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The Peril of Losing Stability When Moving Abroad

The concept of moving abroad is often painted as something cool, fun to do, and carries potential for a better quality of life. However, no matter how much you think you have nothing left in your country of origin, you will be sacrificing one important thing that you won’t understand you’ve lost until you do.


Stability.

If you are still in the early stages of wanting to move abroad, you might think you’re ready to go for an adventure and “stability” isn’t something you really care about, but as someone who has lived and worked in 4 cities across 3 different countries, I would really like invite you to give it some contemplation if you haven’t already.

Broadly speaking, a person can move and live abroad by obtaining one of the following three status:

  1. Temporary residency status (on a work or a student visa)
  2. Permanent residency
  3. Citizenship

Now, if you already have permanent residency or a citizenship in a country that you are moving into, then perhaps this post would only apply to you to a limited extent. But if you are moving on a temporary status for work and/or as a student, then you really have to wrap your head around the concept of losing stability. So what does losing stability actually mean?

Stability & Long-Term Goals

If you are a citizen of a country with no intention of leaving it, you can plan your life for the long term, say ten, twenty, thirty years down the road. Your long-term goals may involve purchasing a house or a car, working on your ambition to move up in a company, getting married, starting and building a business, the list goes on. Sure, anything can happen, and the long-term goals that you have you may or may not be realized, but at the very least, you have the luxury to plan your life for the long term in the country you are living in.

However, if you are moving somewhere on a temporary basis, you would need to put at least some of whatever long-term goals you have on hold.

Maybe it’s your dream to be a homeowner or a business owner, and depending on the country you are living in temporarily, you may well be able to do all of that, but if for some reason, you are unable to extend your stay, due to an expiring visa or some other kind of visa restrictions, or it turns out that you are no longer eligible for the visa you currently have, you may have to part with whatever it is that you have gathered and built for yourself in the country you have moved into.

Once you move abroad, you have to plan your life for the short-term in the country you are now living in, and your long-term goals will have to take the back seat.

Stability & Career

When moving abroad temporarily for a job, there are usually two main visa categories that you can get:

  • Open work visa, meaning you can work for any employer in the country without any company sponsorship
  • Closed work visa, meaning you can only work for the employer who sponsored you for the visa

Read more: The Two Main Types of Visa to Work Abroad

Being on an open work visa certainly gives you more freedom, where if you are unhappy in a job, you can leave for another without risking having to leave the country. Whereas if you are on a closed work visa, your residency in the country is pretty much tied to your employer. 

Being on a closed work visa means you have one less advantage in getting a better salary or position—you can’t simply get a “better” job without risking having to leave the country.

In either case, being on a temporary work visa can affect your career, unless you have an exceptional skillset or the reason you move for work is because the overseas company that is hiring you truly needs your talent that they have a hard time getting from within their own country.

Otherwise, there is always a possibility that you may be passed over for promotions or you may even have a difficult time getting employed in the first place when a (potential) employer knows that you are on a temporary work visa, because of the additional legalities they have to ensure they comply with, and the cost-benefit analysis involved in hiring someone who doesn’t have quite a stable status and may or may not remain in the country (and the company) for the longer term. In some countries, hiring and promotion decision based on residency status is not quite lawful and it can be subject to a lawsuit, though at the same time, it can be very difficult to argue the case.

Stability & Relationships

Pretty much the same thing goes when it comes to pursuing relationships, especially serious ones. If you are looking for a serious relationship with someone in the country you are moving to, being on a temporary status will arguably make it more challenging, because people would naturally be cautious of getting serious with someone who might have to leave the country in time to come (in other words, someone who is lacking stability). Of course, dating is an incredibly personal thing and it is really hard to tell where, when, or how love happens, but being prepared to be treated less seriously when dating is something you have to deal with when putting yourself out there.

Life isn’t Emily in Paris.

Stability & Family

Now, if you are moving as a family unit, then the point above on relationships probably isn’t something you have worry about, but everything else is still game to be considered. Stability will often mean different things for different family members. If you are getting a job because an overseas company desperately needs your talent, then the point above on career may no longer apply to you, but how do things look like for your partner? You, your partner, and even your children may each have their own long-term goals, and it’s quite important for everyone involved to have grounded expectations on the possibility of losing stability and what that might mean for each family member.

Over and Out

The reason I am sharing this post is partly in reaction to how some people make it seem that moving abroad is something easy and fun to do, aside from technicalities and immigration processes. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a lighthearted approach in the idea of moving abroad, but I strongly believe a balanced perspective is necessary before making any life-changing decisions.

In any case, if you are at a point in life where you think:

  • It is worth the risk to let go of the stability you would otherwise have in the country that you are currently living in,
  • The stability that you would otherwise have in the country you are living in will not lead to the kind of life that you want in years to come,

then moving abroad may well indeed be a step in the right direction for the next chapters of your life.


Hi, I'm Ryan.

Over the past 10 years, I've lived & worked in 5 cities across 3 countries.

I like helping others to move abroad, and helping them to decide whether they should.

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