Expat families seem to love raising their families abroad. With such sun, safety, and a family-friendly social scene, why wouldn’t they? However, if you plan to move abroad with your family, you definitely have a few things to consider, research, and plan for, before the big move. If you plan to move to the Middle East/ Gulf and wish you sponsor your partner on your visa, you will have to be legally married to do so. Please note that in some cases, a woman cannot always sponsor her husband on her visa, but it depends on the job and country.
1. If you are moving with a spouse- what is her/his job? Is s/he involved in education too? Does s/he have a degree? It can be quite hard, but not impossible, to find a job in the Middle East without some kind of third level educational qualifications.
2. While many British, American, and Australian schools offer assistance or free school places, it is usually limited to two children. This again will vary according to the school, but something to always check before accepting a job, as annual international school fees are sky high! In the UAE, you may be too expensive for some for-profit schools who want cheaper candidates (i.e. fewer years of teaching experience and no dependents). In the case that you have many years of teaching experience and children, definitely look at jobs at international schools in other parts of the Gulf and Asia, especially China.
3. In terms of childminding, many expat families have a full-time, live-in nanny, as it may work out cheaper than playschool/ childminder. However, that requires a spare bedroom (in addition to your family’s bedrooms), so you might need to rent a villa rather than an apartment. Rent is very expensive here, so you would have to make sure that your school would provide this or else offer a good rent allowance. Even with a good rent allowance, you would still probably have to top it up from your salary, unless you maybe lived in a little further out or in neighbouring towns or cities, where rent is cheaper.
4. Another important consideration is for single parents. Some schools in the Middle East require that you have written permission from the other parent to show that you are allowed to bring your child to the country. Some single mothers have had issues when applying to jobs in the Middle East with their child(ren) while many have moved successfully with their child(ren); it seems to depend on the country’s laws and the school itself.
It is really important to take such a decision carefully and research as much as you can before committing to moving out here. With so many factors to think about, you should give yourself at least a year to research and discover if it is the best option for you and your family at that time. If you have young children, you may find ‘The Big Move” very helpful. It was written by Clare Rowe, an expat mum, who moved her family from the UK to South East Asia. “The Big Move” may be useful for expat parents to help their kids deal with emotions that come with change, transition or relocation. You can order it here on Amazon.