Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Michela
Moving abroad is a huge step outside of your comfort zone: both an exciting and daunting experience. But the rewards far outweigh the risk of moving overseas with good preparation – more time enjoying your new phase of life, less time stressing. To help you prepare for this big change, check off all the steps and pocket all the tips in this comprehensive moving abroad checklist.
When it comes to moving abroad, everyone’s situation will be different. Maybe you’re moving for a job and the company is taking care of your documentation for you. Perhaps you’re winging it to live the dream and don’t know where to start. Or, the moving date is creeping up on you and you need to make sure you’ve prepared everything.
Whatever category you fall into, you can gain something from this moving abroad checklist!
*Disclaimer*: Obviously based on the country you plan on moving to, things you will have to do to prepare may vary! As an expat in Italy, my experience will probably be different to yours in some ways.
I’ve tried to include the steps on this moving abroad checklist that will apply to most new expats – if you have something specific you’re wondering about that’s not covered in this post, leave your question in a comment so I can answer you!
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Download the moving overseas checklist printable for free to cross off tasks as you go!
Documents for Moving Abroad
This moving abroad checklist assumes you already have an idea of where you want to live. If you’re still at the beginning of your expat journey, consider these factors when research what country you’d like to move to:
- Cost of living
- Religious & Cultural Differences
- Practicalities (tax obligations, accessibility, cellular coverage, etc)
Once you’ve decided on the place you want to live, it’s time to figure out how you can legally move there. Every country has different rules, but here are some of the ways:
- Securing a job and a sponsored visa in that country
- Studying internationally
- Obtaining citizenship in that country (discover how I obtained Italian dual citizenship)
- Working remotely/self-employed and meeting specific requirements (varies by country)
1. Secure Your Visa & Passport
The two most important documents for entering and staying in your new home country will be your passport and visa.
Figuring out the visa process will vary country to country – some may be easy to get with your nationality, others may not. Some may be easy to get based on your reason for moving, others may not.
It’s obviously important to get this part right, so depending on how involved and difficult the process is for you to obtain the correct permissions for living in another country, you may want to speak to an immigration professional.
Friendly Reminder: Check the expiration date of your passport! Many countries also require you have a certain number of blank pages in your passport to receive a visa/be allowed entry.
2. Collect Other Important Documents
Any documentation that relates to your personal history and identification should come with you abroad, in both original form and extra copies. This includes:
- Birth certificate
- Adoption certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce certificate
- Social security card
- Driver’s license
- Medical documents
Keep important documents in your carry-on with you – you cannot risk them getting lost with checked luggage! I always travel with a sealable document folder when traveling internationally.
Moving Abroad Checklist Must-Dos
3. Handle These Staple Tasks For A Smooth Transition
- Doctors – Collect your medical records, make your final appointments before moving well in-advance, and receive any required vaccines for your destination.
- Prescriptions – Ask your doctors to fill all necessary prescriptions for at least 6 months after your moving date so you have time to find your new doctor and get prescriptions in your new country. Always pack prescriptions in your carry-on!
- Vets – If you’re moving with pets, do everything for them that you would do for yourself. Get prescriptions ordered for at least 6 months after moving and collect their vet records so their new vet knows their history.
- Utilities – Contact utility companies so you don’t end up getting billed accidentally once you move abroad.
- Redirect Mail – Notify the post office of what your new address is and inquire about redirect options for international mail.
- Cancel Memberships – What should be the simplest task is probably the most annoying. If you have gym memberships, you’ll probably need to write a letter to corporate to get it canceled. Tally up all the memberships you have and find out how to cancel well in-advance of your moving date – you could still be charged for months you’re not using it if you don’t cancel by the deadline in the fine-print.
- Unlock sim card/cancel phone – If you want to keep using your same phone abroad, you’ll have to check with your phone provider that the phone is “unlocked” and can therefore be used with a SIM card/phone provider in your new country.
On The Topic Of Money
4. Notify Your Bank
When moving abroad, how you go about handling your money and banking may differ depending on your situation.
For example, I do plan to move back to the United States at some point, so I didn’t close my account. I also wasn’t earning money for the first few months in Italy because I wasn’t allowed to work during my citizenship application process. Once I found a job, I opened a bank account in Italy and now use that for all my purchases in Italy.
I still make purchases charged in U.S. dollars, like for subscriptions and for items shipping to people in the U.S., so that’s another reason it makes sense for me to keep the account open.
If you don’t plan to move back to your home country, then I would suggest putting everything into an account in your new country. If you’re unsure, you can always hold off on making the big decision until it becomes clearer how long you will be living abroad.
Luckily, closing your bank account can be simple and many banks let you close your account online. Inquire at your bank if this is an option, because it will allow you to make your decision after experiencing a bit of life abroad.
Good to know: In any case, notify your bank that you are going abroad to avoid them suspending your credit cards for suspicious activity. If they see your card is being used abroad, they may automatically freeze it thinking that they are fraudulent charges, so you won’t have access to your money!
How to Transfer Money From A Domestic Account to an International Bank Account
Another positive about closing your domestic bank account remotely is it gives you time to open your international bank account.
Once you have the international bank account open, you can then transfer the money from your home bank account into your new account.
The easiest and cheapest service to do this is Wise, for which my boyfriend has used in the same way I described above (moving money from an American bank account to his Italian bank account before closing the American account) and I have used to make wire transfers to services here in Italy.
The platform walks you through the steps and does the work for you, making switching bank accounts across countries simpler than it seems.
