What is a relocation package is something that you may ask when you begin to consider a move… put simply it consists of all the assistance your company will provide you to help you get setup in your new location. In theory a good relocation package should take care of all of your basic needs for getting setup to live and work in a new country.
Let’s have a look at some of the key questions you might ask when moving to another country.
So, what is a reasonable relocation package?
Basically, the things you need to get yourself to your destination along with somewhere to live when you first get there. Flights, transport and short-term accommodation costs for when you arrive are typically covered.
You’ll also have help to find a more permanent living home and assistance with moving your things to your new country. There may even be allowances for services like language training, if needed, and a small budget for miscellaneous expenses like taxi/transport costs and food whilst you’re in transit.
If you have any kids, they might have a service to help them find a school.
And even, what is a generous relocation package?
Well, this is where you have far more than your basic needs met. As well as all the things in a more regular package, you might get extra assistance with paying for your rent. They might lay on special car services to take you to, or collect you from the airport.
You might be able to claim a cornucopia of things against expenses. Anything from lavish meals to the cost of your kid’s private education might be covered. They may ship your car across the ocean at great expense. Maybe they’ll help you sell or rent out your home and cover any costs for you. Perhaps they will give you a budget to cover the entertainment of both you and your family, activities like gym membership or educational classes may even be on the menu for your family.
Of course, not all of these elements will be included in a generous package, but some of them might.
Simply put, they give you more money to spend on all aspects of your lifestyle whilst you are away from home. A generous package would go far beyond just getting you moved to and setup in your new home. It would also go about making your existence in the new country as pleasant, pampered and even as luxurious as possible.
So, now that we’ve summarised what you can expect, let’s go in to a little more detail…
How do I get there?
Most relocation packages will take in to account the costs and logistics for getting you, your spouse and children (if you have them) to your new country. This can be done in several ways.
- You book your own tickets either with a recommended or otherwise provider, or through the travel desk at your company. Usually, you would then claim for reimbursement. Sometimes this is directly through your company and other times it’s through the relocation company’s expense reimbursement system.
- Your company, or the relocation company, will book the tickets for you.
Either way the cost is ultimately taken care of by your company.
You may also be reimbursed for travel costs to get to and from the airport. Again, these costs would usually be claimable via your company or the relocation company. Sometimes the company/relocation company may even arrange for a car to pick you up at the airport and take you to your destination. So that brings us on to the next question.
If you need help with your visa/immigration, you will usually get assistance from a dedicated provider who will help you to navigate the often complicated processes of gaining permission to work in your host country. If you have a family, they’ll also provide support for them too. Some of the more generous packages might even sort out a work permit for your partner. Some policies could even allow your partner to have help to get a job in the host country too.
Where will I stay when I first arrive?
Provision for around 30 days or more stay in temporary accommodation is usually given to allow you time to get settled in and find a more permanent place to live.
Sometimes you might find that you have simply been provided with a budget to book your own accommodation when you first arrive. Otherwise, you’ll find that the relocation company will book suitable accommodation for you, usually in a serviced apartment.
What’s a serviced apartment, you might ask? Well, put simply, a serviced apartment is a dwelling filled with all the things that you’ll need for when you arrive. Standards can vary from country to country, but in most places, you’ll find a fully equipped kitchen, with an oven, hob, fridge freezer, toaster, microwave, kettle, pots and pans, plates and bowls, cutlery… basically everything you’ll need. They’d also supply you with bed linen and towels. All the furniture is there along with a TV and internet access. Essentially, all you’d need are your own personal items, your clothes, laptop etc., that you have brought with you in your luggage.
The apartment is usually cleaned once a week during your stay. In essence, it provides a nice middle ground between being in your own home and being in a hotel.
Now you might be wondering how it is that your bulkier personal belongings – that you didn’t bring on your flight with you – will follow you to your new country. Well, once again, the answers lie in the next section…
What about my stuff?
Most packages will provide you with the option of shipping your household goods to your destination.
Sometimes you’ll be able to have a small air shipment or a larger surface shipment. Other times it might be both.
Air shipments are generally used for things that you might want to have access to relatively soon after you arrive in your temporary accommodation, but aren’t necessary to have the second you arrive.
Surface shipments usually arrive much more slowly and contain the bigger items, like your furniture which you won’t need until you move to your permanent property. Sometimes, because of the distances involved, your own furniture may not arrive until after your lease begins and some policies would allow you to either get rental furniture to bridge the gap or, if it’s more cost effective, extend your stay in temporary accommodation.
One thing to consider, however, is whether you actually need or want your stuff to be moved. For example, if you have a home you own in your country of origin that you’re going to be renting out, would you prefer to leave the furniture there and rent it out furnished? Sometimes, you might find that the kind/size of furniture you have in in your existing home simply won’t fit in to homes in other countries. The USA, for example, often has far larger sofas and beds than other countries and that even getting them in to the property, let alone finding somewhere to put them, can be a bit of a challenge.
Some policies will give you support for storing your possessions while you are away on assignment. This can be useful in some cases, but you still have to consider whether it’s worth storing items like a fridge freezer, which can often break whilst standing unused for years, or technology like a TV that may well be outdated by the time you return for it.
