Living abroad is an adventure, but requires careful preparation. The further you travel, the more complex shipping, storage, schools, housing, taxes, and banking become. Start early and establish a timeline so you know exactly what needs to be done and when. If this is your first time moving to a new country, here is what to include on your international move checklist.
Consult an Immigration Specialist
One of the first things to do, after you’ve decided to live abroad, is visit an immigration specialist. They’ll walk you through the entire process: immigration laws, application deadlines, immunization requirements, shipping and customs regulations, etc. International moves are complex and the process differs tremendously from one country to another. Talking to an expert before you start helps ensure it runs smoothly.
Without a doubt, finding a new home in a new country isn’t easy. Fortunately, there are realtors and relocation consultants who are used to working with expats. Get in touch with them as soon as you can! They can advise you on the local housing market and give you the inside track on the most desirable neighborhoods in your new city.
Collect Personal Documents
Regardless of which country you’re moving to, immigration requires a lot of paperwork. For that reason, gathering documents should be one of the first items on your international move checklist. Here are just a few of the items you might be asked for:
- Birth Certificate or Adoption Papers
- Marriage License
- Child Custody Papers
- Driver’s License
- Social Security Card
- Divorce Papers
- Medical Records
- Dental Records
- School Records
- Bank Statements
If you plan to drive in your new country, you’ll also need a copy of your No-Claims Bonus (NCB) record, which entitles you to a discount if you haven’t been responsible for any automobile accidents. Make sure all your documents are organized in a drawer, folder, or filing cabinet in case you need to get to them quickly.
Apply for Visas and Work Permits
While many countries allow tourists to fly in unannounced, anyone planning to stay longer than a few months needs a visa. If you plan on getting a job, you may need to apply for a separate work permit as well. Visa requirements differ from one country to another and so do the benefits they provide. Some restrict the jobs you can hold. Some can’t be renewed. Others offer a path to citizenship. Others do not. Before submitting your paperwork, look into the visas available in your new country and make sure you apply for the one that’s right for you.
Select a Moving Company
You’ll most likely need help moving your things to a new country. You’ll want an international mover who understands the rules and regulations of your new nation and can provide on-the-ground support when you get there. Talk to at least three before making your final decision, and start early. International moving is a complicated process and most movers are booked months in advance.
Before they can provide a quote, they’ll need to survey your home. Once they know the number and size of the goods they’ll be shipping, they’ll send a detailed estimate, which, in addition to breaking down their costs, should include customs requirements and the name of the agent who will be working with you throughout the process. In order to ensure you’re working with a qualified and reliable business, make sure every mover you contact is licensed and bonded.
Buy Health Insurance
If you’re moving for work, your employer may supply you with a health insurance plan. If not, you’ll have to purchase one on your own. There's a wide range of international health insurance available on the open market, so you'll have plenty of options. If the country you’re moving to has a national health service, you may want to join that instead. However, in most cases, private plans offer more options and flexibility.
Find a School
If you have small children, your international move checklist needs to include enrolling them in a new school. If there’s no language barrier, the public school system may be an option. However, national curriculum often differs greatly between countries. To keep your child from falling behind, you may be better off choosing a private school instead. Many parents moving to countries with major cultural and language differences prefer to enroll their children in private academies with other expat children, both to advance their education and to provide a sense of normalcy.
Take Care of Your Pet
Immigration laws apply to pets as well as people. While most pets are welcome, some countries restrict certain animals or breeds. What's more, practically every nation requires pets to be immunized, quarantined, or both before entering the country. You may also need to obtain a special carrier to transport it overseas. Contact a pet relocation service for help. They’ll handle the details and make sure your pet is as comfortable as possible during the journey.
Choose a Bank
While some banks operate internationally, many do not. Check with your local financial institution to see whether you need to open an account in your new country. Because setting up a new account may take some time (many of the documents needed to prove residency, such as a utility bill, won’t be available when you arrive), it’s always a good idea to withdraw a sizable amount of cash before leaving.
Send Out Notifications
Make sure people know where you’re going before you leave. Write down every person you're in contact with and send them your new address: friends, family, co-workers, supervisors, even your landlord ‒ in case there’s a dispute about your old apartment. Government agencies need to know how to get in touch with you as well, including the Post Office and IRS. Also send your information to the US embassy, in case you need their help during an emergency.
At the same time, make a list of all the bills you pay each month. Some (e.g. your electric bill) will need to be canceled. Others (e.g. Netflix) you’ll want to keep paying. However, keep in mind that if you’re switching banks, you may need to provide a new payment method as well as a new address to keep your account active.
Sort Out Your Taxes
Americans living abroad are still subject to US tax laws. In addition, they may be required to pay additional taxes to the government of their new country. However, there are credits and allowances to protect Americans from being excessively taxed while they’re out of the country. Proactively check your filing status with an accountant to avoid overpaying.
Set Up Your Cell Phone
Major cell phone companies offer international plans for their customers. Your service will deactivate automatically when you enter a new country, so make sure to set up a new plan before you leave.
Help with Your International Move Checklist
For 85 years, North American Moving Services has been helping people start new lives in new countries. Our international network operates in dozens of nations around the world, helping customers manage every step in the process, from pre-planning to packing to customs to final delivery and set up. Contact us today for a free quote!