Friday, November 8, 2013

Moving halfway around the world

I like to think that we live a relatively simple life. And in some ways, it's true. Nevertheless, it's a major process to move halfway around the world!  Here are some of the things we are learning in our relocation process:

  • Visas.  All US passport holders need a visa to go to Kazakhstan.  Depending on the state you live in visas must be processed at the embassy in Washington DC or at the consulate in New York City.
  • Phone.  We will stay connected by Skype.  We'd love to "skype" with you if you're a user.  We are also using Skype for phone service:  We've purchased a subscription through which we can call any US or Canadian number for $3/month, and we've purchased a Los Angeles phone number for $3/month so you can call us - and leave a voicemail if we don't pickup.  (How long will it be before we start getting calls from telemarketers? Note from Kevin: "It's already started.") We won't post the full number here (323) 473-XXXX, but private message one of us for our new digits. And check the right column of the blog for the current time in Astana before you call!
  • Cellphones.  T-Mobile will let us keep our numbers by switching to a pre-paid plan - and they've just started global data service, although Kazakhstan is not one of the 100+ countries it works in.  So you can still find us when we're home or someplace where we have good Wi-Fi. Buying a Kazakh SIM card? We're still looking into that. 
  • Banking.  We will have to set up a local bank account, but we will use to transfer money from our US accounts to our local accounts for day-to-day expenses.  XE will even let you set up an alert and automatically exchange money when the rate hits a favorable level.
  • Internet.  Kazakhstan doesn't seem to block sites like many countries in the region do, but we are used to our Netflix, Hulu and Pandora, which one can't access overseas.  So, we will be using Strong VPN for regular access to our preferred online content.
  • Mail.  Not totally sure how much we will need this, but we have a new address with a mail forwarding service for essential documents and online shopping should we need it. 
  • Our house.  We have hired a property management company to help us rent and manage the property while we're away.  They charge a fee of a little more than a half month's rent to find and investigate tenants, and then a modest portion of the monthly rent to manage the property.  (Let us know if you know anyone who is looking for a cute bungalow in Northeast LA).
  • Taxes.  We've found a CPA who specializes in US taxpayers living abroad.  If you are overseas for more than 330 days in a 12-month period, there are some tax advantages.  He tells us (not surprisingly) that the IRS is merciless if you fall even a day short of that period.
Thanks to friends who have shared these tips... we are sure we're forgetting something, but having these services available should make it easier to stay connected while we're far away.

Only 6551 miles away -- if there were non-stop flights from Los Angeles to Astana. 

In reality, this is the shortest way to get there. 

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