Planning an International Relocation
Moving abroad is an exciting opportunity. However, moving can also be time-consuming and stressful, especially when moving to a new country. To make your move abroad as smooth and exciting as possible, here is our moving abroad checklist for simplifying your move.
The process of moving abroad to a new destination typically takes about three to six months so planning will help minimize surprises and allow you to enjoy the transition. To facilitate the process, we have organized an outline of things to do as the moving date gets closer.
Travel Arrangements for Your Move Overseas
Update Your Passport and Obtain Your Necessary Visa
While those moving from one Schengen country to another will not need a visa, others will need to apply for a visa with the host country. U.S citizens can start by looking up country-specific visa requirements to identify what must be done to get a visa. Keep in mind that the visa application process can take six months or longer, so apply as early as possible.
Book Your International Ticket
It’s no secret that flying to another country can be pricey. Start to examine flight prices to your destination country as soon as possible, and set up price alerts to notify you if a flight becomes available for the amount that you are hoping to pay. While sites like Skyscanner can prove invaluable for finding the best deals on flights, be sure to keep tabs on individual airlines as well, as some may charge a premium for booking your airline ticket through third-party sites.
Package and Ship What You Can’t Carry Along
Shipping items internationally can be expensive, so it may make more sense to pay for an extra luggage bag on your flight to your host country. Compare the cost of shipping items internationally to the price of the extra luggage bag to see which makes more sense.
Make Copies of All Important Documents
The last thing that you want is to find yourself stuck in a foreign country trying to explain to the authorities that you lost your passport. Make copies of your passport, license, birth certificate, medical records, marriage certificates, and health insurance in case the original copy is lost. For added safety, laminate each of these documents to keep them protected from rain or wear and tear.
Make Arrangements for Your First Night in Your Host Country
While “winging it” with housing can provide a fun experience, make sure that you at least have somewhere to stay for your first night. Between dealing with jetlag and trying to navigate through an entirely new city, having a place to sleep lined up before you arrive will eliminate quite a bit of unnecessary stress.
Health Checklist for an Overseas Move
Purchase Medical Insurance
Ensure that you’re financially covered in case of injury or illness. We recommend identifying a medical insurance plan that will give you the freedom to choose any hospital, with 24-hour emergency assistance. Learn more about international health plans or compare expat health insurance and see which plan is right for you.
Get Necessary Immunizations
From malaria to typhoid, there are a handful of harmful diseases that can easily be prevented with proper treatment. Explore this list of immunizations that are recommended for each country.
Visit the Doctor for a Checkup
The best starting point for immunizations is to check with your doctor to ensure that you have taken care of all of your immunizations. While there, be sure to go through the yearly checkup routine to ensure that there are no pressing health matters to take care of before leaving.
Staying Safe While Abroad
Before leaving for your host country, make a plan for staying safe while abroad. Start by examining the Department of State’s travel warnings to understand the biggest threats in your host country, whether it be avoiding certain areas, or preparing for certain diseases. For more, learn about how to stay healthy while living abroad.
Determine Which Items You Will Bring
When determining which items to bring, start by identifying the living situation in your host country. Will you be living in a permanent residence, or regularly moving from one place to the next? If living in a permanent residence, how much space will you have? Taking three suitcases probably isn’t feasible if you plan on jumping from one home to the next, or if you will be sharing a small apartment with others. Also, most airlines will charge a fee for extra luggage, so be picky about what you bring with you.
Store, Sell or Donate Everything Else
After determining which items you will bring with you, the next step is to identify which of the remaining items you will keep in storage, and which you will give away. Try to sell old possessions on Craigslist, Amazon, or eBay, and donate the remaining items that don’t sell to a local thrift shop.
Turn Off All Utilities
You certainly don’t want to receive a surprise utility bill from your utility company while living abroad. Be sure to check that all lights, heat, and water have been turned off in your home before you leave, and be sure to cancel or pause your plan with your utility company.
Sell or Rent Your House
Explore sites like Craigslist, or work with a realtor to sell your house. Keep in mind that selling or renting your house can take anywhere from a month to a year, so start the process as soon as possible.
Sell Your Car or Arrange for it to Be Shipped
The cost of shipping your car can vary greatly depending on the size of the car and distance that it will need to be shipped. For a frame of reference, shipping a car from the U.S to Europe typically ranges from $750 for a compact car, to $2000 for an SUV. While this may seem expensive, shipping your car could save you the hassle of having to sell your existing car, and find a new one after moving. Also, if you are used to driving an automatic car, be aware that in much of Europe, manual cars are the norm, and purchasing an automatic car typically costs much more.
Set up Mail Forwarding
You do not want your mail to pile up when you have other things to tend to after your move. Be sure to set up mail forwarding to your new location.
Explore Home Options in Your Host Country
Explore expatriate forums and talk to locals to get a sense of the best housing options to consider, as well as best locations to try to find housing.
