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September 28, 2009

Six Questions to Ask Before Relocating

Before you go: International business etiquette mistakes to avoid.

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model in cream jacket over black blouse and black and white skirt

NEUTRAL TERRITORY: Against the flags of 192 countries at the U.N. in New York, one elegant "delegate" opts for a monochromatic palette emboldened by bright red and yellow bags. Jacket, $1735, top, $695, skirt, $1140, Burberry Prorsum; blue bag, $2150, green bag, $1250, yellow bag, $1875, red bag, $2325, Chanel; necklace, $195, R.J. Graziano.

Photo Credit: Neil Kirk

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1. "What kind of help can I expect for my move?"
Your employer should pick up the tab—from airfare to shipping your sizable stiletto collection overseas. Other important considerations: language courses and flights home for major holidays.

2. "Will I be paid in U.S. dollars?"
The best option is a split payroll—part of your salary is paid in dollars, the rest in foreign currency. The upside? Easy access to greenbacks for your car payment back home. "You'll also avoid the cost of exchanging money and won't be as vulnerable to the whims of exchange rates," says Balderrama.

3. "Who will provide my health insurance?"
Your U.S.-based health plan likely won't cover you overseas, so you'll need to enroll in a foreign program, which may take as long as six months to kick in. Get a written confirmation from your company that it will take care of any medical bills incurred during that limbo period.

4. "What is my tax liability?"
You'll still owe American taxes even after relocating abroad. Some companies have a tax equalization policy—they'll shell out for your foreign taxes, while you're responsible only to Uncle Sam. Make sure your firm has one or risk being socked with a double-whammy tax bill.

5. "Am I protected from layoffs?"
Get a written guarantee that, in case of pink slips, your employer will assume the cost of getting you and your stuff back home. (Good luck negotiating that after the fact.) Know that if your firm is acquired, your new parent company can renegotiate every item in your contract, from schedule to salary.

6. "What happens when my contract is up?"
Don't even think about heading home until you've established what position awaits your return. Whether you're working overseas for three months or three years, it's fair to expect a promotion or raise afterward.


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