We mentioned above that a generous package might even include shipping your car. However, the practicalities of this such as whether your host country drives on the same side of the road or if any changes/re-registration needs to be done to/for your vehicle can render this financially unviable. Instead, you might receive compensation for selling your car such as seller fees and depreciation costs, allowing you to buy a new vehicle when you reach your host country.
Support for home country house management
You might find that, if you currently live in a home you own, you might get support to either sell the property or rent it out. This could include compensation for any fees you might incur for either renting or selling the property.
If you are a renter, you might be compensated for any lease breaking fees.
Where am I going to live in the long term?
Finding a place to live is probably one of the top concerns of assignees. Sometimes you will be left to your own devices but usually you will get support from a Destination Service Provider (DSP) to help find you a property. Typically, the DSP will co-ordinate a home search consultant for you who will, after a briefing call, arrange a full itinerary for a day or two – or possibly more depending on your company’s policy. You’ll go on accompanied viewing with a home search consultant, basically an expert on the housing market in the area, and view properties. Everything you see will have been chosen by the home search consultant, with your input, to meet your requirements to the best possible extent that the market allows. They’ll also help you to navigate the local property market and manage your expectations surrounding housing norms in different country. For example, in the UK even an unfurnished property usually includes the larger kitchen appliances, whereas, in Germany, when you move in, you often have to have a whole new kitchen fitted!
You may also get additional support beyond just finding a home. This kind of support does vary, but generally you can expect help to setup your utilities and advise on services you might need like broadband and TV. Perhaps somebody will be on hand to help with your check in to your new home. That’s to say, making sure that everything is as it should be in the property from the inventory being correct to any damages noted and, if needed, repaired.
You may even get a limited amount of time for somebody to help you with any issues and teething problems that arise during the settling in period.
But I don’t speak the language and know nothing about the culture?
If you are lucky, your company may well provide you with language and/intercultural training. These services could be provided for you and your family to enable you to better fit in to your home country. Companies might either provide language/cultural training prior to departure or on arrival in the host country.
Language training is more or less self-explanatory. You will be given either a private tutor or setup with lessons in a class to learn the local language. Intercultural training is similar, though usually just consists of a few lessons. The idea is to introduce you to the cultural norms and expectations of your host countries. This can actually be quite useful and often leads to a more successful assignment where you might be less prone to your innocent actions leading to serious faux pas.
So, who is going to pay for my relocation package?
Well, if you have a really good package, it will often be the company you work for. There are a few ways that they may assist.
Paying for the required services
They may pay for the services you need, from household goods shipping to home finding or temporary accommodation to language training.
Rental Allowance and Cost of Living Allowances (COLA)
Often this allowance is given to you to compensate for the difference between housing costs in your home country and housing cost in the host country.
The cost-of-living allowance does much the same thing, but the idea is that it bridges the gap between costs for goods and services in the host country compared to the home country. Usually, it’s calculated by comparing the cost of common items in each location and calculating a fair figure.
Expenses within a Relocation Package
Assignees can claim back a number of expenses as they are a benefit in kind, therefore tax deductible. This is often done using a website provided either by the employer or the relocation company. Usually, assignees have to submit proof of the expense, such as a receipt or an invoice for the item for which the expense is being claimed. Of course, it has to be covered as part of the relocation policy and there is usually a non-exhaustive list to determine that. Some things can be excluded, however. For example, you may be able to claim back meal expenses whilst you are travelling, but if you order a bottle of wine, that would be for your own account.
What about the children?
If you have children, especially ones of school age, you might need some support with finding them places in schools. Usually this would be done by a specialist schooling support service who can advise you on the ins and out of applying for schools and highlight where you might want to send your children. Sometimes, you’ll be accompanied to interviews/open days and other times you will not.
What if none of that suits me?
A lot of companies are moving towards having more flexible, tailored relocation experiences as part of a relocation package. This is very much a recognition that the one size fits all approach won’t necessarily work for all employees.
So how does this work. Well, employees are often given certain core benefits, like flights, but they also get to flexibly choose the services that suit them. This is usually referred to as a core-flex policy. Essentially, they will be given a budget that they use to “Buy” services. Say, for example, you’re relocating to France but already speak French. Well, you won’t need language lessons, so you can spend your relocation budget on something else, say, shipping extra household good across, or paying for further support for your children. The idea here is that no service is wasted and only the things you really need are initiated. Some policies might even give you the chance to have lump sum payments to deal with miscellaneous expenses.
Ok, so my assignment is done. I want to go home now!
Basically, the repatriation is just the reverse of your initial relocation. It will provide the same or similar services required to get you back home. But you’ve only just started. There’s plenty of time to go through what’s going to happen when you go home, but essentially you may be given support with flights, temporary accommodation, home search support, schooling assistance and shipping support for your household goods.
Well, all that’s done. So, what now?
So, with all that, or a combination of the things that you’ll need, you’ll be safely relocated to your new home and ready to begin your new assignment having made the most of the relocation package available to you!