The big question we keep asking ourselves is: what don’t we know that we need to know? That’s a question that can drive you crazy. I’m talking here about things related to taxes, banking, residency, healthcare, etc. in the context of our move to Hong Kong. We have met with our lawyer and accountant (the bank is next week); we are doing some research, talking to people here and there (literally), and preparing as best as we can. I’m sure many surprises await us, but in the meantime, here are a few things I’ve learned:
• Before we leave, we will need to update our will and ensure it will be recognized in Hong Kong. There are special certificates that need to be attached to legitimize a will internationally.
• In Canada, tax obligations are based on residency status. We have decided to become non-resident in Canada, which means we will pay income tax in Hong Kong, not Canada. To be considered non-resident, we need to sever significant residential ties to Canada which, from the perspective of the Canada Revenue Agency, include owning a home, and/or having a spouse, partner or dependents in Canada. Other ties can include vehicles, bank accounts, credit cards, a driver’s licence, and provincial health insurance. We will have to take steps to make sure all of these are wrapped up properly when we leave.
• Registered savings do not have to be liquidated and can remain in Canada.
• Most Canadian banks have a correspondent bank in other countries. Our Canadian bank can help manage any final transactions through the transfer of funds from a Canadian bank to their HK affiliate before closing the Canadian account. We can, however, keep a Canadian bank account, something that might be useful as things are likely to come up, especially with our family here (but not dependents!).
• Life insurance can be left where it is (with a Canadian provider, in our case), but we need to advise the company that we are going non-resident and will be paying premiums from HK.
• Our visas came through last week. There are different kinds of visas for Hong Kong. We are going under the “General Employment Policy” which covers situations where someone is brought in by an employer for a specific job for a specific period of time. It’s a two-part application, one of which is completed by the applicant and the other by the employing company. The applications require proof that there is a job vacancy, that you are qualified for the job, and that there is a confirmed offer of employment, among other things. It’s quite straightforward and it took exactly four weeks from the time the completed applications were submitted to the Immigration Department of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
• We will be eligible to vote in Canada’s federal elections while living in Hong Kong even though we are non-resident. I’m glad about this because I think it’s important. We need to submit an online application in order to be put on the International Register of Electors. Once we are on that list, we will automatically be sent a ballot by email when a federal election is called. Our constituency will be tied to our last place of residence in Canada.
This is just a partial list of considerations that apply in our case, and it is just my layman’s interpretation of what I have learned. Each situation will be different. Anyone making a move like this should consult their lawyer, accountant, etc. to get advice that addresses their particular circumstances (yes, that’s a disclaimer). We will seek legal and financial advice as soon as we arrive in Hong Kong to find out more about what we need to know that we don’t know we need to know. There is a steep learning curve to an odyssey like this.