Tag Archives: timeline

Redefining Relocation 4 - Creating a Family Timeline Expat Health

Redefining Relocation 4 – Creating a Family Timeline: Expat Healthcare


This bit should probably be entitled “Expat Healthcare Future Proofing ” because that is what we are trying to do here. The healthier you stay, the better your relocation experience will be.

Timeline Cheat Sheet

  • Any routine tests or treatment that would otherwise be due in the first 3-6 months of your assignment.
  • Order supplies of prescription medication for existing conditions.
  • Request prescriptions for medications necessary for leisure travel from your new home.
  • Stock up on preferred brands of personal care items that are not available in your host location.
  • Schedule any appointments, repeat prescriptions or restocking visits that require a visit home to coincide with vacation, school holidays etc.


Redefining Relocation 4 - Creating a Family Timeline Expat Health

Your most important task is to schedule recommended immunizations, treatments and screenings for both preventive healthcare and preexisting conditions.  As part of Your Current Health, you should have a list of recommended / required  immunizations for your new location, and you may have been organized and already scheduled them.

You will also find that many require boosters during your time away, so check to see whether those are readily available there, or if you need to take supplies with you. While many medications are available globally, some are not, and counterfeit drugs are a problem in some countries. If a medication is essential for your ongoing health, order enough supplies to last until you find a reputable source locally.

Please believe me when I say that once you arrive in your new location, you will have a huge list of things to get done, the pressure of a new work/life role, and not a great deal of help.  So make it easier on yourself; identify which check-ups, tests etc. will be due within the first three to six months of your assignment, and get as many as possible done before you go. 

If you plan to do any traveling from your new location, investigate what medical precautions are required and get any immunizations, healthcare, drugs and supplies from your doctors while you are getting all the essential stuff done.

It’s a lot easier to drop in ‘and I’m planning on traveling to/will need/will not be able to get” when you are sitting in your hometown doctors office (or going through your company medical) than on a Friday afternoon when you are staring at a tropical diseases poster in an airport on your way to a weekend in Dubai..

Stock up on essential home country healthcare. It may seem strange to include on a timeline, but if you know that you are going to need specific treatments, check-ups or prescriptions that require seeing a specialist outside of your host location, you need to include these in your timeline so that your home visits / vacation / school holidays coincide with the dates .

The more mundane include first aid items, antibiotics and medications that you may need but may have difficulty getting overseas (including birth control – not all are distributed worldwide).

Over the counter drugs such as Tylenol, Nurofen and Beechams (along with many, many others) etc are not universally available, so if you have any particular preferences or sensitivities, take extra with your household goods, and if you have allergies, you might want to take brands that you know are not problematic.

My daughter, for instance, has an extreme sensitivity to some sun products, so we take large amounts of a sunscreen that we know doesn’t cause irritation;  the same might apply to you for soaps, shampoos, detergents, skin care or even cosmetics.

Especially in Asia and Africa, brands cater to local needs, and so if you have Scandinavian or Scottish ancestry, you’re going to have to hunt harder (and pay a great deal more) for products for your skin type. And the same applies for those traveling in the opposite direction – while big cities cater to a cosmopolitan mix of health and beauty needs, as you get more rural, you will have difficulty finding the brands or products that you favor.

So start making your list. And checking it twice, as the song goes.

Photo of AZMU nurses and physicians on camels in Egypt en route to Palestine in July 1918 courtesy of cjh.org 

Redefining Relocation - Creating a Family TImeline - Education and the expat child

Redefining Relocation 3: Creating a Family Timeline – Education and the Expat Child

Redefining Relocation - Creating a Family TImeline - Education and the expat childThe issue of schooling is, for most expat families, one of the most important parts of the relocation plan. There is, however, a problem.

It is fairly easy to manage the education needs of younger children, especially for what we believe to be a short term transfer. What we don’t foresee is that many assignments are extended or new postings offered, and what was originally meant to be an interim plan is stretching out for far longer than is ideal. So while you may be only planning on a two year temporary assignment, we’re adopting a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach, and looking into the future.

Critical areas of your education timeline will vary according to the age and needs of your children. The ideal strategy is to discuss them directly with the school Principal, Headteacher or counselor, to clarify which requirements are mandatory, and where there is flexibility.


4 – 11


For ages 4-11, the school calendar dates and entry requirements are critical to planning a smooth transition. They vary by country, state and district, and can involve everything from waiting lists, three day enrolments and considerable amount of documentation, to simply arriving at the school on the start date.

Usually, state schools will require proof of citizenship and local residence, a health record (including health and vaccination records in some areas), and an education history or school transcript from previous schools. Private schools are less focused on residence, but some have other entry criteria, including religion or spoken language.

Private schools are often a popular choice amongst expats for their entry flexibility, familiarity with international and expat children, and the use of internationally recognized assessment strategies, however you need to consider whether you can afford the fees long term, especially if the assignment policy moves to local payroll.

State schools have a greater variance in standards, curricula and assessment practices, but at the younger age, exploring a range of education strategies is not only possible, but often one of the cited benefits of expat life.


11- 17


At the middle / high school stage, the education becomes more focused on college entry, career progression and graduation assessments. There is still a great deal of variety in terms of curriculum, examination strategies and college admission requirements, but it becomes increasingly more difficult to move between them without losing ground.

