An Expatriate’s Guide to Remitting Money

Whether it’s to pay off debt, top up savings or simply for peace of mind, transferring money from a country of residence into a home bank account is a usual necessity for most expatriates. Exactly how this is done varies across the globe, but the process is fairly consistent in just how time consuming it can be. It’s true, remittance is rarely a quick or painless process – especially the first time in each new country. The following advice hopes to explain the process somewhat, and might even save you some valuable seconds the next time you’re at the bank abroad. 

1. Know your bank details

This might sound plainly obvious, but be sure to have as much information about the bank account you wish to transfer to before you set off to remit your money. If the bank needs a detail that you don’t have on your person, you’re not going to be able to make your transfer at that time. Bring along your account number, sort code, the IBAN, BIC and SWIFT codes, any national insurance numbers, the address of the account you’re remitting to, and the account holder’s full name and address… and you should be fine. This information is usually readily available either through online banking or on an old bank statement, but if you can’t find it all then just contact your bank and they should be able to help.

2. Give yourself time

Be prepared for all the form filling and document checking to take a good hour or two the first time you remit money. Even return visits can take up to an hour, especially if the country you’re in doesn’t permit remittance through online banking (which is a real blessing when it happens). Such a consistently long wait could be because the bank teller is not familiar with the process or simply because of the nation’s intricate bureaucracy. Regardless of why, it is almost always necessary to enter into the process with patience and good humour, and to remain considerate of the locals who are waiting behind you. After a few lengthy experiences, you’ll no doubt learn to limit your remittances to a small number of times a year, and you’ll probably avoid going during the lunchtime rush too!

3. Prepare your documents

You could be delayed in remitting money home if you don’t have the necessary identification documents with you, such as a residency certificate or passport. This can be tricky at first as these documents might be needed for visa processing and you could be without them for as long as two months. Find out what your new country’s banking system requires and see if there’s a backup document that can be used in its place. If not, you’re going to have to wait to remit your salary, and perhaps even to get paid your first paycheck or two. However, because of exactly these types of scenarios, some employers offer support in the way of cash-advance loans that are definitely worth looking out for.

4.Know your limits

There is almost always a limit on how much you can remit, and it’s often related to how much you can earn either annually or monthly. Some countries even offer a daily restriction such as $500, which is really actually more of a service used mostly by those who don’t have residency in the country. To what extent these limits are followed is very much dependent on the country or teller you are dealing with and how much you are personally comfortable with flouting the laws. It’s not uncommon, for example, for expats to use locals to remit money home for them to avoid those frustrating remittance limits.

5. Look for shortcuts

If you’re in the right part of the world, you might be able to set up online banking which can allow for money to be transferred easily and quickly abroad from the comfort of a computer. Should that service not be available (it is mostly available, just often only in the local language), some countries allow a remittance deposit account to be set up in which any money that’s deposited is automatically remitted to an account of your choosing. If available, your new employer may be able to guide you on some or all of the above should you need help with language issues. Otherwise, you’ll have to go to the bank in person every time and queue up patiently with the rest of the folk to remit your money. If this is what you’ll be doing, just remember to take the documents from your last remittance along as these should speed up the process a lot.