BY Margaux Buridant Vice President, Senior International Wealth Strategist, Bank of the West

Mar 10th 2021

International Perspectives

How to Be Prepared for the Unexpected as an International Worker in the US

Here are five ways expats can get ready for whatever life throws at them.

Mar 10th 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic plunged the world into a state of uncertainty, but international workers in the United States may recall feeling extra anxious about how to navigate the crisis while so far from home.

After all, while some countries provide unemployed workers with government benefits of up to 80 percent of their salary for as long as two years, that is not the case in the US. And international workers with certain visas may not qualify for any US unemployment insurance at all. For many expats, a job loss could result in a loss of health insurance benefits, and some even have to leave the US within 60 days.

While the worst of the pandemic-related lockdowns and employment uncertainty may be behind us, the experience raised a question for a lot of international workers in the US: Am I prepared for a job loss, health issue, travel disruptions, or any other crisis while far from home?

Now that COVID-19 has made the reality of facing a crisis feel all too real, how can you increase peace of mind and help protect your family? Here are five steps you can take right now.

  1. Check Your Emergency Fund

    It’s always a good idea to have six months’ worth of cash to get through hard times. But during a time when travel restrictions could reemerge, you may want to be prepared in case you’re suddenly unable to access funds held in foreign accounts. Make sure to transfer the funds you anticipate needing well in advance.

  2. Optimize Your Investments

    After experiencing the stock market volatility in the early days of COVID-19, you may wish to speak to your financial advisor to explore a different mix of stocks and bonds, or you may find opportunities to adjust your portfolio to minimize exposure to the estate tax, which can be especially steep for international residents.

  3. Designate a US Guardian in Your Will

    If something should happen to you and your children’s only legal guardian resides outside the US, a traumatic legal custody battle could emerge. Make sure that your will and other estate planning documents have clear instructions that outline your wishes for the care of your children. Perhaps, explore having an interim plan naming a US guardian who can take control immediately and ensure a smooth transition to overseas guardians.

    In addition, consider naming a legal proxy to authorize health and financial decisions on your behalf in case you become ill for an extended period. And double-check to ensure there are named beneficiaries for all your bank accounts, so your loved ones don’t have to go through the US probate courts.

  4. Get Added Protection with Term Life Insurance

    Because term life insurance policies are only in force for a set period of time, they can deliver high payouts with low premiums. And term life insurance payouts may not be subject to estate tax for those that are domiciled outside of the US.

  5. Review Exit Tax Requirements

    A personal crisis of any kind could result in an earlier departure from the US than you anticipated. So it’s a good idea to remind yourself of the potential tax implications, and give yourself time to plan accordingly.

Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help

We all have thousands of things on our minds, and every added concern can feel overwhelming. Please feel free to reach out to us at Bank of the West.

International workers have been key to every stage of growth in the US and recovery from every type of crisis. Now, more than ever, we appreciate your contributions, and we’re here to help.

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Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender. © 2023 BMO Harris Bank N.A. Bank of the West is a trade name used by BMO Harris Bank N.A. Banking products and services are subject to approval and are provided by BMO Harris Bank N.A.

Securities and variable annuities are offered through BancWest Investment Services, a registered broker/dealer, member FINRA/SIPC, and SEC Registered Investment Adviser. Financial Advisors are Registered Representatives of BancWest Investment Services. Fixed annuities/insurance products are offered through Bancwest Insurance Agency in California, (License #0C52321) and through BancWest Investment Services, Inc. in all other states where it is licensed to do business. BancWest Insurance Agency is a trade name of BancWest Investment Services, Inc., a subsidiary of BMO Harris Bank N.A.

This is not an offer or solicitation in any jurisdiction where we are not authorized to do business.

BMO Harris Bank N.A. and its various affiliates and subsidiaries are not tax or legal advisors.

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