In addition to the previous points about entry requirements, you need to consider:

  • Enrolment start date restrictions. At higher levels – usually involving continual or end point assessment –  students often are not admitted beyond a particular date or point in the course.
  • High School exit requirements. Depending on the curriculum your child follows, there may be specific academic courses, attainment levels, or additional extra-curricular requirements for graduation. A typical transcript might require evidence of study of maths, English, science and art, community service to be awarded the High School diploma. These vary between districts, states, countries and curricula, and will require clarification with the awarding body.
  • College entry. For the TCK, the academic pathway is often a mix of approaches and assessment strategies. After the age of 12, you need to start considering college location (whether home or host nation, or a third location) and the entry requirements. While many colleges accept a range of evidence of attainment / achievement, you need to know what is both accepted and expected before selecting subjects for study.The International Baccalaureate program is the recognized global study program for college, but UK and US curriculum are also widely accepted worldwide.
  • Methods, schedules and dates of assessment, grading and examination. Internationally,  the grade level at which assessment begins and ends, the combination of subject requirements and types of assessments for college entry, the dates of course selection and the importance of standardized national tests are very different. Most importantly for your timeline, you need to clarify in advance the dates or timeframes that they all occur. Getting it wrong can potentially mean your child repeating an academic year, having to take additional classes during the summer, or retaking tests at a later date.

It’s incredibly bewildering for anyone who hasn’t experienced the system firsthand. The most effective way of getting accurate information and a clear understanding is to contact the school, college or an international school advisory service directly. While many school district websites publish exam dates, they don’t necessarily include dates for course selection, exam fee due dates, and college application deadlines, so it’s worth explaining your situation to the school principal, college admissions, or student counselor especially when they are unfamiliar with the challenges of managing expatriate education.




You may be fooled into thinking that once your child is in college, you have nothing more to worry about, but there are potential residency issues that need to be considered.
The length of the assignment. How will the length of the assignment affect your residency rights in your home and host location?

Most home locations have rules of parental residence for a specific period prior to college admission to qualify for resident fees – falling outside these could mean you have to pay international student rates even in your home nations.

Similarly, if your assignment ends before your child finishes college in your host location, they will need to apply for an independent sudent visa, and again, international fees may apply.

Lastly, if your child reaches the legal adult age, they may no longer be considered a dependent, and again may need to apply for a student visa, and potentially incur different fees.

The other issue is that of employment authorization if your child does not want to attend college. There is no guarantee that they will be allowed to work, and may have to return to your home country to seek employment.

Shepherding children through school, college and beyond is a challenge at the best of times  (especially when they need help with their trigonometry homework), and there are always going to be obstacles to navigate. These are ones that I know of from my own experience, and those of people I know – all within the mainstream education system.

How do you all manage to meet the education needs of your children? What about the areas we haven’t discussed, like specialized learning needs, religious schools or boarding schools? What are your experiences?



Redefining Relocation 2 – Creating a Family Timeline: Identity and Residence

Redefining Relocation - Creating an expat family timeline for relocating, legal requirements, passports, visa, driving license and ID application and renewal The most important reasons for creating a relocation timeline are to avoid scheduling conflict between the essential tasks and and to ensure that any priorities that we have for our family are reflected in a our planning right from the start. It also allows us to clarify what lies ahead and to set our course accordingly – the earlier we see the obstacle, the smaller the change required to minimise its impact or avoid it altogether.

There are some hurdles, however, that can’t be avoided. Inevitably, these involve officialdom and the need to prove ourselves to others, whether it be in terms of residence, competence, ability or achievement…

Thankfully, most legal documentation is managed by the HR department, but because of this, it is often forgotten in the family relocation plan. However, while from a corporate perspective this part of the relocation is seen as a non-negotiable, planning ahead provides us with a level of flexibility that will prove useful in the coming weeks.


Legal – Application and Renewal Dates


This category includes passports, visas, employment authorization documents, and driving licenses. They need to be considered as a single entity as they are often reliant on one another in a sort of paperwork ‘cascade’, and noting their expiry and renewal dates is vital to your continued expat adventure…

Your passports must have at least six months validity for visas to be issued, so not only must you get them renewed early, you need to set a six week ‘passport free’ zone on your timeline for processing.

Visa application and renewal. The most important component of your timeline – without a visa, you are unlikely to be able to continue working legally in your host country, and you and your family will no longer be considered residents. This has a ‘knock on’ effect on your employment rights, benefits and legal status, so it’s essential that you schedule both time and resources to complete the visa application process carefully.

Bear in mind that many countries require you to apply for a visa outside of the country, regardless of whether or not you are already a resident. Visa applications not only take time to complete in terms of paperwork, notarized documents etc, they also usually insist on an interview. These take place at an embassy of your choice, and are booked in advance. The visa processing then takes upwards of three days, during which you cannot re-enter your host country. Bottom line: your timeline needs to include not only visa preparation time, but at least a week out of the country for the interview and approval process.

As with the visas, employment authorization documents and social security number requests also require original documents such as birth and marriage certificates, so these need to be available (so if you don’t know which box you packed them in, start looking now!), and you won’t have access to them for other purposes for as much as a month after submitting your paperwork.

Within your host country, your driving license will be your most common form of identification, and so should be renewed before it’s expiry date. Depending on the type of visa that you hold, different supporting documents are needed, most commonly your passport and visa, and possibly your Social Security ID card.

Again, you will need to schedule an appointment in advance, so to avoid repeated visits, find out what specific information you will need to provide. And whether or not you will be required to take a test…

If at this point you are panicking at the enormity of it all, don’t. It all sounds far more terrifying than is actually is. Most of the legal requirements have very specific dates and timeframes and so are an easy way to get your timeline started. It’s also comforting to know that you have a plan to get them all done in a timely fashion, rather than that horrific moment when you realize that your driver’s license expired last week and you are due to drive your daughter’s class on a school visit to the courthouse tomorrow…

Been there, done that.

 Photo courtesy of the US National Archives