I’ve been working to internationalize my life for more than two decades. It has been an organic process, almost accidental at times.
And I’ve made mistakes along the way.
Many of my mistakes came from a lack of thinking ahead. Not that I wasn’t trying to think ahead and prepare. The trouble often has been that I just didn’t know what to expect… and therefore didn’t know what questions to ask.
One of the biggest mistakes I made in the course of internationalizing my and my family’s lives, for example, had to do with our naturalization process in Ireland some two decades ago.
We lived in Ireland for more than seven years. You need only five years of residency in Ireland within the previous nine years to qualify for naturalization. We qualified no problem… we thought.
However, when we spoke with our immigration attorney about filing the applications for me, my wife, and our daughter, we were informed that our daughter didn’t qualify. She didn’t have the required “reckonable residency” in Ireland, we were told, because she hadn’t been registered as a resident.
We hadn’t registered her as a resident because the immigration people told us she didn’t need to be registered because she was under 16.
It was a catch-22 that didn’t make sense, but our immigration attorney told us our daughter wasn’t eligible so we let it drop and continued with the naturalization process for Kathleen and me. We’d figure out something for our daughter later, we thought.
Skipping ahead many years to the time when we tried to get serious about figuring out something for our daughter, we had a discussion with a different immigration attorney in Dublin who told us that we probably could have gotten special dispensation to get our daughter naturalized at the time, as we could have proven through school records that she was living with us in Ireland.
Why didn’t the original immigration attorney tell us that? Who knows.
This frustrating and disappointing experience taught me three important lessons…
First, always question your attorney and other advisors when something doesn’t make sense. Don’t take counsel on its face. Experts can be mistaken, confused, or just wrong… and sometimes they neglect to give you the full story. Push until you’re comfortable you’ve gotten a clear and complete perspective on your situation.
Second, know the rules yourself. Don’t count blindly on the experts you engage to help you as you work to internationalize your life.
Third, make sure you’re clear in your own mind about your goals in diversifying offshore. The plan, program, and schedule you put together depends directly on your personal agenda.
Here are questions to answer:
- Is your primary objective simply to create some security for you and your family by holding assets offshore (investments, real estate, bank accounts, etc.)?
- Do you want to move your business offshore while you remain where you are?
- Do you intend to move overseas yourself? Full-time… or only part-time?
- Do you want to create a fully integrated international lifestyle with homes in different countries with residencies and infrastructure to match?
- Are you interested in obtaining a second citizenship?
Whether your initial plans are modest or far-reaching, knowing where you ultimately want to end up will help guide you as you consider all the options available to you.
It’s not that you can’t make adjustments along the way. I certainly have. But some adjustments can be costly… when it comes to real estate investments, for example, and the use of structures.
You should set both short-term and long-term goals for how you want your international life to evolve. Some things can be done quickly—opening that first offshore bank account, for example. Other things require more time and planning—acquiring a second passport, for example.
The key, of course, is to take the first step… which I urge you to do right now.