Banking and International Accounts
Set Up an Account You Can Use Overseas
We recommend setting up an account with a large, international bank like HSBC, which simplifies your move by allowing you to open an international bank account in your host country before you move. In addition to that, try exploring Schwab Bank, which includes international ATM fee reimbursements, meaning that you will never have to pay a fee for using an ATM while abroad.
Inform Your Current Bank/Credit Cards About Your Move
Call your bank to inform them of your expected arrival in your host country, as well as a list of other countries that you expect to be visiting in the coming weeks. You should also check if any of your credit cards or debit cards have a foreign processing fee. These fees can add up quickly and drastically increase your living expenses. If all of your credit cards do have a foreign transaction fee, consider opening a new credit card, or withdrawing larger amounts of money when you visit ATMs in your host country to minimize flat withdrawal fees.
Moving Your Pet Abroad
Check the Pet Regulations of Your Host Country
If you are considering pet relocation, most countries will require a microchip be inserted into your pet for identification. On top of this, most countries will require rabies shots, tapeworm treatment for dogs, and vaccines that will vary from animal to animal. Some countries require your pet to remain in quarantine for a set amount of time.
Ensure Your Pet is Up to Date On Its Shots
Take your pet to your veterinarian to ensure that they have received proper vaccinations and passed other requirements necessary for the move to the new country.
Check Whether Your Pet Can Handle the Move
After the checkup, the veterinarian will be able to give their professional opinion as to whether or not your pet is physically healthy enough for travel. Flights can be particularly straining for pets, so be sure to take your veterinarian’s opinion into account before committing to bringing your pet abroad.
Obtain Any Necessary Medications
While some medications may seem easy to find in your current country, keep in mind that they may be more difficult to find in your host country. Take enough vaccinations for 1-2 months to ensure that your pet is covered until you find a suitable veterinarian.
Gather All Updated Documents on Your Pet to Bring Along
Failing to bring proper paperwork could result in your pet being detained or quarantined upon arriving in your host country, so make an extra copy of all documentation.
Also see: Traveling with Pets
Once in your host country, you may want to relax and start to settle in, but there are still a few more things to take care of. Before you get too comfortable, make sure to complete this post-moving abroad checklist:
Other Moving Abroad Checklist Items
Set a Budget
Living abroad can be expensive, so take some time to put together rough estimates of your monthly expenses and ensure that the lifestyle that you expect to live and the lifestyle that you can afford end up being the same. Use a cost of living comparison tool as a benchmark to identify the expected change in pricing for housing, food, entertainment, etc.
Get Some Local Currency
Before leaving for your host country, visit your local bank to pick up some of your host country’s currency. Airport currency exchanges typically offer a poor exchange rate, and finding somewhere to convert your money to your host country can be stressful in the midst of your move. While using a credit or debit card may be your first choice, some countries rely more heavily on cash than others. On top of this, having cash with you in the case of a frozen debit or credit card (see Contact your current bank/credit cards about your move) – (set up anchor link to “Contact your current bank/credit cards about your move” section above)
Cancel Your Gym Membership
Canceling gym memberships can often be a time-consuming process, and some gyms will even require you to visit the gym to cancel in person, so make sure to take care of this before leaving.
Take Language Lessons
At the very least, you should learn how to use basic phrases like “hello,” “thank you,” and “do you speak English.” While English is a common second language in much of the world, many will be annoyed if you approach them and assume that they speak English. To learn more about your host country’s language, try using Duolingo or Pimsleur’s language lessons
Post-Moving Abroad Checklist
Purchase and activate a cell phone that will work internationally
Many phone carriers require a 2-year contract to sign up for their phone plans, and pay-as-you-go phone plans are typically much more expensive on a per-minute basis, so consider how long you plan on staying in your host country. Also, examine your phone records for the past 3-6 months and, based off of your data usage and phone minutes, determine how much you will use your phone. For those looking for minimal phone usage, try using Skype Premium, WhatsApp or Viber to make phone calls using wifi or phone data.
If You Have Not Yet Already, Search for Housing Options
Use Craigslist to identify potential apartments, or ask locals about recommended apartment rental services. Airbnb and local hostels could serve as great short-term housing options, and would also be great ways to meet some locals while searching for your new home or apartment. Once settled in, make sure to share your new address with family members.
Set Up Your Internet and Utilities
Talk to your landlord for suggestions on the best options to go with. Many apartment complexes will have one utilities company or Internet provider that you are required to work with, but otherwise, shop around for the best deal.
Locate the Nearest Hospital and Pharmacy in Your Host Country
While we can always hope for the best, it’s also important to prepare for the worst. The last thing that you want to be doing in the midst of a broken arm or fever is trying to identify the nearest hospital. Instead, take a few minutes to explore our international healthcare hospital guide to identify the best hospitals or healthcare facilities in your host country.
Did we miss anything? We would love to get your feedback on any other ideas of essential items for our moving abroad checklist. We will be sure to add to it over time.