If you are hoping to relocate abroad, it is vital to know how much it actually costs to pursue a move overseas first. As I went through the process of making my dream happen, I meticulously tracked every expense related to my move to help others begin to budget and save for their own adventures.
Weekly, I updated an excel spreadsheet of my accruing expenses throughout the process of applying for jobs, securing a certificate of sponsorship through BUNAC, submitting my visa application, and scheduling flights.
Moving overseas is not cheap. But it is worth it if you know how much to budget before you begin. Use this as a guideline, cry about the total amount (like I did), and then go for it. Because you cannot trade an experience like living in another country for cash.
I have grouped my expenses into four main categories of spending: Flights, Certificate of Sponsorship, Visa, and Miscellaneous.
Initial Flight: $735.96
I booked a round-trip flight in July (after 4 disappointing months of unsuccessful job searching) to leave on September 5 and return December 6 (upon expiry of my tourist visa). Two weeks later, I found the BUNAC Intern in Britain scheme.
I interviewed for two internships, accepted the offer from one, and all of a sudden my timeframe was extremely tight to secure both a certificate of sponsorship and a visa.
Changed Flight: $1,208.10
I tried my hardest to squeeze the entire visa process into four weeks, but failed miserably. Delta made sure to kick me while I was down and charge an $800.00 difference in fare plus a $300 change fee to switch my departure date to September 18.
Credit Card Reward: $(450.00)
Luckily, because I had planned ahead and signed up for the Capital One Venture Credit Card, I had 45,000 miles to cash in as $450 back.
I applied it to my flight change purchase, so technically changing my flight only cost $758.10. That is still more than I initially paid for the flight, but hey, I got myself into this mess.
Extra Baggage Fee: $100.00
Packing and repacking led me to the decision to bring an extra checked bag along with me. Delta’s fee for this is $100.00, payable the day of travel.
For me, it was either pay to have an entirely extra bag or pay a weight overage fee of $100 anyway for one über-heavy large suitcase. Definitely worth it for the extra space.
Total Flight Costs: $1,594.06
Certificate of Sponsorship Costs
Because I chose to secure a C.o.S. through BUNAC, I did not have an employer paying the fees (which only happens if your new employer is able to sponsor visas, which mine was not).
In fact, most small to mid-sized businesses do not have the clearance to sponsor visas, so BUNAC was a lifesaver and I was more than willing to pay these fees. They also help you throughout the C.o.S. and the visa processing phase, which was clutch.
Non-Refundable Deposit: $100.00
Whether or not your internship gets approved, you pay a $100 non-refundable deposit.
Official Transcripts: $24.00
For the BUNAC Tier 5 Visa, you have to prove that you are a recent graduate with an official transcript. I ordered two, so that I could open one and scan it in to BUNAC’s system plus have a sealed one for future needs.
My university charges a whopping $12.00 apiece for those babies, so it was a pretty penny to prove I have a degree (typical college move).
Travel Insurance: $360.00
The UK government requires proof that you have travel insurance covering both your medical needs up to $500,000 overseas and the repatriation of your mortal remains in the case of death. Morbid, I know.
I have both of these under my current insurance but they are not documented on the same plan (a.k.a. one was under health insurance and one was under life insurance). For the UK, they must be listed under one plan. Therefore, I had to pay $360.00 for six months of travel insurance through BUNAC. Ugh.
Program Fee: $655.00
The remainder of the program fee covers the cost of a sponsorship plus the efforts BUNAC goes through to check out your internship and issue you the C.o.S.
There is no way around this fee, unless your employer offers to pay it for you, or you secure a job that does not involve BUNAC for a Certificate of Sponsorship (a hard feat for a recent graduate, or anyone really).
Site Visit Fee: $150.00
Because my internship is with a small company, BUNAC conducted an in-person site visit. This gives them (and you) peace of mind that the internship is legit, but it does cost an additional $150.00 for their efforts.
Total C.O.S. Costs: $1,289.00
Compared to the Certificate of Sponsorship, the actual visa portion is inexpensive. You must have a C.o.S. to get a visa though, so those costs are unavoidable.
Since my C.o.S. came on August 31, I had to move my September 5 flight to leave September 19 and I also paid for priority visa processing so that I would not cut it close to my new flight and have to change it again.
Application Fee: $313.00
This is the standard fee for a UK visa and is paid as soon as you apply.
Priority Processing: $204.00
This fee, which is paid through an associate of UK Visas and Immigration called VSF Global, shortens processing time from 15 to 21 days to 3 to 7 days.
Priority Shipping with UPS: $53.00
This was probably the best decision I made for my visa processing. You can purchase an overnight Airbill through UPS from VSF Global as well for $53.
The fee includes your visa applications trip to New York, plus its return to your home address. You have a tracking number so that you know exactly where your application is, plus it removes the concern that you’ve written UKVI’s address down wrong.
I also cross-checked it against the standard cost of a UPS Airbill and from my calculations, booking it through VSF Global at the time you purchase Priority Processing saves you around $50.00.
Passport Photos: $24.59
For the visa application, you must send in 2 recent passport-sized photos. My local drug store took the picture for $5, and printed out 4 copies for a total cost of $24.59. Expensive, but I sent in two copies for the visa and kept two for future needs.
Gas to Biometric Appointment: $51.60
Before you can submit your visa application, you must attend a Biometric Appointment and get a receipt. The whole appointment took 5 minutes for the woman to scan my fingerprints and take my picture.
Unfortunately, you must go to a registered federal biometric center for this. Being from the middle of Midwestern nowhere, I had to drive 4 hours to reach the closest one.
Total Visa Costs: $646.19
Vacuum Seal Travel Bags: $8.37
Once I decided to take two checked bags, I bought 5 vacuum seal travel bags to save space. They allowed me to pack two of my favorite bulky sweaters plus my huge winter coat without losing tons of valuable space.
Carry-On Tote Bag: $35.43
The backpack I have previously taken abroad fell apart, so I opted for a stylish tote that can also be used as my work purse. I bought it over Labor Day from Target and saved about $15.00 with their sales.
Total Misc. Costs: $43.80
And now, for the big reveal (unless you’ve been adding in your head this whole time).
The Grand Total: $3,573.05
Without flight change: $2,364.95
Without flights at all: $1,628.99
Without priority processing: $1,371.99
With everything said and done, my dream move cost more than it should from changing my flight. I offset the costs by living for free at home during this process (saving $360 in rent and $80 in food), selling things that are not coming across with me (adding $424 to my savings) and doing some freelance writing online (for about $320).
If you dream about moving overseas, start saving now so the impact on your bank account is less when the time comes. And as scary as the totals look, keep in mind that the adventure of a lifetime waits on the other side.
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