Whether you have found your true love halfway around the world, or some really promising job opportunities in a foreign country, a perfect retirement destination overseas, or an educational facility that offers great possibilities in your chosen area of studies, moving abroad is a huge step in your life that requires lots of careful planning and proper preparation. There are many important things to consider, consequential decisions to make, and arduous tasks to complete before moving abroad in order to ensure the successful start of your new life in another country. You will need about six months to prepare well for your moving adventure, so you are strongly recommended to start organizing the various aspects of the relocation process as soon as your decision to move abroad becomes a certain fact.
What to consider when moving abroad
The more you know about your future country, the better. So, your first and foremost task is to research your new area and gather all the relevant information you can find.
- Safety issues – regardless of your reasons to move abroad, safety should be your primary concern. So, it is a good idea to check the State Department website for useful safety information, to sign up for the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so that you can stay informed and connected in case of emergencies, to follow your future country’s embassy on Twitter for up-to-date information about the current conditions in the region, etc.;
- Climate – sudden changes in your environment may result in allergies and other health issues, so if the temperatures and the humidity levels in your new surroundings are going to differ drastically from what you are used to, you need to prepare well – get prophylactic vaccinations, find effective allergy meds, buy appropriate clothes and equipment, etc.;
- Employment opportunities – you need to get familiar with the business environment in your new country and make sure that your skills and professional expertise are in high demand there, so you will be able to easily find a profitable occupation in the area;
- Housing options – unless you have friends in your new country who can help you settle in, you should contact trustworthy local real estate agencies to assist you in your search of appropriate living accommodations in the area. Otherwise, you will have to stay at a hotel until you get to know your new surroundings and find a suitable residence;
- Cost of living – the costs of utilities, transportation, medical care, education, food, clothing, entertainment, and other relevant amenities in your new country should also be taken into account when preparing for moving abroad;
- Cultural issues – when moving to another country, you will encounter different points of view, attitudes, and social norms. You need to be open-minded, tolerant, and receptive when it comes to the unique traditions and cultural practices in your new society. Besides, have in mind that some of the products and services you have been using on a daily basis in your homeland may not be available in your new country. Even the measurement system and the time zones are likely to be different, so do your homework well and get prepared for the peculiarities of your new life ;
- Local language – not understanding the local language will be the greatest challenge you are going to face. So, take some language classes beforehand to make your first days in your new country more manageable and make it your top priority to learn the language really well soon after your relocation – being able to communicate freely will open up new doors for you, will speed up the adaptation process, and will allow you to become a part of the society.
One final piece of advice: look for expatriate assistance. People form your homeland who have already relocated and settled in your chosen new country are sure to help you with inside information and reliable recommendations.
Things to do before moving to another country
Take a closer look at our comprehensive moving abroad checklist – it will help you prepare well for you international move.
Assess your finances
Assess your financial situation to make sure that your savings will be sufficient to cover all the expenses for moving abroad. You need to provide for:
- Fees for issuing visas and other legal clearances;
- Long-distance shipping of your possessions – you will need the professional assistance of trustworthy and affordable international movers to help you move to your new country;
- Travel expenses – plane tickets won’t be cheap if you are flying half way around the globe;
- Accommodation costs – you will have to pay a security deposit deposit and the rent for the first month if you are moving into a rented property, or to pay for your stay at a hotel;
- Costs of living for the first several months – experts recommend having at least seven months (preferably more) of living expenses in hand when moving abroad;
- Emergency funds – you need to set aside some money for unexpected extra charges, medical bills, return trips home in case of emergency, etc.
Have in mind that banking clearances and arrangements can take some time to be confirmed and instituted, so you should choose a bank and take care of the necessary paperwork before you actually move. Don’t forget to check which credit cards you can use internationally without incurring fees and let your credit card companies know you’ll be moving overseas. It is also very important to talk to the IRS to figure out your tax situation. If you are retiring to a foreign country, you also need to make the necessary arrangements to be able to receive your pension without any problems.
