Monday, March 7, 2011

Relocation Benefits

An old colleague in the US recently asked me about relocation benefits: she's contemplating a move for work abroad, and isn't sure what benefits may (or may not...) be available to her. In the course of crafting my rather lengthy response, it dawned on me that there's power in the collective, so I thought I'd repost my response here and ask folks to pipe up with other suggestions.

In no particular order, here's what I've managed to come up with:

The first thing I'd state is this: regardless of what is *offered*, you should get creative in what you ask for-and ask for everything (this gives you a better position to negotiate from!): salary too low? Ask for a transportation subsidy or more on temp housing. Own a house in the US? Inquire about your company supporting a sale that guarantees you won't loose money (ie the company covers any difference between initial purchase price & resale price-PLUS expenses). Or something to that effect. Anyhoo, for what it's worth, here's a laundry list of things I've either personally received (or know others have received). Some if it's probably pretty obvious, but others may be a bit more obscure..

-Pre-move visit to search for housing (can't say how important this one is)
-Up front local market real estate agent support (whether to buy or rent...)
-It goes without saying: corporate housing for a minimum of 2 months. Push for more. And then, if you're able to move to permanent housing earlier, get your company to agree to split the difference on the 'rental refund.'
-Even better: get them to pay for housing for the duration of your stay
-Ditto for living expenses (ie a per diem). This is well & truly a true 'expat package' feature, and not that many companies do it any longer, but it still never hurts to ask!
-House hold good shipping (options: air freight-faster, but *very* expensive. a good solution to getting a few extra boxes that you couldn't bring on the airplane. or, shipping container....slower (think ~6 weeks), but this is where you could literally bring your entire house). -and negotiate how *much* the company is willing to ship-regardless of method
-Visa support-push for the most open type of visa that would be available (ie one that will last for years and avoid the need to be 'company sponsored'-if that is indeed an option where you're moving-ie the equivalent of what is/was a Tier 1 in the UK)
-Also make sure that the household shipping includes packing & unpacking
-Relocation bonus. The new tea kettle, TV, couch, etc...isn't going to be free! :) this is an especially good one to negotiate, as frequently hiring managers can't add more to the salary-but relo bonuses tend to come out of different 'pots', so there could be more flexibility here...
-Tax preparation-both for the US & the country you relo to. Be *aggressive* on this one-even request a pre-move tax/financial planning chat with a professional. This gets very expensive to pay for yourself-and trust me, you'll need help on your taxes both while you're abroad, and for a good number of years after you move back!
-Storage: not moving all of your stuff abroad? Ask your company to pay for your storage in the US
-Auto: if you plan to drive, get a transportation allowance-whether it means a company provided car/driver or whatever....or...if you don't plan to drive, ask for an allowance for public transportation
-Early contract cancellation fees: For example, if you need to break your mobile contract early or gym membership, apartment rental...ask for your company to cover the cancellation charges.
-Banking: get your company to help you establish a checking account AND get a credit card
-Flybacks: have them pay for you to return to the US X times each year-to be used for personal trips at your discretion
-Your boy/girlfriend/partner/husband: visa sponsorship as well as the same relo benefits you'd ask for ('stuff', car/xport, flybacks, etc...).
-Language Lessons: unless you're both already fluent in the foreign language of where you're moving to! :)
-Have a pet? Get the company to ship the pet-and pay for the quarantine pre/post shipping.
-If you'd still be paid your salary in your US bank, have the company cover any wire transfer fees you'd incur for getting money to the country you're moving  to live off of. 

Whew.  That's what I came up with in just a matter of minutes-I'm sure I've missed loads-like, there has to be things to ask for if you have children.  But, I've no clue about that! :)

What else is there?  What else have you received/heard of someone receiving as part of a a relocation package?  Give a shout-or better yet, post your comment.  Thanks!


  1. My friend (who's just gone back to the UK from here) had her kids' school fees paid for years. This might be very important in places like London where it's really hard to get your kids into the local school. If you're only planning to stay abroad for a few years you should push to get the kids into the American school so that they're not off track when they get back to the States. That's very common.
    Of course, your bargaining position is completely dependant on whether the company is asking you to move or you're asking for a relocation.

  2. To cover any currency rate changes between the GBP and the USD. Important if they plan on going back.

  3. Pet relocation! We had a separate company manage the dog's move, which involved a ridiculous amount of paperwork to prove she didn't have rabies (didn't they get the memo that she was a pampered NYC pooch?) and thousands in costs.

  4. Amen! Great list that I'll send to a few friends who are looking to make this same crazy jump!

  5. Great list, I wish I'd had more hints like these a year ago! A couple more things that I found key:
    - Being able to expense setup of utilities and/or utility deposits and council tax.
    - 30 - 60 day temp housing when returning to the US. This is key for those of us who gave up our apartment or have tenants we don't want to evict!

  6. great suggestions, all! Keep em coming!
    @Expat Mum: good point about the origin of the relo request.

    One more I'd add to the list myself
    -time off (that isn't 'vacation') for a few days before the move and a few days on the 'other side'-to be taken at your discretion (upon arrival, move from temp to permanent housing, when your personal shipment arrives...). I've never been so stressed in my life as the few days leading up to my move. If I would have had to work in addition to coordinate with the movers and deal with all the other logistics, I would have surely sprung a leak! :)

  7. I accidentally found your blog while searching for expat info before I moved to London from Scandinavia. Great blog :) I think you have made a good list. What I did find irritating was suddenly having a credit rating like a teenager. Mobile phone, internet, insurance and so forth ended up being a hassle. My advice would be if your company could help settle these things on your behalf prior to arrival. The small practical stuff that you take for granted that really and can be solved by good planning.

    But the smartest move would probably to seek advice from people that either are or have been expats. Most people enjoy helping other positive people ;) It wouldn't surprise me if I asked you about this list 2 years ago you probably would have sent it to me........

  8. @T, thanks for stopping by. Yes, the lack of a credit rating (after having a good rating in the US) was a mild annoyance.
    And yes, good point: do whatever you can to get company help to get sorted on this end-or your buying power and options will be severely limited for 3 years-ie long enough for you to establish a UK Credit rating. ugh.

  9. Cost of living adjustment -- our company pays us the difference between living in London and Austin

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