There is no question that COVID-19 has impacted how everyone is living right now. One group that may be feeling this sudden change more than others is expats, those who live abroad from their native country. Many are far from friends and family and some don’t know when the next time is that they’ll be able to visit home or entertain family in their new country, often causing anxiety and feelings of isolation. Here are how four groups of expats are being challenged in the face of COVID-19.
Those who had just set out on their new life as expats, particularly those without a steady income, an established support and social network, or set residence, may have found it easier to hit the eject button on their journey abroad than stay and struggle. Some have requested government assistance to get them home as quickly as possible and receive the aid they need to afford their travels. At this point nearly anyone entering a country must enter a mandatory 14- day self-quarantine, with some exceptions for front line workers depending on need and regulation.
Living on the Front Line
Many expats left their home country for job opportunities, including people working on the front line, knowing they’re making a big difference and feel that it’s their duty to stick around and help where they are needed most. Those, like people from Canada, know that their governments will welcome them back home with open arms should they choose to head home and have some comfort knowing they can leave for “home” when they feel the timing is right.
While many post-secondary education institutions have moved their classes online for the foreseeable future so there are no issues there as long as students have access to the required technology. Bigger issues involve those on student visas or expecting student visas for the coming year. Students and prospective students must remain in regular contact with their respective international students’ office to keep up-to-date on whether they’ll be able to head to class virtually (either from abroad or locally) or defer their education. They also must stay informed on exemptions to travel restrictions, scholarship information, and various supports available to them during these times.
Many people choose to “Snowbird” or divide their time between two international destinations when they retire. Some of these people needed to make a choice when “return to home orders” went out with many receiving notices that their insurance would expire in a matter of days. Others made guesses and vaguely educated decisions on whether they’d stay put or go home dependent upon how bad the outbreak was/is in each of their homes. Many have had to make a choice weighing their finances, weather, and potentially being completely physically cut off from loved ones depending on where they decided to “wait out” this global pandemic. Many retirees have temporarily placed their expat life on hold or are making the decision to return home permanently, in some cases several years before their original plans. Expect a lot of “for sale” signs popping up in secondary residences in the months and years to come.
Whether you are just arriving in your expat life or have decided to return home for the time-being remember to check your legal and moral obligations in terms of recommendations and regulations surrounding self-isolation, medical testing and more. Stay safe and stay connected to your loved ones online and by phone to help ease the stresses of physical distancing whether you’re ten, one hundred, or thousands of miles apart.
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