Prepare your paperwork
Paperwork requirements vary widely from one country to the next, so you should contact the embassy of your future country and request all the relevant information you need to put your documents in order.
- Apply for a visa and a work permit (if necessary);
- Get proper insurance;
- Make sure you have all personal documents with you – birth certificates, marriage certificates, medical records, degree certificates, bank statements, references, statement of services, police checks, etc.;
- Update the necessary documents – passports, driver’s license, car registration and insurance, etc.;
- Make copies of all your legal documents – email yourself scanned copies of all your important documents together with hotline numbers to call in case of theft or loss;
- Change your address and have your mail forwarded.
Have in mind that all the procedures for issuing and/or updating documents take time, so start early enough.
Address health issues
Research your new country’s health and medical regulations and visit your doctor to make sure you have the right shots and all the required medical documents:
- Get a record of all your immunizations (you may also need some new vaccinations, depending on your destination country);
- Retrieve all your medical records and get international health insurance policy;
- Check if you will be able to get your prescription medicines in your new area (have in mind that some drugs are considered illicit in certain countries) and make the corresponding arrangements to receive refills from your homeland, to replace the medications with similar ones that are available (and legal) in your future country, or whatever is appropriate in your case;
- Provide back-ups for eyeglasses, contact lenses, medical appliances, etc. that might be difficult to replace before you have learned your way around in your new surroundings.
It is also a good idea to learn the whereabouts of expat medical centers and U.S. approved clinics in your new area before your relocation to ensure your peace of mind and to be able to take quick and adequate measures if you get sick or injured.
Plan the moving procedure
If you plan to return home after a couple of years abroad, you’ll probably find it more convenient and more affordable to take only some clothes and other personal items you can’t do without and put the rest of your belongings in storage. If you are moving to a foreign country for good, however, you’ll have to ship your cherished possessions to your new home.
- Arrange shipment – finding a reliable moving company is key to organizing a successful international move. Research your options with great care and choose the company that best suits your needs and requirements, as well as your available budget. Make sure you are dealing with licensed and experienced movers who will organize the shipment of your items in an efficient and trouble-free manner and book their services as early as possible;
- Sort out and pack your items – moving large furniture and household appliances overseas is usually not worth the money and the hassle (especially if your future country uses 220V voltage system). You will be able to get what you need when you arrive at your final destination. Take only items of high monetary or sentimental value, or items that will be difficult to find in your new area. Pack them with utmost care as they are going to travel a great distance and will be loaded and unloaded several times. Make sure to bring along useful electronics, clothing, and personal essentials. Make sure the clothes you have packed will be appropriate for the weather conditions in your new country and for your new lifestyle (you need to follow the dress code established in your new area);
SEE ALSO: Packing tips
- Plan your trip – research travel sites for cheap airfare and convenient flights and buy your plane tickets well in advance. Don’t forget to reserve hotels if necessary;
- Decide what to do with your vehicle – the shipment of your car may cost you thousands of dollars, so it may be a better idea to buy a new one when you get at your final destination. Not only will you simplify your move, but your new vehicle will meet local emissions, safety and driver-side standards;
- Plan for the shipment of pets – contact your chosen airline in advance and ask about their pet policy. It may be possible for your animal friends to travel in the cabin with you, or they may have to travel in a special cargo compartment within the aircraft (in suitable pet carriers, of course), depending on a number of factors. Have in mind that insurance and certain medical certificates will be required when moving abroad with pets (don’t forget to check your new country’s import and quarantine restrictions);
- Research schools and plan for the education of your children (if applicable) – notify your kids’ current school of your imminent relocation, request grade reports, teachers evaluations, etc. and ask for recommendations for good educational facilities in your new area. Research the education options in your future country to find an appropriate new school for your children (language training, friendly environment, etc.)