5. Build An Emergency Fund
It’s solid financial advice to build an emergency fund so that, if you lose your job or unable to work, you have enough saved to last you minimum 6-9 months based on your current monthly expenses.
When moving abroad, it becomes even more important to have money to fall back on. You may not be moving to the country for a new job, like me, so you need enough to survive until you able to work or succeed in finding work.
Even if you are moving with a job, it’s likely the cost of living of your new country is different from what you are used to. Whether it is higher or lower than your expectations, it does not hurt to have savings built up for emergencies.
The Practicalities: Packing & Moving Your Things Abroad
It all starts to get real when you are filling up your suitcases and packing up your life! Here are some tips and things to do to make sure the actual moving process goes smoothly.
6. Hire an International Moving Company
If your whole life is coming with you, you’ll want to secure an international moving company.
I’m lucky in that I could still leave a lot of my stuff in the U.S. at my parent’s home and take or bring whatever I need when I get the chance to visit.
But if you’re moving big things like furniture or even smaller household items that don’t work in your suitcase, international moving companies help you store your valuables correctly and make the process of moving your stuff to another country much easier.
This can get super pricey though -anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000.
Check out some of the best at this list of international moving companies.
To save money, opt to downsize in your new country and search homes and apartments that come furnished.
7. Decide What’s Coming On The Plane With You
Always pack your most valuable items in your carry-on including medication, jewelry, technology, and sentimental pieces.
In your checked luggage, give priority to must-need items: clothes that will work in the climate you’re moving to, toiletries to last you until you can shop at a store, and items you use daily to make adjusting to your new life easier.
Get equipped with the best luggage for international travel and keep your articles safe with a TSA-approved luggage lock. I personally like the brands Samsonite and Calpak, the two I use the most when traveling. Choose luggage or luggage tags that distinguish your bags from others to avoid hiccups at the airport!
To help you pack like a pro for this journey, check out these two packing resources:
Good to know: Change the information on your checked luggage tags to match that of your new address!
First Steps as an Expat
Yes, you’ve made it! But the moving abroad checklist doesn’t stop there. Because moving abroad doesn’t actually stop at the moving part – you’ll have lots to figure out in your new country to get situated, both personally and legally.
8. Figure Out Your Phone Plan
As soon as you arrive in your new country, you’ll want to figure out how you’re going to get your phone to work. If you’ve already cut ties with your old phone company, you can start anew by purchasing a SIM card, but this will take 24-48 hours to activate.
In the meantime, take advantage of Wi-Fi to communicate with friends and family. I personally am never able to connect with Wi-Fi at airports and you can never guarantee its availability, especially depending on the country you’re moving to.
Here are some solutions to consider to ensure your phone is working immediately:
- Keep ties with the original country phone plan until you get the new one. You may be able to cut off your current contract on a fixed date/end of the month
- Skyroam Solis. Since I travel frequently, I’ve long had this item on my wish list, but I’m a budget traveler and it simply doesn’t fit in the budget right now. This is a portable Wi-Fi hotspot so that you can be connected everywhere you go and also remain on a secure, private connection.
I still have my American SIM Card so I will pay the extra days to use the international plan if I travel back and forth where my Italian SIM card doesn’t work.
9. Establish Your Residency
When I moved to Italy, one of the first things we had to do was declare my presence in the country with the local police and then fill out forms to establish my residency.
Research in your destination country how the residency status is confirmed and through which government body so you’re already ahead of the game when it comes time to fill out the paperwork!
Once you have your residency sorted out, be sure to ask for a confirmation, for example, a printed certificate of residency, for work purposes.
10. Sort Out Health Insurance
Hopefully, you’ve already researched what healthcare options your new country has for expats. In Italy, citizens and residents who apply have access to public healthcare, but private healthcare is also an option for those willing to pay for it.
If you can’t get access to health insurance in your new country, many American companies offer international health insurance like:
Good to know: Speaking of insurance, as a new expat you will have to learn about car insurance policies in your specific country and find out how long your license from your home country is valid for. You may need to get an international driver’s permit.
11. Open Foreign Bank Account
I don’t need to repeat why or when you may open your foreign bank account, but when you decide it’s time, don’t sweat! Opening your bank account abroad is usually straightforward. In many cases, you can open an account online and not ever step foot in your bank.
Helpful characteristics to look out for in your new bank abroad are:
- English language support
- Conveniently located branches & ATMs
- No (or low) ATM fees at other banks
- No (or low) wire transfer fees
12. Connect With Other Expats In Your Area
Now to the fun (and equally as scary) part: making new friends! There are lots of ways to connect with other expats, and locals alike, if you want to. Explore expat forums like Internations and search for Facebook groups of expats in your city.
I also suggest borrowing some of my tips for solo travelers on how to make friends and connect with locals.
I’ll admit, I’m a pretty solitary expat. I have colleagues at work and the friends of my boyfriend, but to have a more enriching experience, I know I could make a bigger effort to connect with people. Having someone to lean on is a fundamental comfort when moving to a new country!
Hopefully the moving abroad process seems easier – or at least clearer – if you’ve made it to the end of this post!
Seeing all the steps you have to take to move abroad smoothly is intimidating (I know, I’ve been in the same boat!). But its better to have a resourceful checklist where you can cross off all your to-dos in one place than be regretfully scrambling during a stressful moving process.
This moving abroad checklist is a handy tool for those starting the process and for those thinking about moving abroad some day – it takes a lot, but going through it is a character and confidence-building experience. The kind that reinforces the idea that even if it seems scary, you can go the distance.
Have a specific question? Ask me in the comments!
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Psst! Don’t forget to download this moving abroad checklist from The Travel Library!