card and finance companies are huge, bureaucratic operations that rely heavily on computers for their billing services. If you have debts that cannot be paid in full prior to your departure, it is well worth calling or writing to your credit or finance companies and explaining to a live human being that you will be living overseas. Ask them to make note of your situation so that if any problems should arise, they will be able to contact you. Keep copies of all written correspondence and take down the names of those you speak to on the telephone. If a problem does come up, you will have prove that you attempted to address the issue as a precaution against any misunderstandings or missed payments.

It is wise to take a list of your credit card and bank account numbers as well as the addresses and phone numbers of the respective institutions. If you should lose any credit cards, you will be able to cancel them immediately. In the even that something goes amiss with your arrangements at home, you will be able to take care of any necessary payments or inquiries from overseas.

As an American working abroad, you will be exempt from United States income taxes as long as you make less than a certain amount abroad annually. Remember, though, that you will still be required to file a tax return with the Internal Revenue Service. Even though you may not owe any money, not filing can result in huge hassles years down the line when you have long forgotten your failure to file. The burden will be yours to prove to the IRS that you were actually overseas at the time and that you didn’t make enough money to require any tax payment.

For complete information, the IRS publication “Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens Abroad,” is available through the IRS and the various embassies. There is an IRS representative located year-round at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, who is available for consultation:

To contact the IRS from the United States prior to your departure, dial (800) TAX-FORM to order tax forms or informational booklets or (800) TAX-1040 for assistance with preparing your taxes.

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